This weekend, CNN’s Soledad O’Brien debuted the fifth installment of her provocative series, Black in America. This time, in “Who is Black in America?”, O’Brien explores the nuances of racial self-identification in the United States, as well as the pressures put on individuals by the ways others categorize them.
The episode raises such difficult questions as whether there is a separate bi-racial identity in this country, or whether those of mixed black and white ancestry may, or must, self-identify simply as “black.” (For more, see Cheryl Contee’s essay at Jack & Jill Politics.)
James DeWolf Perry is a regular guest contributor. He appears in the film Traces of the Trade and is the Tracing Center’s director of research. This entry is cross-posted from James’ own blog, The Living Consequences, and the opinions expressed are his own.
Today is the first anniversary of remarks by actor and activist Edward James Olmos at the United Nations about the idea of race as a social fiction.
I posted about these remarks at the time, but I want to use this occasion as an excuse to highlight once again what Olmos had to say that day, and I’m even going to take the unusual step for me of embedding the video of his remarks here.
The reason I’m doing this is that I’ve never heard this idea expressed with more power and conviction. Each time I see this, I’m reminded of just how powerful the myth of race is, and how important it is for those in the public eye to speak the plain truth that the emperor has no clothes: