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
“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
“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
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
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
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
“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.”