The hive tells me no.

(Also, ten bucks says Eli Steele is related to Shelby Steele.  You know, the “Content of Our Character” guy.)

This piece of byte-waste from the LA Times is about how the new interracial generation will save us all.  It’s yet another version of once we all f*ck each other and the races mix we will have harmony. No, seriously. Because identity politics are the cause of all our racial problems:

The day will arrive when this interracial generation reaches political consciousness and finds itself at odds with America’s divisive identity politics. Of all Americans, they represent the best opportunity to end these politics and point America back to its tradition of individualism.

People who identify as mixed race have already reached “political consciousness.” There are groups such as Mavin and Swirl and numerous hapa organizations. Do they find themselves “at odds” with identity politics? I can’t really say.  But what I do know is that many multiracial people self- identify as people of color.  Is that buying into “divisive identity politics”?

I find the identification as a person of color to be one that recognizes a shared experience and a common humanity. One that is anti-racist and fights white supremacy. One that forces out internalized crap and racism seepage from the larger society. But hey, that’s just me.

It isn’t about hating whitey.   I don’t find it “divisive.”  To the contrary.  Is my identity part of my politics?  Yes, and that’s true for everybody.  Not just folks of color.

But the term “identity politics” is often used in a derogatory way. The sneer comes from a position of privilege in which whiteness is centered, neutral and the norm. But for the thousandth time, identifying racism, naming racism and fighting racism is not about creating divisions. Those divisions were already there.  Making us all colorblind and forcing us to sing kumbaya will not end racism.

Most minorities today fall conveniently within categories such as African American, Chinese American or Mexican American. These labels arose during an era of political correctness that literally placed race, ethnicity or religion before national identity. Since the 1960s, minorities have found in their racial identity a preferential gateway into public and private institutions.

I tend to have a knee-jerk reaction to people who use the term “political correctness,” because what they really mean to say is oh it’s so problematic to have to treat other people with consideration and allow them to choose their own identification. Basically what Steele is saying is that these labels arose in response to labels such as [racial slurs redacted].

“African,” “Chinese” and “Mexican” are used as adjectives, so of course they are literally placed before the national identity “American.”  But Steele seems to imply that the Africanness, the Chineseness and the Mexicanness are valued above the Americanness.  Because if they were True Americans, they would drop all this hyphenated nonsense.  (This despite the fact that we don’t use hyphens.  Ahem.)

And you can see how we have used our racial identity as a preferential gateway.  You can see how all the CEOs of the Fortune 500 companies are people of color.  The senators.  The congressional reps.  The President of the You-Freaking-Nited-States for that matter.

Because we cheated to get where we are.  You know that Obama really should have gone to a vocational school (as my high school counselor and many of my friends’ counselors suggested).  Because he wasn’t really qualified for Harvard Law.

Oh, and Obama is himself multiracial.  But he identifies as African American.  When will he join the critical mass?

Will such identity politics survive the interracial baby boom? Will new categories arise for the African German American or Chinese Latino American? Will a critical mass of interracials become an eclectic race in their own right? Or will they bypass the labels and embrace individualism?

My hope is that my children and their peers will restore a weakened American legacy: the self-invented and self-made individual. If they do, they will be free, as their ancestors were, to carve out identities and contribute to an already rich heritage for future generations.

Apparently identities must be freed of racial identification or racial identity. In other words, white. Because as a person of color, I am not free. I am not an individual. No, I am just a slave to the hive mind.

11 thoughts on “The hive tells me no.

  1. I read the LA Times article you first posted and took it was an endorsement of the message therein, then had a hell of a time reconciling why it left me feeling so uncomfortable, where usually I completely agree with your take on matters.

    To read this was a huge relief.

    As someone of mixed background, I found it jarring how little he considered the experiences of previous generations.

  2. Someone should just tell people like Steele that their interracial orgy theory of racial harmony is not only a twisted, sick fantasy but also the most simplistic and idiotic approach to the issues he’s concerned with. Of course, he’s not the only one who hopes “we can f*ck our way out of this.” I’ve seen it it time and time again and can recall when I first came across this strange reasoning (using the term rather loosely) in a old column written by conservative commentator George Will several years ago.

    Just as DJ finds it jarring how Steele’s view is divorced from any consideration of the lived-experience of not-as-‘mixed’ generations (a strange view considering how folks like Steele are quick to mention the White ancestors in the African American family tree, like that’s some change-view revelation), I find it particularly tone deaf and out-of-touch with reality when Pres. Obama and especially Muslim Americans have been basically labeled as anything but “real” Americans because, over and over again, American=white in the ‘public’ imagination which is something inherited from previous generations of White Americans who never had to consider the basic rights of people who were not White.

    “Tradition of individualism”??? What tradition of individualism? Slavery? Jim Crow segregation? Or some of that Abe Lincoln kinder, gentler WHITE SUPREMACY?

    “I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races . . . there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race. I say upon this occasion I do not perceive that because the white man is to have the superior position the negro should be denied everything . . .”

    It’s easy to see how Lincoln’s statement speaks to a real American tradition and not one that’s imagined or viewed so selectively as Steele views this concept of “individualism.” I suppose that was the same individualism present in the White-preference filled policies of the Lincoln era Homestead Acts which provided 160 acre tracts of land almost exclusively to Whites when 40 acres (or any compensation, for that matter) was out of the reparations question for emancipated Africans/African Americans. I’m also guessing Steele is referring to that same individualism that “preferred” Whites as they received practically all of the original GI Bill.

  3. Yes, could be related, but Claude Steele, provost at Columbia University, is Shelby’s twin brother…and they are quite different in their viewpoints…

  4. “My hope is that my children and their peers will restore a weakened American legacy: the self-invented and self-made individual. If they do, they will be free, as their ancestors were, to carve out identities and contribute to an already rich heritage for future generations.”

    I suppose his children’s peers must all be white then too, because otherwise their ancestors wouldn’t have been free to have all those “self-invented” and “self-made” identities, considering that if you were a person of color in America historically you were treated horribly, prevented from getting good educations and good employment, enslaved, put in internment camps, killed… it doesn’t much matter HOW you “invent” yourself if those in charge are determined that your role in life is to be subjugated, and the legal and societal rules are in full support of that determination.

    But of course, he’s white. And *everybody’s* experience is just like the white experience.


  5. Something that gets me whenever someone talks about people who are mixed race: What exactly constitutes being mixed race? Do my own native american ancestors make me mixed race? I appear white (blond w/ blue eyes ever), all of society reacts to me as a white person so I definitely have oodles of white privilege, was never raised with an awareness of what being “native” meant even though my grandmother has a pretty strong native identity. I have made tentative attempts to “reclaim my native identity” only to discover that I really didn’t have one. I have no notion of what being “native’ or being “mixed race” means or is any more than any other white person. Yet I see people with the same or even fewer native american ancestors with strong native identities and strong ties to that community. So…as far as I can see, racial mixing is just going to produce a lot of people like me (not to say that there aren’t people with “mixed” identities, but it’s certainly not a guarantee from mixing).

  6. …If he isn’t, I agree, that makes it worse. Although I think he is white, since in the original article it mentions he’s a filmmaker. The only notable filmmaker that’s named Eli Steele is this guy (he’s the dude on the right in the picture). He doesn’t have any photo listed in his IMDB entry though.

  7. Ok, so here’s what my sources had to say: Eli Steele is Shelby Steele’s son. Whether he identifies as a POC is unclear to me, but Shelby Steele is biracial, and he married a White woman. He definitely identifies himself as a member of the deaf community.

  8. Ah, fair enough. In that case, I’m backing off of any judgments about whether he’s white or not; his self-determination is what matters, and we don’t know what that is.

  9. Everytime I see arguments like this, I think, way to shed responsibility for the world today in fixing it, and pushing the burden onto the next generation to make it better for shit that’s broken, and still broken, and continues breaking.

  10. Can someone tell me why so many people insist on acting like mixed race people just got dropped in the US by aliens starting in the 1960s? I’ve got 200 years of family history that says ‘no not really.’

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