''A well-ordered multiracial society ought to allow its members free entry into and exit from racial categories,'' [Randall] Kennedy contends [in his latest book, INTERRACIAL INTIMACIES: Sex, Marriage, Identity, and Adoption], and his exploration of racial passing makes for compulsive reading.
Amazing. The more times I read that quote from Kennedy, the less sense it makes. Possibly because I think in a well-ordered multiracial society, no one would particularly care about racial categories.
It goes without saying that the US is not currently a well-ordered. . . okay, maybe it depends on how you define "well-ordered." If you mean segregated, there are some statistics suggesting that yes, it is, especially in Northern cities.
[A]bandoning his evenhandedness, Kennedy presents a one-dimensional account of the problem posed by half a million children in foster care, many of them black. Repeatedly -- and misleadingly -- he calls them ''parentless children.'' And he advocates their rapid, race-blind redistribution to adoptive homes that would be predominantly white, arguing that this would benefit both the children and American race relations.
Kennedy seems untroubled that these children's own parents are overwhelmingly poor and politically powerless, and that the new ones he seeks for them would be more affluent. Absent is any mention of recent cases in which courts found children had been wrongly removed to foster care because their mothers were battered, homeless or ineligible for public assistance. Nowhere is it more apparent that Kennedy's vision of a race-blind society has a blind spot for economic inequality.
Which is the other problem I had with that first quote. There's a long history of black people passing for white because, until fairly recently, our society didn't bother pretending there was equality between racial groups. Comparing that to a white person today deciding he or she would derive all sorts of affirmative action or tribal benefits from claiming to be black or Indian is. . . just a wee bit misguided.
And possibly not what Kennedy intended to say; I'd have to read the book to be sure, and I still haven't got 'round to his previous tome, Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word.
I've had opportunities to do so.
I haven't taken them.
This can safely be assumed to indicate my complete lack of interest in doing so.
Bonus round: Looking for census information to back up that offhand remark about segregation, up came Color lines are fading in city neighborhoods, from my sister's former employer, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
Early last month, the Los Angeles Times flew a reporter here to research a story about the high rate of segregation in Milwaukee.
The newspaper would have been better off covering its own metro area, considering the results of a new study by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Employment and Training Institute. Metro Milwaukee ranks 43rd on the UWM study in the level of black-white integration - far ahead of Los Angeles, which ranks 89th out of 100.
Insert griping about restricting this to "black-white". . . here.