Another Open Letter

TO THE NEW YORK TIMES: AN OPEN LETTER TO THE ETHICIST

I wish I could thank Kwame Anthony Appiah for setting the multiracial movement back over fifty years, but I can’t. He is “the ethicist” for the NY Times and wrote a column this week titled “How Should I think about Race when Considering a Sperm Donor?” Basically, it is about a White, Jewish woman who is considering sperm donation and cannot decide if it matters that the father could be a donor of color.

First, Appiah manages to turn the donor of color into a black father. The baby’s father could be Hispanic, Hawaiian, Native American, or a thousand other combinations. But no, Appiah turns this baby black. I wonder if he has some type of race-meter that lets him know who is what racially.

Then he gives this woman two choices: raise the child as African American or let it pass as white. What?! What happened to letting the child be raised as biracial or multiracial? It is, after all, the largest growing population in the United States, according to the Census Bureau. In fact, it took us about fifty years to get the Census Bureau to accommodate people of more than one race on their forms and just as long for the Office of Management and Budget to accept us.

Of course the child will need to be taught about their entire heritage and we don’t need Appiah to remind us of that. The multiracial community has plenty of families that celebrate their wholeness, and are not torn apart by the old one-drop rule that says a person with any Black ancestry makes you Black. Are we trying to forget about black slavery but not about the mulatto people of slavery? Shame on you.

Appiah decrees that if you “look black” you must self-identify racially as Black, which just is not how it always turns out. I doubt if he has many friends who identify as biracial or multiracial. In the only example he could find, he reminds us that Barack Obama had a White mother and was raised by his White grandparents and he “turned out OK.” Sigh.

I think this mother would probably do best with a child her own race and Kwame Appiah should stop giving advice to interracial families.

Susan Graham is president of Project RACE, the national organization for multiracial children and adults. She is the author of Born Biracial: How One Mother Took on Race in America.

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