After looking over this 2001 story from a fine journalistic publication that maybe needs a new name(!!), IOTM that ‘traditional’ Census-Indians and Census-Blacks are poorer, disempowered, oppressed, discriminated against, etc., raising the question whether an increasing number of ‘non-traditionals’ laying claim to their Mixed Race Ancestry skews the demographics in ways that harm the discriminated-against, darker-skinned Americans? (The same thing has been happening in Canada.) ‘Ah, yes, Indians have now made it into Scarsdale, Redmond, Beverly Hills, West Palm Beach, so we don’t have to worry about them anymore!’
I ask this of myself too (as I did last May). For logistical reasons I was not counted in the 2000 Census, but in 1990, feeling cheeky, I wrote myself down as Native American, in the only choice allowed me before 2000’s multiple-choice Census. (Though I wasn’t living in a particularly upscale neighborhood at the time. [I’ve been growing slowly in my Native self-consciousness since my mother informed me of it in the early ’70s … more quickly since I got on the Internet in the late ’90s!])
Ironically, this is the flip-side of a concern voiced by some Black leaders in the runup to 2000 — that traditional Census-Blacks claiming other races or ethnicities might dilute their political strength. Remember that Congressional, State, and Local legislative and election districts are re-drawn every ten years in part on the basis of race (along with Party registration, neighborhood voting habits, income, etc.) — including Federal-Court-ordered “majority-minority” districts to redress racist housing segregation or exclusionary zoning. So this isn’t just about paid-up membership in the NAACP.
Maybe those of us interested in claiming additional identities officially besides the one (North) America thinks we belong to, for which we don’t suffer as much from (North) America actively anymore [I’m choosing my words carefully here], should assert a specifically Mixed i.d., distinct from African-American or Native American or whatever — standing totally in solidarity with our oppressed cousins, whatever our internal disagreements.
What term or terms to use? Metis, to those who have ever heard of it, usually connotes French-Canadian-Indian, although the term, as I have reported, historically and again now increasingly has broader usage. Mestizo, again to those who have heard of it in the U.S., usually connotes a Spanish-Indian Mix somewhere in the family tree, although some have tried to apply it also to us Eastern U.S. “tri-racial isolates” (a term we have traditionally eschewed). Mulatto is usually thought to mean a Black-White Mix, although Jack Forbes believes that historically it was mostly Black-Indian. It’s said Forbes tried to broaden the local (colonial Carolina and New Jersey) term Mustee/Mestee* to cover all us “tri-racials.” I once toyed with the equivalent Irish Gaelic term, Meascach, at least in regard to myself. Some folks at the National American Metis Association have used the historic English Halfbreed or even its historic contraction ‘Breed, though my question here is what if my Native blood quantum — a racist, racialist, and unconstitutional category in the U.S. — is less than “Half”? I haven’t seen anybody trying to revive the terms Quadroon and Octoroon, or any of the dozen or more other historical terms Forbes chronicles!
We could unite on a term like Mixed Aboriginal, going on to specify the Mix we wish to claim for ourselves on that same line on the Census form, eg, “Mixed Aboriginal: Irish and Nanticoke Indian.” Except apparently the 2010 form won’t accommodate such a thing; see this 1.7MB PDF, and when it opens, go up in what is usually the page number box in the Reader toolbar and type “Sec1:5” without spaces or quote marks, then hit Enter/Return. We get only 17 letters and spaces. [I’m sure someone tried hard, but this is not well-designed even generally speaking. What if someone is both Asian and Pacific Islander, as many traditionally-“Asian/Pacific Islanders” are? What if they’re more than one “other race (sic)”?: Jewish, Arab, Turkish, Kurdish, Iranian/Persian, Azeri/Azerbaijani, Kazakh, Indigenous Siberian, Tatar, Chechen, Aboriginal Australian? By some estimates Armenians and Georgians are Asian too. Many of these are small groups in this country, but it could happen!]
Yup, the 2010 Census discriminates against us ‘Breeds: Part-Indians, Half-Blacks, part-Whites, whatever, wanting to claim “All My Relations”! They want to break us into tiny little pieces! Actually it wants to break down traditional Census-Blacks and Census-Indians, hoping to be done with legal or political obligations to them. That’s called genocide, the same old story.
(*–I believe it’s pronounced mis-TEE, derived from the same French, Spanish, and Latin words like Metis [formerly, Mestis and Mestif] and Mestizo.)