Author: Chandra Crane
Publishing Date: December 15, 2020
Book Preview, Excerpt consisting of pages 59-62
We are whole people, and we deserve to be seen that way. Embracing all of ourselves is a process, not a goal, and we multiethnic folks know this journey well. When the world—and even those of us within the mixed community—can stop insisting that multiethnic folks identify as “half” this and “half” that (or other fractions and delineations), the serpent’s lie is defeated. We know we have been created whole and “very good.”
This doesn’t mean that if we choose to identify by percentages or as monoethnic, we’re diminishing our wholeness. There are benefits and drawbacks to both. Those of us who look ambiguously “in the middle” may find it easier to visit both camps but find ourselves kept at arm’s distance in both. Those of us who look “fully” one ethnicity may choose by one phenotype or another. If we identify with our primary phenotype, we can gain community; but that may be at the expense of the other parts of our identity. If we identify against our phenotype, we may be accused of being fake; or we may be able to do good justice work.
None of these choices mean that we’re denying who we are. The truth is, we mixed folk are not mere scientific “mixtures” that can be separated into constituent parts; we are scientific “solutions” (we’ll look at the truth and implications of this silly pun next) who are whole and inseparable. And we have the right to identify our ethnic and cultural heritage as God leads us.
Mixed siblings, no matter how we identify, the important truth is that our blood is not striped, polka-dotted, or zigzagged based on our different ethnicities. The lie that a person’s value is defined by percentages is just that: an evil lie from the pit of hell. Blood quantum, originally used by the government to oppress Native peoples and decrease tribe sizes, is a practice of placing emphasis on percentages. It came from privileged folks setting unbiblical boundaries and excluding others (much like the one-drop rule applied to African Americans) and has been used to restrict, dehumanize, and enslave people of color in a number of ways.
And it’s still a complicated matter. Chickasaw scholar Elizabeth Rule says that she “uses the term ‘Colonial Catch 22’ to say there is no clear answer, and that one way or another, people are hurt.”1 Whether in its original use or now (as it’s practiced by sovereign tribal nations in the distribution of resources), blood quantum rules are a complicated part of Native identity, and especially so for mixed folks.
Regardless of how they’re used today, the lie undergirding methods like blood quantum, the one-drop rule, and other percentage-based ways of determining ethnicity is that of “genetic purity,” measuring a supposedly desirable whiteness against the other races, which are seen as a threat that can “pollute” that whiteness. Stu, in his Black and White identity, knows there is always the danger of affirming (even unintentionally) the false ideas of racial purity and White supremacy. Cass, thinking about his White and Native heritage, made this sobering statement: “Blood quantum is used to divide people in our tribe.”2 Even in his sense of belonging, he realizes that others—who could and maybe should be included—are excluded.
Certainly it isn’t true that “full” ethnicity or a specific skin tone is more desirable, nor do percentages make a person more valuable. Unfortunately, that lie is perpetuated, and sometimes by us mixed folks—even if only by our existence in the world. Majority-culture folks may find us more acceptable if we can “pass” for White. Or they may see us as a threat due to our lack of visible whiteness, whether from our ethnic heritage or our phenotype. Even in our efforts to reject the lies haunting our monoethnic minority siblings, we can sometimes go to the opposite extreme and lose the entirety of ourselves in the process. No matter our ethnic story or appearance, we mixed folks carry within ourselves a clash between cultures. Whether it’s across large racial boundaries (Black versus White, Asian versus Latinx, Native versus Middle Eastern, etc.) or within those categories (different Pan-African, Pan-Asian, Pan-European, Pan-American, or Indigenous countries and cultures, etc.), we carry the legacy of wars and of power differentials.
There’s no doubt in my mind that in the United States especially, the Black Lives Matter movement is a necessary corrective to a society that constantly devalues brown skin. Full stop. Stemming from—not contradicting—that important truth is a subpoint: we people of multiethnicity (no matter our skin tone) should be treated like human beings, not objects. Our value is inherently from our Creator, and our right to loving community is the same as for anyone who can claim monoethnicity. We can push back against colorism, even while valuing the body God has given us. The embodied example of our multiethnic, Middle Eastern Savior teaches us how to do this.
From Mixed Blessing by Chandra Crane. Copyright (c) 2020 by Chandra Crane. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com
Kat Chow, interview with Elizabeth Rule, “So What Exactly is ‘Blood Quantum’?,” Code Switch, National Public Radio, February 9, 2018, www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2018/02/09/583987261/so-what-exactly-is-blood-quantum. ↩
All interview quotations as well as quotations from survey responses were gathered by the author throughout 2018 and 2019, and are cited with permission of the participants, some with a pseudonym. ↩