Apr 062004
 
Authors: Erin Skarda

While interracial relationships were considered obscene and

unacceptable in the past, today the philosophy has changed. More

people have accepted their mixed cultures and are making an effort

to acknowledge all aspects of their identities.

Blane Harding, the academic adviser for the College of Liberal

Arts and a History teacher for ethnic studies spoke to a diverse

group of about 15 people on Tuesday evening in the Clark Building

about interracial relations. The speech was put on by the newly

formed group, MIRACE, which stands for Multiracial Individuals

Representing All Classifications Equally.

Harding, who is of mixed descent, spoke to the group about his

background, the history of interracial relations, and the

importance of defining one’s own personal identity.

“The definition of race has always been a viable concept in

society. I have a problem with that,” Harding said, “Race is a

social construct. There was no such thing as race until the slave

trade in the 1500s. They did it to divide the people.”

Laura Martin, the secretary of MIRACE and a senior journalism

student said she enjoyed the speech.

“I think it was extraordinary,” she said. “I don’t expect

anything else from Blane (Harding). I know a lot because I am mixed

but I knew I would get more information here.”

Harding grew up in New York and said that his life was divided

between his white Catholic school and the black neighborhood he

lived in.

“When I was younger I thought black people only came out at

night. Everyone around me was white. Outside of school in the

evenings I only saw black people,” Harding said. “I lived a divided

life. Even the street I lived on was divided. On one side were

blacks, on the other whites.”

Harding went on to marry a woman of Irish, English, and French

descent. He said that he raised his children to accept every aspect

of their identity.

“I raised my children to appropriately identify themselves for

themselves. They have got to have the ability to tell their story,”

Harding said. “They are all these things. They need to identify

themselves; I can’t do it for them. They can choose.”

Harding went on to talk about the misconceptions of race.

“Many people think race is in our blood. It’s not in our blood,”

he said, “There are more differences internally. Race is culture.

Mixing has been universal and perpetual. It’s been on earth as long

as people have. Almost everyone is mixed.”

Harding said the idea of race exists not biologically, but as a

social construct.

“When we say race what we are talking about is physical

characteristics,” Harding said. “Physical characteristics make up

one or two percent off what we are, yet that’s what the emphasis is

on.”

Throughout history there were many laws to keep the races

separate. Many were enforced to prohibit interracial sex and

marriage. These laws, called anti-miscegenation laws, were the last

discrimination laws to be overridden.

Not until the Supreme Court case of Loving versus Virginia in

1967 was it OK for two people of opposite or mixed, or Mulatto,

races to marry. Even though it was outlawed, there were between

60,000 to 100,000 mixed-race people in the colonies by the

Revolution.

Since then the number of interracial marriages have been

increasing. In 1980 there were 167,000 black and white marriages

and in 1996 that number increased to 337,000 mixed marriages. The

biggest difference was between a white husband and a black wife in

which the numbers increased from 45,000 in 1980 to 117,000 in

1996.

While it seems people are becoming more accepted of interracial

relationships, the debate in the US Census continues on how to

classify people of mixed races. While in the past it has defined

five or six racial categories, it doesn’t cover people of mixed

origins.

“Parents of mixed race want the Census to expand,” Harding said,

“Not for economic or political gain, but for recognition. Some

believe people of mixed races choose what is to their advantage.

That’s their choice to make.”

Harding said personal identification is extremely important for

people with mixed backgrounds. He said one person’s story is

completely different from another’s.

“Personal identity questions need to be answered personally,” he

said. “One needs to be the author of their own identity. Some

people don’t get the opportunity to define themselves. All mixed

race people and stories are not the same.”

Harding said it is important for people to look past the racial

views of society. He said that having mixed-race people in the

population should help blur the racial boundaries.

“Interracial people distort the concept of racial divisions,”

Harding said, “The country should profit from confusion of racial

identity. We are still in this society race-aholics. Eventually

we’ll get to the point where race doesn’t matter. Eventually it

won’t be as prevalent.”

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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