Race and Mixed Race

Race and Mixed Race is an exploration of the philosophical, social, and historical problems related to racial identity – from the perspectives of individuals of “pure” and mixed race. Tracing the history of racial designations in the United States, Naomi Zack uses philosophical methods to criticize the logic of American racial categories. She discusses why racial identity is a matter of importance; examines the treatment of mixed race in law, society, and literature; and addresses philosophical questions related to the designation of someone as belonging to a given race. In this first philosophical challenge to accepted racial classifications in the United States, Zack argues that black and white designations are themselves racist because the concept of race does not have an adequate scientific foundation. The “one drop” rule, which originally was a rationalization for slavery, persists to this day despite the fact that there have never been “pure” races and that most American blacks have “white” genes. Challenging the equation that black plus white always results in black, the author explores the existential problems of mixed race identity. The stringent bi-racial system in this country does not recognize mixed racial heritage, which generates a special racial alienation for many Americans. Discussing the possibility of eliminating all racial identities for their lack of scientific or moral underpinning, Zack analyzes American racial words to reveal their metaphorical nature. Ironically suggesting the inclusion of “gray” into the vocabulary as a designation for mixed black and white race, she concludes that any racial identity, based as it must be on false and unjust racialidentification, is an expression of bad faith.

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