Interracial-Voice
Editorial

Kweisi Mfume Just Doesn't Get It!
By Charles Michael Byrd

"When our leaders put a spotlight on our victimization and seize upon our suffering to gain us ineffectual concessions, they inadvertently turn themselves into enemies of the truth, not to mention enemies of their own people."

-- Shelby Steele from "The Content of Our Character: A New Vision of Race in America" (1990, St. Martin's Press -- 1991, HarperPerennial paperback)

Maybe it's just me, but it seems that every black politico who sets out to trash mixed-race activists as accursed race-traitors prefaces his remarks with something like, "In terms of respecting her right to assume and assert her identity, great, power to you, but when it comes to allocating resources..." That was the opening line of the Reverend Joseph Lowery of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference last February on the stage of the now-defunct Mark Walberg show. I sat between him and Association of MultiEthnic Americans President Ramona Douglass, to whom he was referring, and just knew those honey-dipped sentiments were only the advance guard for an assault on the multiracial initiative's "divisive nature" -- a characterization that Lowery offered to me during a commercial break. On a Newstalk cablecast last September, Gary Flowers of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law began by saying, "While we're sensitive to the goal of people self-identifying..." In Kweisi Mfume's radio address announcing the NAACP's opposition to a multiracial identifier, he asserts, "The NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) has great sensitivity on this issue... Expressions of multi-racial pride is one that should be encouraged and nurtured throughout this country." Do you think these guys convened a conference call a year or two ago and decided that an opening dose of disingenuous sympathizing was the preferred strategy? Perhaps, but I digress unnecessarily. Let us analyze Mfume's address.

Relevant to expressing one's multiracial pride -- as if pride were the only aspect, some New Age feel-good exercise -- Mfume wonders: "Is the Census form the correct place to make such a personal (and sometimes political) statement about ones racial makeup?" Since the government has established that Census responses are to based upon self-identification, it is indeed the correct place to make such a statement. The opposite side of the coin is why do groups like the NAACP endeavor to strong-arm people into adhering to a political agenda that views mixed-race America as a wholly owned subsidiary of Black, Inc.

The arrogant assumption and stable-datum of all black "leaders" is that "black" has always included, includes now and always will include "mixed-race." If "x" number of people, of their own free will, choose to identify as multiracial, however, then "black" becomes "black" minus "x." (My seventh-grade sons can figure out that math.) For Mfume to suggest that the new multiracial category would adversely impact "black" numbers is an attempt to mask the truth with a sleight-of-hand that would make a 3-Card-Monte street hustler proud. He deliberately misrepresents the value of "black" by including those who don't identify as such.

Mfume's attempt to maintain the illusion of a cohesive monolith, an absolute "blackness" is a fraud just as is any white supremacist's claim of an absolute, cohesive "whiteness." Even if Mfume views race not as a biological concept, but as a political construct, he still insists that others be forced to embrace it against their will.

Mfume states further: "There are repercussions in the census numbers that have very real impact on our lives. Provisions of the Voting Rights Act are specifically directed at correcting past discrimination (particularly in the deep south) where African Americans were denied their Constitutional rights. With some figures showing 70% of African Americans fitting into a multiracial category, will we be able to identify black voters in terms of fair representation? And how will that be achieved with a new multiracial category? With the Courts eradicating minority voting districts across the country, we must ensure that any new multiracial category not give aid to the enemies of the Voting Rights Act."

First, I once read that you should never soft-pedal the truth. It's seldom self-evident and almost never sells itself. That said, black "leaders" should welcome the opportunity to have their community's numbers accurately tallied by not including those of us who do not self-identify as "black."

Second, as to representation in U.S. government and majority-black districts, state legislators create or draw congressional districts to comply with the Voting Rights Act of 1965 which prohibits districting plans that systematically dilute minority voting strength. A previous Justice Department's interpretation, however, transformed the Voting Rights Act into a tool for racial gerrymandering of districts, a tool for racial segregation. Legislators were gerrymandering districts in such a way that they were using race as the sole predominant determinant for where they were drawing district lines; they were using race to draw lines of separatism as opposed to integration. When you factor in the near lily-white districts that were created next door, the problem for those of mixed-ancestry is simple: Unless you're willing to subordinate your own personal identity for a greater political cause -- which should always be the individual's prerogative -- where do you call home in this neo-segregationist environment, a return to Jim Crowism inspired more by afrocentrism than by traditional white racism? No principled multiracial can endorse separate but equal.

Strident critics of the multiracial initiative such as Gary Flowers, who has publicly stated that "A multiracial listing would be just like apartheid," should double-check their racist, separatist agendas which are similar to those espoused by Louis Farrakhan's Nation of Islam. There is nothing more apartheid-like than creating the equivalent of black homelands here in the United States through the practice of gerrymandering, and Mr. Mfume should tell us if he believes that was the original intent and spirit of the Voting Rights Act. The point is largely moot anyway, since the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled against the constitutionality of these bizarre shaped districts, many of which look like bugs splattered on a windshield. Why Mfume even broaches the subject in the context of possibly establishing a multiracial identifier is bizarre itself. Surely he's not prophesying a return of literacy tests and poll taxes -- devices used in decades past to keep blacks out of the voting booth, devices that the Voting Rights Act abolished -- as a potential result.

The ability of blacks to leave their own imprint on the European culture which viciously exploited them in the "New World" is a remarkable source of inspiration for all oppressed people. The negative side of the black experience, however, is the fear contemporary black "leaders" have of losing "blackness," that monoracial identifier that was once a badge of shame but that is now a path toward political power. Consequently, too many dread assimilation into the "racial mainstream" and refuse to acknowledge that multiracial individuals are already there. If blacks want to live in a segregated environment -- fine, but they shouldn't expect us to sign-off on the blueprints.

(For sure, there are many white supremacists who fear a "creeping mongrelization," and the web is replete with sites belonging to both white and black racists who command their followers not to aid and abet the "browning of America.")

At work here is the "Law of Unintended Consequences" which has jumped up and slapped racial purists of all hues "up side da head." One outgrowth of the '60s civil rights movement was the overturning of America's remaining anti-miscegenation laws. Once individuals of different "races" were free to marry, a significant increase in the number of mixed-race births ensued. These civil rights-era baby boomers, coupled with some of us "old-timers" who were born before the late '60s, now seriously challenge the artificial construct of race and of racial purity. The purity paradigm is under attack, but those who have historically suffered under its oppressive heel are, curiously, crying "Victim!" louder than ever as a result. It's ironic that black "leaders" feel compelled to assert territorial property rights over black/white multiracials, as if they own us. Of course they don't; they only think they do. They need to understand that slavery's legacy has not conferred upon them the moral authority to identify anybody other than themselves -- individually.

Mfume says that 70% of blacks would fit into a multiracial category. Actually, the number of blacks who have some European or American Indian ancestry might be as high as 90%, but the introduction of either figure is nothing other than a diversionary tactic, a ruse designed to deceive those who have not thought through this proposition of being "mixed" in America. The history of hypodescent is such that, at this time, the vast majority of black/white multiracials will go to their graves identifying as black -- as is their right. For those of us who have freed ourselves mentally from this cradle-to-grave indoctrination, we deserve to be able to say so on U.S. Census forms or wherever else we please!

His assumed afrocentric moniker notwithstanding, Kweisi Mfume is quite the darling of most deep-pocketed, guilt-ridden Caucasians -- especially those with decidedly leftist proclivities -- who look upon him as a "safe" Negro, one they can trust. Contrasted with the fire-breathing racist and anti-Semite, Louis Farrakhan, Mfume comes across as the least-threatening of the two, someone with whom white America can comfortably dialogue. (There is no disputing, however, that Farrakhan is the "de facto" leader of black America, the CEO of Black, Inc. After all, he didn't attend and speak at Jesse Jackson's or Kweisi Mfume's "Million Man March"; it was the other way around.) Despite a feeling in the black community that the NAACP is irrelevant, a dinosaur of an organization that still refers to "colored people," white guilt allows Caucasians to both view Mfume's group as officially representing all of "black" America and to ignore the multiracial initiative. White politicians and academicians in particular tend to view the mixed-race population -- including their own relatives -- as a political entitlement, a perquisite handed out to black America to assuage still-lingering guilt over the terrific evil that was slavery.

Mfume's assertion that "Whether you are black, white, Asian, Native American, Latino or some combination...you are entitled to the same rights and responsibilities as other Americans" is more than a little insincere since he obviously doesn't believe that we should have the right to self-identify in the same manner as he.

He finishes by pronouncing, "No one should be forced to choose or reject any aspect of their heritage and no category should be allowed to weaken others." What about when existing categories pretend that an entire group of people never existed, doesn't exist now and never will exist? Is that kosher, Kweisi?

PASS IT ON!


On 01-25-97, Interracial Voice invited the leadership of "Association of MultiEthnic Americans," "A Place For Us/National" and "Project Race" to publicly respond to Kweisi Mfume's radio address in which he gave the NAACP's views on a multiracial Census category. IV also offered to list these responses as "Guest Editorials." We received responses from:

"Association of MultiEthnic Americans"

"A Place For Us/National"


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