Author: Anne Coker

15 reasons to question the terms mixed ‘race’ and biracial and multiracial as terms of reference

1) These terms are in themselves potentially deterring collective action by people of black and white ethnic heritage because many find these terms cringeworthy and do not use them as terms of self-reference and therefore might not wish to join a group with such a label.

2) Today, self-identity is promoted on the media, on zoom platforms, on application forms and in ordinary everyday life.  However societal respect for self-identity appears to be neglected in at least one group – people of mixed black and white ethnic heritage.

3) Formal and official documents abandoned the terms mixed ‘race’ and biracial and multiracial long ago and this vocabulary is not used in Census or Job applications or NHS patient data. This is because these terms are officially recognised as outdated and inaccurate terminology.

Such progressive change has not occurred in the USA census data collection which still refers to and collects information on ‘race’.

4) If there is no biological or scientific justification for racial categorisation, how can a person be a mixture of ‘races’ aka mixed ‘race’.

The AAA stated many years ago that proponents of slavery used ‘race’ to justify the retention of slavery and that the racial worldview was invented to assign some groups to perpetual low status, while others (white people) were permitted access to privilege, power, and wealth. ‘Race’ is not a biological concept and was invented to divide, categorise and oppress certain groups ie people of colour. [1] A survey of anthropologists’ views on ‘race’, ancestry, and genetics concluded that there are no discreet human biological ‘races’.[2]

5) The terms mixed ‘race’ and biracial and multiracial are offensive to some and potentially triggering and traumatising for some people of mixed black and white ethnic heritage, especially those who strongly feel and believe that they are not a mixture of differing ‘races’ and do not wish to be referred to as such. Historically, people of mixed black and white ethnic heritage have long been recipients of numerous derogatory terms including nigger, half-caste, coloured, mulatto, octaroon, quadroon, half-breed, yellow, high yellow, hybrid, mixed-blood and mongrel amongst others.

The term half-caste is proposed to have been promoted by the nineteenth century British colonial administration as a pejorative term associated with the moral disapproval of miscegenation.[3]

The term Mixed ‘race’ with its continuation of the historically misguided and misinformed terminology and use of a term of reference indicating ‘racial mixing’ is not much better than half-caste. There is only one race, the human race

6) Nonbiological, unscientific and illogical classifications and terms of reference should not be imposed on a group of human beings from birth without their consent and might lead to the internalisation of an erroneous worldview as a self-descriptor as occurred with the term half-caste.  

7) Many Psychologists and Therapists do not assume that a client of mixed black and white ethnic heritage is comfortable with the terms mixed-‘race’, biracial or multiracial, however some do and this may be potentially triggering for some clients.

8) Terms such as Mixed race may contribute to the persistent illusion in many spheres of life that there are different ‘races’.

Perpetuation of this illusion might be why ongoing ill-advised ‘race-based’ adjustments continue in medical practice. These current ‘race-based’ adjustments include the measurement of kidney function using the eGFR which is adjusted using ‘race-based’ algorithms. The eGFR is adjusted upwards (suggesting healthier kidney function) for anyone identified as black and this results in black people less likely to receive treatment for renal disease. The algorithms could deny black people a kidney transplant while white people with the same eGFR score are eligible for one. Similar algorithms are used in other branches of Medicine such as in Cardiology, an example being the American Heart Association (AHA)’s Get with the Guidelines–Heart Failure Risk Score which adjusts the investigation results for patients identified as “nonblack,” classifying black patients as lower risk and consequently less likely to be admitted to the hospital cardiology service.[4] Trauma induced epigenetic changes where they exist are reversible.

9) The choice of self-identity is a decision for the individual or group to make. There is no place for an externally imposed identity in the 21stcentury and beyond. This includes giving bogus theories of hypodescent and the ‘one-drop rule’ back to white supremacists whose purpose is to act as self-appointed judges and guardians of white purity.

10) The term mixed ‘race’ did not originate from mixed people in the first place, however, as with the term half-caste, they have been drip-fed this term from an early age. Now that we know about the errors and evils of scientific racism, continuing such distortions of the truth by perpetuating the notion that black and white are different races may be tantamount to gaslighting.

11) Terminology needs to be chosen by people of mixed black and white ethnicity for people of mixed black and white ethnicity. The incidental benefits of such a collaboration of mixed people of black and white ethnicity, would be the expansion in awareness of their rich culture and contribution and the creation of further safe spaces to enable mixed people to access experiences of being heard and reflected by others with similar experiences while not having to assume responsibility for should it arise, white fragility.

12) While some mixed people may be happy to be defined using the term mixed ‘race’ and similar terms as is their right to choose, others are not happy with these terms, and they also have the right to an accepted identity that they can align to with pride.

13) Exploration of alternative language as identifiers is needed. Paradoxically, to do this, there may need to be ongoing transitional use of the so-called mixed-‘race’ and biracial terminology as the currently recognised umbrella words until alternative more appropriate terms of reference are agreed by people of mixed black and white ethnic heritage. 

14) Being the fastest rising ethnic group, people of mixed black and white ethnicity can take the power to determine how they wish to be referred to by others and create improved terms of reference.

15) Collectively determined and contemporary identities are needed that are not influenced by past slave masters, bogus politically motivated racial theories or white supremacist beliefs.

Conclusion

The external world has seen people of mixed black and white ethnic heritage as problematic [5] and now it is time to hand back unhealthy embodied shame as well as shaming terminology to people who did the oppressing, the marginalising, the traumatising, the brutalising, the othering, the silencing and the turning of a blind eye.

As John Bradshaw explained, hand back unhealthy shame or else you hand it forward to your next generation. [6]

There is a strong need for support and research into agreed terminology and preferred terms of reference. To achieve this, there is an urgent need for safe spaces to meet and share opinions and ideas and these deserve government and university financial support because healthy connecting, relating are essential to healthy emotional health as is the enhancement of social belonging, the latter being one of the first three foundation stones on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Being seen and heard by an empathic listener is an antidote in unravelling trauma and lifting shame.

Being geographically dispersed creates challenges however these will eventually be overcome through an increasing number of protected online connecting spaces to facilitate progressive change and expanding autonomy.

Despite all the above, there are benefits in retaining the term ‘race’ in a transitional non-personalising generic way to demonstrate the demography of health, wellness, and societal deprivation experiences between different groups.

References

[1] https://www.americananthro.org/ConnectWithAAA/Content.aspx?ItemNumber=2583

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5299519/

[3] https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/johs.12033

[4] https://www.nejm.org/doi/10.1056/NEJMms2004740

[5] https://www.ferris.edu/HTMLS/news/jimcrow/mulatto/homepage.htm

[6]  BRADSHAW, J. (1988). Healing the shame that binds you. Deerfield Beach, Fla, Health Communications.

Pin It on Pinterest