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The Ambiguity of Race in America & the Multi Racial Individuals Paper

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Lara Johann-Reichart
Prof. Redd
African American Literature
6 May 2013
The Ambiguity of Race in America and the Multi-Racial Individual
Of One Blood and the real life of Paschal Randolph brings to light the historic and
uniquely American struggle of an individual and his or her perception of race. Through the study
of both human origin and the Trans-Atlantic slave trade we come to understand that race
constantly evolves through time. However, due to societal and cultural experiences the
complexity of race is minimalized as individuals are categorized in broad terms (i.e. black, white,
Hispanic). Thus, an unconscious emerges that hides the history of ones own race creating a
conscious ambiguity or lack of acknowledgement of one’s true racial identity and self. The
ambiguity that exists creates interesting dynamics in society and individuals. The dynamic
present in the United States and the case studies of Reuel Briggs in Of One Blood and Paschal
Randolph is the denial and suppression of one’s true racial identity, and, subsequent inability to
find a place or unity within society. Furthermore, society as a whole remains far off from
egalitarian ideals and racial tension or turmoil is imminent.
Tragically, American history is rich with racial prejudice. From the Trans-Atlantic slave
trade to “scientific” theories regarding the one-drop rule to the blatant blindness of multi-racial
individuals in government data (i.e. the Census) the United States’ past caters to divisions rather
than unity. In fiction and in history the plights of multi-racial individuals are often ignored on
account of either racism or the inability to categorize such narratives. Thus, Pauline Hopkins’
“Of One Blood” and the life of Paschal Randolph bring to light often hidden stories.
These stories bring with them inherent controversy. As noted, racism is a major reason
for ignoring history about multi-racial individuals. Suzanne Jones explains the often untold story

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Johann-Reichart 2
of the multi-racial individual as result of discrimination, stating, “The mulatto, more than any
other literary figure, embodies “the threats and promises of integration in a racist culture,” (Jones
208). Thus, characters such as Reuel Briggs reveal sexual relations between races; acts that
during different points of American history were illegal and punishable by law. Further, by
creating multi-racial characters that are intelligent and successful in society deconstructs
arguments about racial supremacy. Therefore, multi-racial characters were and are often
excluded from literature on account of how those narratives conflict with societal norms.
Not only do multi-racial individuals depict integration, but as noted, multi-individuals
symbolize a challenge of the status quo and trauma. As noted above, sexual relations not only
conflicted with societal norms, but were illegal; thus, multi-racial individuals suggest traumatic
relationships between white and black people. This is evident in “Of One Blood” where the
reality of a multi-racial identity not only leads to murder and death but, most interestingly, finds
its’ roots in incest and rape.
After slavery and the works of Pauline Hopkins and Paschal Randolph were published
American history evolved as a more racially, united country. However, while discrimination
became outlawed, it did still persist and racism evolved into different forms. Thus, after “Of One
Blood” was published, the tale of multi-racial individuals did not become more accepted; rather,
it continued to create tension but for new reasons. Suzanne Jones depicts the multitude of
changes by explaining both the societal and scientific arguments raised in society:
“After emancipation, supposedly “scientific” theories about the
biology of race and the racial degeneration of mixed people
allowed racist whites to promote the one-drop rule for black
identity in an attempt to maintain white racial purity and solidify
white power and privilege. The rule was based on the belief that
each race had its own blood type, which corresponded to physical
characteristics and behavior,” (Jones 208).

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Lara Johann-Reichart Prof. Redd African American Literature 6 May 2013 The Ambiguity of Race in America and the Multi-Racial Individual Of One Blood and the real life of Paschal Randolph brings to light the historic and uniquely American struggle of an individual and his or her perception of race. Through the study of both human origin and the Trans-Atlantic slave trade we come to understand that race constantly evolves through time. However, due to societal and cultural experiences the complexity of race is minimalized as individuals are categorized in broad terms (i.e. black, white, Hispanic). Thus, an unconscious emerges that hides the history of ones’ own race – creating a conscious ambiguity or lack of acknowledgement of one’s true racial identity and self. The ambiguity that exists creates interesting dynamics in society and individuals. The dynamic present in the United States and the case studies of Reuel Briggs in Of One Blood and Paschal Randolph is the denial and suppression of one’s true racial identity, and, subsequent inability to find a place or unity within society. Furthermore, society as a whole remains far off from egalitarian ideals and racial tension or turmoil is imminent. Tragically, American history is rich with racial prejudice. From the Trans-Atlantic slave trade to “scientific” theories regarding the one-drop rule to the blatant blindness of multi-racial individuals in government data (i.e. the Census) the United States’ past caters to ...
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