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Rebecca Walker

The anthology may have given ‘Third Wave Foundation’1, the multicultural network of young feminist activists co­-founded by Rebecca Walker. In this paper, I examine Walker's Black, White and Jewish: Autobiography of a Shifting Self. In this mixed race fictional autobiography, Walker develops her multiracial identity, as she explores and expresses her experience growing up racially mixed in the United States in the 1970s and 1980s. I read Walker and identify a historical experience, thematic thread, and expression to show that it differs from received conceptions and descriptions of race and mixed race that have been understood in society and portrayed in the canons of American and American Ethnic literature in the categorical, dichotomous, and hierarchical terms of the binary racial idiom. The binary racial idiom has worked to suppress and distort mixed race bodies and lived realities in the culture at large insofar as it designates Americans as either white or black, white or other, and maintains, in conjunction with the social and legal rule of hypodescent (also known as the one-drop rule), the hierarchical valuation of whiteness over blackness by defining as black any racially mixed person with a quantum of African ancestry. Hence, following American racial common sense, the sum of black, white, and Jewish has been black. Nonetheless, Walker attempts to expose into view suppressed and silenced multiracial experience, complexity, and possibility. Body There have always been mixed race people in American history who have attempted to resist and circumvent the binary racial system. For a countless number of mixed race people "of a more European American phenotype and cultural orientation" (Daniel 49), the strategy of passing has been the most common form of resistance. In addition, sociologists and historians have identified groups of tri-racial isolates, mixed race people of black, white, and American Indian ancestry, who lived in rural communities in the mountains and in the backwoods apart from blacks and whites. There are also the Louisiana Creoles of Color who emerged as a community when Louisiana was a territory of Spain and then of France. In the US state of Louisiana, they resisted social and legal designation as black for more than a century to protect the rights and opportunities that had been granted to them under French rule. Furthermore, there existed blue-vein societies of mixed race people in the major Northern cities such as Washington D.C. and New York. Nevertheless, in nearly all cases, the mixed race people who attempted to resist the binary racial system nevertheless accepted the dichotomization between European Americans and blacks, as well as the hierarchical valuation of whiteness over blackness. For instance, tri-racial isolate communities accepted their status on the outskirts of organized society and tended to identify as Native American (Daniel 71). Blue-vein elites privileged and sought European culture, education, and somatic features, and the primary concern of Louisiana Creoles of Color was the preservation of the rights and privileges that had been allotted them because of their European heritage and education. It is an historical irony that a ...Show more

Summary

[Author’s Name] Rebecca Walker Introduction An obscure footnote in American history most often associated with pathology and disrepute, mixed race has become noticeable and relevant in recent times in a society where a growing number of mixed race people are asserting their right to cross established racial borders and belong to more than one racial group at the same time (Root xxii)…
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