We use cookies to give you the best experience possible. By continuing we’ll assume you’re on board with our cookie policy

Racial Identity: A Parent’s Choice or Confusion

The whole doc is available only for registered users

A limited time offer! Get a custom sample essay written according to your requirements urgent 3h delivery guaranteed

Order Now

His job—human labeling, assigning colors to every individual: white, black, red and yellow. He knew full well the importance of such identification, for in the society where these humans are to be assigned, color coding, also known as racial classification, is critical because it constructs access to power, prestige, and economic gain. In this system, race is a social institution and arrangement, classifying labor, housing, and political representation along racial lines, thereby allowing one to produce and reproduce real-life differences (Glen 14). Unfortunately, his once perfect human labeling system malfunctioned when the black and white colors began to mix. This malfunction caused havoc within the assigned structured and segregated society.

Within the U.S. social structure, interracial marriage was not uncommon; yet, such unions between the blacks and whites were banned throughout the many states in the 19th and 20th centuries. Sexual activity between these races, however, was not uncommon, and the children produced from these unions were classified based their black lineage via the “one drop rule” (Walker). With little civil resistance against this identification, blacks were blacks and whites were whites, and for the most part, each recognized their social assignments. However, the status quo would not be accepted in later part of the 20th century. In 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that any race based laws restricting interracial marriage was unconstitutional. As a result, although not socially embraced within all of society, blacks and whites were marrying.

However, legal recognition did not equate to social recognition, and these unions faced many forms of discrimination: jobs, housing, social alienation. Additionally, as these couples became parents, a new phenomena developed, racial classification of their children. In the case of the Kelly family, an interracial couple with four children, these parents wanted to classify their children based on appearance not lineage (Gardner). While many argue that interracial parents should conform with lineage identification, I will argue that these parents have a right to say how their child is to be classified, for it is the parents who are the ones who are raising the child and dealing with a social construction which is set in place to alienate and discriminate against them.

The first thing to consider is why there seems to be a need to classify a child entering a public system based on race—of what purpose does this serve? For a government priding itself on democracy and civil rights, such classification should be unwarranted unless it serves a purpose for elevating a historically suppressed group, for example affirmative action. Under this situation it is not unusual for school systems to want to classify along racial lines. However, the Greenwich Council (Council) did not claim such measures. They simply claimed that “there is a widespread view that it is not in the child’s interests to call him White when he is mixed raced,” and that calling the child white would be fraudulent, an “untruth.” Therefore, the Council asserts that the child must be labeled “a Black child of mixed parentage.”

In addition, the Council stresses that they are baffled as to why a “woman” did not want her child classified Black of mixed-parentage, and then called her “seriously confused” (Gardner). In as much as the Council failed to bring any fact or legal based reasoning as to why race classification must be recognized by black lineage, their logic regarding the child’s social best interest is weak based on historical fact. Moreover, the Council’s evaluation of the family displayed a degree of racism. The actions and statements of the Council only further solidify the fact that there is a bias social construction when it comes to race based relations.

The harsh evaluation from the Council concerning the mother solidifies the hostile social structure this family is placed in. First, the Council misrepresents the family by claiming that the issue concerns one parent. This is simply not the case; both parents wanted this classification for their child. To present the mother, who is white, as the sole and “seriously confused” voice that is insisting on the whiteness labeling of her child implies that the mother, herself, has racial issues. This attempt to discredit the mother’s emotional level and racial preferences is a tactic to divert attention from the real offender, the policy makers who are sanctioning racial division. Moreover, this type of assault fails to resolve the issue, breaks down communication, and causes resentment. This is not to say the intent of the Council is to harm, for many behaviors, thoughts, and words of members of the dominate group reflect unconscious racism.

One can have good intentions but still reinforce bad consequences for the disadvantaged group; hence, stringent, inflexible classifications of racial coding maintains “a social creation—a fiction that divide[s] and categorize[s] individuals by phenotypic markers, such as skin color,” thereby maintaining white dominance (Glen 9). The council further asserts, without providing reason, that due to a “widespread” social belief, it is in the best interest of a mixed race child that such child not be identified as white; hence, the child should be identified as black (Gardner). Yet this assertion is a contradiction of facts. Historically, the “best interest” of any individual is not to be placed at the lowest racial classification of a vertical societal structure (Walker). “State and social policies organized along a black-white binary require individuals and groups to be placed in one category or the other” (Glenn 10). In such categories of the past, individuals were stratified into different jobs, housing, schools, restaurants, theaters, busses, and railroads, for example (Walker).

Even the notable Frederick Douglas was escorted to the baggage car while the white patrons rode in the coach (Washington 84), and the distinguished Booker T. Washington was regularly denied a meal and room during his travels (87). Yet the comforts of travel were minute compared to the lynching the black men and women suffered through. These individuals were burnt, dismembered, hung, and otherwise tortured by incensed white mobs that took pleasure from the agony of their death (Walker). Many will argue that the discrimination, segregation, and lynching within the Black society, although tragic, is in the past, and that as a socially aware society we need to move forward. Yet is such treatment of Blacks really in the past? In today’s “civilized” society, the black person still suffers economic poverty due to substandard education and employment opportunities. The black person also suffers discrimination at every level within the criminal justice system, from the patrol officer, to the court room, and then within the prison walls, the numbers of blacks continue to grow disproportionably to that of the whites only because the blacks do not have fair treatment and/or fair representation at any level.

Whites are not exempt from criminal behavior, they just get off easier. A perfect example of “legalized lynching” occurred in a 1965 study of convicted rapists. In the state of Virginia, during a period of over fifty years, approximately 3,000 men convicted of this crime, and over half were white. But of all the men executed for this crime, all were black. It was this finding that caused the Supreme Court to place a moratorium on all execution in 1972. Therefore, when looked at in the historical context, it is clear that what is in the “best interest of the child” should not be completely allocated within the governmental or societal realm. Is it safe to assume, then, that the best interest of the child rests with the parent? It could be reasonably assumed that parents do strive for their child’s best interest. With this in mind, and the fact that the Kelly’s are an interracial couple with three other children classified by their physical appearance, it is reasonable to assume that wanting physical appearance classification is fact based, not emotionally or prejudicially driven.

From these grounds, there appears to be no confusion within the parent’s argument. If a labeling system must be tagged onto their children, the parents are choosing a system of appearance, not lineage, or the absurdity of the “one drop rule.” Yet is labeling by appearance better than lineage and is this in the child’s best interest? One can consider that a child will not have to continually “defend” the reason for their “whiteness” if they appear black nor will a child have to defend the reason for their “blackness” if they appear white. In addition, the child will not be subject to having their feet “peeped” at to determine their color line nor will the child be subject to any “scientific” evaluation of head, eyebrows, jaws, or chin measuring (Washington 86). However, people argue that those behaviors are in the past; to which it is countered and important to note, history has been known to repeat itself. Therefore, by conforming to physical labeling, society’s intrusion is minimized.

What do these parents want for this child? That answer is simple. The Kelly’s want what is best for their children. They want their children to thrive under a system of love, respect, and support by all members of the human race. They want their children to be treated equally. In a parent’s eyes, their child is not a color; their child is an innocent being, deserving of all opportunities in life to the best of that child’s ability, not the societal abilities to oppress. Booker T. Washington stated that, “When a white boy undertakes a task, it is taken for granted that he will succeed. On the other hand, people are usually surprised if the Negro boy does not fail. In a word, the Negro youth starts out with the presumption against him” (56). Although Mr. Washington is a strong advocate who asserts hard work makes strong souls, no one is handing any child within the Kelly home a free ride of social success (58). These children are being raised in a “color-wise” environment, not “color-blind.”

These children will experience opportunities and defeat, they will experience acceptance and discrimination, and they will experience love and ridicule. The opportunities, acceptance, and love will be provided by their parents; the defeat, discrimination, and ridicule will be outside the protective walls of their family, extending throughout the whole social structure. Are these parent’s confused? No, they are realistic. “If people are beaten down by an unequal system of power we should not be surprised when they respond to that system by using tactics that the oppressors have historically used against them” (Glenn). In this case, the parents are using racial terminology to mitigate between the assigned racial structure.

They should be supported, not condemned or called confused, but at the very least, the Kelly’s should be heard, for in a system where color defines social classification, there is a direct relationship between systematic oppression and systematic privilege. Each system is a polarization between the races. Without doubt, the Kelly’s have no racial prejudices, but the racial prejudices faced by the family are evident. Moreover, it is people like the Kelly’s who challenge the system by shedding light on the absurdity of unfounded racial categorization that changes occur; this is how what was once firmly structured within a society becomes demolished. An old Spanish proverb states, “Tell me with whom you walk, and I will tell you with whom you are”—is it not comforting to know that for these children, they are at least being raised by parents who walk with the human race.

Works Cited

Gardner, Drew. “Interracial Couple Wants Son Classified as White.” The Telegraph. 1995. Glenn, Evelyn Nakano. Unequal Freedom. Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2002. Walker, Clarence E. Lecure. University of California, Davis. 16 Apr. 2009. Washington, Booker T. Up from Slavery. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2003.

Related Topics

We can write a custom essay

According to Your Specific Requirements

Order an essay
Materials Daily
100,000+ Subjects
2000+ Topics
Free Plagiarism
All Materials
are Cataloged Well

Sorry, but copying text is forbidden on this website. If you need this or any other sample, we can send it to you via email.

By clicking "SEND", you agree to our terms of service and privacy policy. We'll occasionally send you account related and promo emails.
Sorry, but only registered users have full access

How about getting this access

Your Answer Is Very Helpful For Us
Thank You A Lot!


Emma Taylor


Hi there!
Would you like to get such a paper?
How about getting a customized one?

Can't find What you were Looking for?

Get access to our huge, continuously updated knowledge base

The next update will be in:
14 : 59 : 59