If today we’ve become freer to concoct our own identities, to check the “white” box or write in “multiracial” on the form, the question then forces itself upon us: are there better or worse choices to be made? I believe there are. Mixed-race blacks have an ethical obligation to identify as black — and interracial couples share a similar moral imperative to inculcate certain ideas of black heritage and racial identity in their mixed-race children, regardless of how they look. The reason is simple. Despite the tremendous societal progress these recent changes in attitude reveal in a country that enslaved its black inhabitants until 1865, and kept them formally segregated and denied them basic civil rights until 1964, we do not yet live in an America that fully embodies its founding ideals of social and political justice.
As the example of President Obama demonstrates par excellence, the black community can and does benefit directly from the contributions and continued allegiance of its mixed-race members, and it benefits in ways that far outweigh the private joys of freer self-expression.
The passage above is from an incredibly powerful, must-read op-ed piece in the New York Times by Thomas Chatterton Williams. I think that the piece encapsulates the many complexities of interracial relationships and mixed identity in the United States. Though I can't say that I will tell my child that she must identify as black, I do hope that telling her the truth about race and white supremacy will help her understand what blackness means and what whiteness means. At the end of the day, all I can do as a parent is arm her with the knowledge she needs to survive in a world that is not at all post-racial. From there, I am confident that she will not "abandon" her "blackness" or her connection to the rich, living, global legacy of black resistance to the forces of white supremacy.
ITYC readers what do you think? I'd love to get your thoughts on this article. The comment floor is yours.