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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 ones 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 ones 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

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).

Johann-Reichart 3 The one-drop rule further established ideas of white supremacy while simultaneously reinforcing ideas of classification in American society. Classification in America can be seen anywhere: from birth certificates to lunch tables in high school cafeterias. Individuals must decide on who they are and there is no grey area to fall in. In present day, racism is not as prevalent as in times past; however, the struggle of multiracial individuals finds other difficulties. For once the multi-racial individual identifies with their true self and ethnicity it is an entirely new matter for society to identify them as such. The United States is compartmentalized and to challenge the classification system is inherently difficult. For example, in the case of gender the United States is engrained to believe and live by the fact there are two genders. On ones birth certificate an individual must identify as either male or female. However, this excludes transgender individuals who cannot identity with one gender over the other. This is a similar difficulty faced by multi-racial individuals in both legal and social matters. Yvonne Gutenbergers research Contemporary African American Life Writing and Transcultural Identity explores the interesting dynamics of ethnic groups and identity, stating: We typically identify ourselves (and others) as belonging to a certain ethnic group by asserting that we do not belong to another ethnic group, by asserting out difference to other groups. Thus, the concept of the other is central to ethnic identity as well. This is why it is difficult to belong to various ethnic groups at the same time; it would require being self and other simultaneously, (Gutenberger 289). In recent history, Gutenbergers analysis couldnt be more evident. Often we point to after the Civil Rights Movement as a major turning point for racial relations in the United States; however, the lines between black and white remained clear. Multi-racial individuals were and still, must choose a side. It was not even until 2000 that the United States Census allowed

Johann-Reichart 4 individuals to identify as more than one race or ethnicity.12 Therefore, we see classification and the challenge of multi-racial individuals as a very real 21st century crisis. Individuals must choose one ethnic group to belong to. This idea can be broken down to a simple metaphor of the high school cafeteria; each table in the cafeteria belongs to different cliques with different ideas, a student must choose a table to identify with or sit alone. The student in the high school cafeteria is in many ways the multi-racial individual; neither can embrace their various callings and must choose one group. Ideally, both the student and the multi-racial individual would find acceptance at any table; that acceptance and subsequent unity is something yet to be realized. However, as the student eventually graduates and no longer is subject to the cafeteria dilemma, the multi-racial individual is perpetually stuck in the realm of making a singular choice of identification. The cafeteria for the multi-racial individual is magnified to American society at large. Due to the continual challenges faced by multi-racial individuals and their quest for unity within American society, it is important to trace the history of multi-racial individuals and read their narratives that conceptualize the complexity of their struggles. Reuel Briggs and Paschal Randolph exemplify the dynamic of being unable to find a sense of place in society as a result of their hidden self. Each share incredible similarities: both are men passing for white, medical doctors, and are interested in mesmerism, voodoo, and other non-traditional medicine.

Sizanne Jones states, despite spirited debates about the new 2000 census, which allowed respondents to check more than one race or ethnic category, the practice of individuals with African Ancestry identifying as racially mixed as only recently resurfaced in American history, (207). 2 st Michele Elms book The Souls of Mixed Folk further analyses the 21 century challenges of multi-racial individuals. A key example explored is the 2008 election which resulted in Americas first African American President, Barack Obama. Obamas race, which is of multiple ethnicities, is often attempted to be classified as either black or white; his diverse ethnic background is often minimalized. Thus, Obama serves as a great example of the struggles multi-racial individuals face in American society.

Johann-Reichart 5 As we begin, first by examining Reuel Briggs in Of One Blood, it is important to note that Pauline Hopkins is writing specifically about the multi-racial individuals experience in the United States of America. Hanna Wallinger notes, Although much of the action takes place in Africa, it is really about America, (Wallinger 207). While multi-racial individuals across the globe experience an unique experience in their given societies, as we have explored the history of race in America, we come to understand that the struggles of multi-racial individuals specifically relates to that history and the societal dynamics that result in America. Although the majority of Reuels personal revelation about his race and identity is experienced in Africa, it was completely influenced by both his own personal history and his familys American history. Reuel initially identifies as a white man because he is both unaware of his ethnic background and because he lives in a society that discriminates against minorities. In effort to receive a strong education and to become a successful medical doctor, it is imperative for Reuel to be seen as a white man.3 To further understand Reuels reasoning, it is necessary to remember the context of the times. Wallinger explains the complexity of the relationship between Reuels decision to identify as a white man with the time period he lived in by stating, For a long time in African American history, the term black intellectual was considered an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms because African Americans were usually assigned minor intellectual capacities, (Wallinger 210). Thus, it would have been impossible for Reuel to be a successful doctor and explore controversial medical studies as a black man due to the racism prevalent in society. Potentially, he may have had limited educational opportunities or professional experiences.

Wallinger notes that Reuel, chooses to pass for white to gain a good education; interestingly, Wallinger also notes that he ultimately leaves America for Africa due to financial limitations and personal struggle. Thus, Reuel experiences the impossibility of the American dream, largely influenced by the fact he is a multi-racial individual, (207).

Johann-Reichart 6 As a result of hiding his multi-racial ethnicity to society, Reuel buries his African ethnicity deep within himself. Wallinger argues, race is here construed as an interior element, as a secret buried within the personality, as a submerged side of the selfan aspect of the self that is fully conscious yet sealed off from normal consciousness, that preserves and represses memories of guilt and trauma, (Wallinger 208). Due to the fact Reuel suppresses his true identity, the truth about his familys history which involves multiple races and rape boils over into chaos. Ultimately, this chaos is incest and murder. By ignoring his true identity he cannot find peace. This in many ways symbolizes Americas racial tensions which are a result of ignoring the complexity of race among the populous. Wallinger further elaborates Pauline Hopkins intention to have Of One Blood depict the truth about America through stating, The concealed part of the American identit y is racial. Reuel, more than any other protagonist in the Hopkins canon, tries to overcome race as a limitation upon his possibilities, (Wallinger 209). In the beginning of the novel Reuels hopes and aspirations are impossible because both his ambiguous racial features and failure to acknowledge his complete ethnic makeup limit his potential. He is stalled due to societal problems of classification and by his own psychological dilemma of playing only a part of himself. Fortunately, as the novel continues he slowly reveals the truth of his racial background. While in the beginning he believes strength of brain and will-power (Hopkins 445) will help him overcome his struggle, it is not until he has the lovely vision of Venus (445) in the formation of Dianthe that he understands there is something missing in him and he must find out what it is.4 It is at this point in the narrative that Reuel understands the importance of identifying

Wallinger (209) explores the journey Reuel has in understanding that the truth of ones own race is imperative to feeling complete as an individual.

Johann-Reichart 7 his racial family and past. He has tapped into an unconscious that is beautiful because it signifies truth. Of course, to truly understand this truth is no easy task for Reuel. As he travels to Ethiopia his life in many ways unravels. His relationship between Dianthe and Aubrey is filled with conflict, introducing events such as rape, incest, and murder. Reuel faces many near death experiences before ultimately finding his throne in Ethiopia. Pauline Hopkins choice to have Reuel find peace with his true racial identity outside of the United States further signifies the racist history of America and its societys strict classification and prejudice towards multi-racial individuals. Additionally, Wallinger acknowledges the authors intentions by arguing, Hopkinss central argument about the common and unifying bond between all human races allows her to criticize American racist tendencies, to express racial pride, and to call for revision of history, (Wallinger 222). Thus, by introducing a protagonist that is multi-racial she takes the opportunity to directly confront Americas uneasiness with integration; and, by having that protagonist reach a sense of truth outside of America, she can directly criticize Americas current inability to right its wrongs of discrimination and ignorance towards those that do not fit within its rigid classification system. As previously stated, Paschal Randolph holds a great deal of similarity with Reuel Briggs such as their similar occupations, medical interests, and ethnic makeup. However, Paschals journey to identification was less about trauma and more about a sense of belonging to fractions of America. For example, a large part of Reuels narrative pertains to the family history of rape and incest; however, Paschals journey is structured around his attempts to become a pivotal figure in the medical field, but later in life, his attempt to be a leader in the Civil Rights Movement.

Johann-Reichart 8 In the beginning of Paschals life he was adamant about denying any African roots to his ethnicity. He even boldly stated, Not a drop of continental African, or pure negro blood runs through me. Not that it were a disgrace were it so, but truth is truth, (Deveney 5). Clearly, there was a sense of disgrace towards his African ethnicity because it was something to which he separated himself from. His reasoning is very similar to that of Reuels reasoning, for Paschal would not have had the great educational and professional opportunities he did, had he embraced his African ethnic roots. American society at the time would have classified a man with African ethnic roots as an African American, and, therefore, it would disqualify him from the same opportunities as Caucasian counterparts. Later in Paschals life, during the Civil Rights Movement, his racial identification changed drastically. Whereas before he denounced any possibility of being African, in a speech during a Civil Rights Movement protest he stated the following: I do not represent the three-fourths black; I stand here to-night as representative of the African. I do not come as a flatterer of the black man; I want justice for himWho are we, that are now nothing before the world? The best blood that runs in the veins of any people runs in ours. We claim our rights because we are men, fashioned by the hand of Almighty God, (Deveney 159). In effort to be a leader during the Civil Rights Movement, the only way in which he could find a following would be to identify with the group completely. To argue that he was only a portion African American would signify separation from those he was fighting with. This goes back to Wallingers concept of self and other and my own analogy of the high school cafeteria; Paschal could not be simultaneously a white man and a black man, because society at the time saw white men as the suppressors and black men as the suppressed. Thus, Paschal chose to fully

Johann-Reichart 9 identify as a black man during the Civil Rights Movement in effort to find solidarity with those he fought alongside with.5 Interestingly, the complexity of Paschals racial identity did not end with the way he identified at the time of his work during the Civil Rights Movement. In all, Paschal was a product of his times and raised to believe through American society, that there was a racial hierarchy. Deveney synthesizes Paschals conundrum of racial identity by stating, Randolph, never completely made peace with his ancestry, and even when identifying himself with AfricanAmericans, was careful to distinguish himself and his accomplishments from what he saw as the uneducated, passive mass of former slaves, (Deveney 6). Like Reuel Briggs, Paschal lived in a society that saw the term black intellectual as an oxymoron. Therefore, in effort to claim his great education and prominent profession, he disassociated that success with his African roots to prevent discrimination against himself, even by himself. By being raised in a society that believed in white supremacy, Paschal wanted to be and be seen as the best and most successful individual. Unfortunately, given the influence of Americas racism, it meant excluding part of Paschals identity from his accomplishments. Both Reuel Briggs and Paschal Randolph represent the unique, American struggle it is to be a multi-racial individual. Through reading narratives such as Of One Blood and the work of Paschal Randolph, we can realize that the struggle is filled with complexities in regards to the United States history of racism and its society structured around classification. Narratives and accounts of individuals throughout Americas struggles with race allow American society to understand and question the status quo. Further, these narratives and accounts prompt Americans

Deveny further acknowledges Paschals reasoning through quoting his speech in which Paschal stated, We men of color were born here; so were our fathers, and mothers down a long line of ancestry: Our blood, bones, nerves every material particle of our bodies was and is composed of American soil, air, water, and our souls are American all the way through, (6).

Johann-Reichart 10 to be like Reuel, and be in pursuit of the truth and acknowledge the beauty of that truth. Ideally, the hope can be that Pauline Hopkins narrative, if written in the future, could conclude in the United States.

Johann-Reichart 11 Work Cited Elam, Michele. The Souls of Mixed Folk: Race, Politics, and Aesthetics in the New Millennium. Stanford University Press: Stanford, California, 2011. Print. Deveney, John Patrick. Paschal Beverly Randolph: A Nineteenth-Century Black American Spiritualist, Rosicrucian, and Sex Magician. State U of New York P, 1997. Print. Gutenberger, Yvonne. Contemporary African American Life Writing and Transcultural Identity. Living American Studies. University Winter; Heidelberg, 2010. Print. Hopkins, Pauline. Of One Blood. Washington Square Press: New York, 1902-1903. Print. Jones, Suzanne W. Race Mixing: Southern Fiction since the Sixties. The John Hopkins University Press: Baltimore and London, 2004. Wallinger, Hanna. Pauline E. Hopkins: A Literary Biography. The University of Georgia Press: Athens & London, 2005. Print. Shuffelton, Frank. A Mixed Race: Ethnicity in Early America. Oxford University Press: New York, 1993. Print.