Joe Bob's America

Then Again, Maybe I’m a Black Man

April 24, 2017

Multiple Pages
Then Again, Maybe I’m a Black Man

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn.—I’m loving all these Ancestry.com commercials where dim-witted actors say, “I thought I was a Tahitian Eskimo Mexican until I sent in my DNA test kit, and boy was I flummoxed when the results came back! I’m really Croatian with a mix of sub-Saharan! I guess I’ll be turning in my furry hat!”

This is a scam I’m thoroughly in favor of, because it reveals, once and for all, the dirty secret of American politics: Race doesn’t exist!

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t believe for a second that these tests mean anything. If you believe that DNA patterns are so historically accurate that you can discriminate between, say, Ukrainian origins and Tatar origins—it depends on which Mongol horde in which century pillaged which village, right?—then you must also believe that the guys examining your cheek saliva in Twin Falls, Idaho, have an encyclopedic knowledge of human migration patterns that are still considered mysterious by experts at the British Museum.

But what I do believe is that something did occur several millennia ago, 59 miles southwest of Baghdad, at Babel, site of the most ostentatious tower in the world before it was surpassed by Trump Tower. Whatever happened at Babel may not be exactly what the Jewish scribes describe in Genesis 11, but some series of cataclysms caused the one race to disperse into many races, or at least appear to be many races.

But even if you do not believe this—even if you believe, like John C. Calhoun and David Duke and Louis Farrakhan and Baruch Goldstein, in the purity of certain races—aren’t we finding out that Americans are so genetically messed up that everybody is multiracial?

We’re mongrels and we know it.

In the course of my talk at the Chattanooga Film Festival last week, I noted that almost every alleged white person in East Tennessee claims Cherokee blood. Far from being proud of their direct Indian-killing ancestors like Andrew Jackson, they instead claim lineage from the “Trail of Tears” side of the Cherokee Wars, which ran from 1776 to 1794.

“Yep, I’m one-eighth Cherokee, and my wife is one-sixteenth Cherokee.” This is always stated with an undertone of “Aren’t I special?” pride, as though at any moment they could break into an earth-spirit drumming ritual. Don’t judge by the name tag on my Sears Auto Repair jumpsuit, they seem to be saying, I’M REALLY A WILD MAN.

“So here’s an idea. What if we declared, by law, that all Americans are the same race?”

Okay, so here’s my question. If you’re one-sixteenth Cherokee, how did you get that way? Were the white settlers raping the Indians, or were the Indians raping the white women when they overran the settlements? Because I guarantee you nobody was going down to the county courthouse and saying, “I would like to register the marriage of Anthony V. Crawford III to Running Deer, daughter of Laughing Wolf.” Just a question. Because there’s a whole lot of white people claiming this partial Cherokee heritage.

What would make more sense is claiming to be one-eighth or one-fourth African slave—especially if you live in West Tennessee, where the cotton was grown—because the most recent statistics show that around 21 percent of white Americans have an admixture of black blood, and 17 percent of blacks have an admixture of white blood. This should surprise no one, since scarcely a week goes by without some tabloid headline about a white supremacist having black ancestors or Oprah being related to a Montana rancher. And, of course, the biggest hypocritical denial of them all emanated from the White House between 2009 and 2017, as a half-white, half-black president embraced the heritage of his absent father and denied the heritage of his loving mother, presumably in order to juggle his proud genes the way the Tennessee faux-Cherokees do.

All of this has been percolating in the American subconscious for at least a couple of centuries, and it was all delineated in the great 1936 novel Absalom, Absalom!, even though William Faulkner didn’t even know what DNA was. All he had to work with was skin color, the Civil War, the messy contradictions of the human heart, and the instincts of a writer.

So here’s an idea. What if we declared, by law, that all Americans are the same race? We’ll call the race “American.” It’s a nationality, it’s an ethnic group, and it’s a race.

As part of this law, we would make it illegal to subclassify or hyphenate anyone. Therefore, no more Asian-Americans, no more African-Americans, not even any Native Americans, because that word would become redundant.

Wouldn’t this be the most egalitarian thing we’ve done since 1787?

Wouldn’t it be nice if, from now on, when you filled out an employment application or a bank-loan form or volunteered for the Peace Corps, you would be spared the question “Which race do you associate yourself most closely with?”

Because that is the way they state it. Even the Nielsen ratings people know you can never ask, straight up, “What race are you?” Which race do you associate with? The question itself implies that you can switch anytime you feel like it, that race is a sort of con game used by marketers to put people in categories without asking questions that are illegal.

As a backup plan, if Congress declines to do our bidding, let’s all start choosing an alternative race on the census form. People do change races—or, thanks to Ancestry.com, start thinking about them in a new way. Ice-T once told me that he considered himself white until the age of 10, when his elementary school classmates in New Jersey informed him otherwise. With intermarriage among the so-called races increasing over time, we’ll soon have such a mishmash of skin colors and body types that there won’t be much value in the broad DNA categories anyway.

And isn’t this the goldurn point? Isn’t this the very essence of America? After all, it’s called the melting pot, not the pot of mutually exclusive highly identifiable ingredients.

Why should America, of all countries, even allow the government to classify by race? We don’t allow the government to classify us by medical condition, or IQ, or income, except when we voluntarily participate in blind studies. And yet it’s okay to classify us by skin color? Are you kidding me?

In fact, the census currently recognizes six racial categories and two ethnic categories—and behold how worthless they are:

“White American” is defined in census documents as either European American or Middle Eastern American. (Thanks for narrowing it down, guys.) They no longer use the term “Caucasian,” as in people from the Caucasus Mountains, which is a shame because that was a word that made us sound like badass Chechen terrorists.

The second category is “Black or African American,” and this is broken down further to mean originating from sub-Saharan Africa. Don’t try to sneak into this category if your ancestors are from the Maghreb countries! This category used to be called “Black, African American or Negro,” but “Negro” was eliminated from the description after the 2010 census. This was probably an attempt to muddy the waters about who’s black and who’s not, since the term “negroid” is actually the only scientific word the census ever used. It’s a morphological unit used by forensic anthropologists to identify people from the sub-Sahara and East Asia.

The third census category is “Native American and Alaska Native.” I’m not sure why the Eskimos are separated out from the other aborigines, but I suspect it has something to do with the Bering Strait land bridge and how Inuits differ genetically from the Cherokee and Navajo, who make up most of the 2.4 million people in this designation. (The precise definition is descendant of any “original population” in North America, Central America, or South America. So if you’re a naturalized Waorani from the Amazon, you still qualify as Native American.)

“Asian American” is the weirdest basket term of all, because it’s defined as “originating in the Far East, Central Asia, North Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Indian subcontinent.” (How many billions of square miles is that? The mind boggles.) The largest subgroups, in order, are Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean, and Japanese—six nationalities that have virtually nothing in common.

The fifth category is “Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander,” and if you drill down into what this means, you get “originating in Polynesia, Melanesia, or Micronesia.” If you want clarity you have to go back to the year 1990, before the term “Pacific Islander” was invented. At that time they used “Hawaiian, Samoan, and Guamanian.” Presumably they enlarged the term so the populace of the Northern Mariana Islands wouldn’t be insulted. (By the way, the last full-blooded Hawaiian is expected to die off in 2025—making my point perfectly.)

And the final census category is called “Some Other Race.”

Exactly.

Ninety-five percent of the people who check “Some Other Race” on the form are mestizos, but other racial write-in votes include Creole, mulatto, South African, Belizean, gypsy, Puerto Rican, and—a race dear to my heart—the Melungeons. The Melungeons live in East Tennessee and eastern Kentucky and claim the blood of the Cherokee, African slaves, and Scots-Irish. They’re similar to the Jackson Whites of northern New Jersey, who are said to be descended from freed black slaves, Dutch farmers, and Ramapo Indians. I’m sure that, when the Melungeons and the Jackson Whites see the census form, they get really pissed off.

But wait! We’re not finished yet. Beginning with the 2020 census, there’s a new category: “Middle Eastern American,” defined as “populations originating in the Middle East, North Africa, and the Arab world.” This category will serve two purposes—making sure those wily Arabs don’t try to pass for white or pass for black (in the form of sneaky Maghrebers).

But wait! The U.S. Census Bureau is still not finished putting us into bogus categories—because all of the above six, soon to be seven, classifications are further divided into “Hispanic or Latino” or “Not Hispanic or Latino.” I’m not quite following why this is a subdivision as opposed to a category in itself, but it seems to be based on what language the person speaks. In other words, they’ve separated out Spanish from the other 6,500 languages in the world so as to say, “People who speak Spanish are special”—a clear slap in the face to the 1.2 billion Mandarin-speakers.

Therefore—stay with me here—you will be able to choose, in 2020, a total of fourteen different ways to define yourself. White American Latino, White American Non-Latino, Asian American Latino, Asian American Non-Latino…and on down the line to Middle Eastern American Latino and its opposite and Some Other Race Non-Latino and its opposite.

But wait! I’m forgetting. You can claim more than one category. You can claim to be two races. You can claim to be three races. You can, in fact, claim all seven categories if, by some radical combination of sexual deviancy, international dating sites, group sex at Burning Man, promiscuous Air France flight attendants, and refugee-camp rape, you have been manufactured from the sperm and embryos of people from all over the world. Then, if you speak Spanish, might as well check “Latino” as well, which might make you a White African Native Asian Middle Eastern Pacific Islander with Belizean roots who speaks Spanish. You’re the grand-prize winner in the multiethnic multiracial lottery. You’re eligible for every federal program ever invented and scholarships at every school in America.

In fact, if we total up all the different combinations you could claim on the census form, including multiple-race options, you have 254 ways to define yourself. And since the government doesn’t require you to prove anything, meaning you can use any evidence including your grandma’s lies to define your heritage, it’s basically a big pile of statistical junk. (My own grandmother, by the way, was opposed to any form of genealogical research, under the theory that “If you go back far enough, sooner or later you’re gonna find a child molester or a Catholic priest.”)

And if we really wanna get serious about this stuff, we need to add some in-between categories for people like our 44th president:

Not That Black: Sidney Poitier, Halle Berry.

Not That White: Omar Sharif, Vin Diesel.

Not That Samoan: The Rock.

Probably, I Don’t Know, You Guess: Derek Jeter.

Because, let’s face it, what these categories are really based on is skin color.

Is that messed up or what?

White for Europe. Black for Africa. Olive for the Middle East. High yellow for Asia. Red for the Injuns. Swarthy for the Pacific. And, since we’re all having too much sex between the races, any ole color you please for Any Other Race.

America, you should be ashamed of yourself.

It’s especially appropriate that we get rid of this stuff now, because it’s the 50th anniversary of Loving v. Virginia, the landmark Supreme Court decision that abolished laws prohibiting interracial marriage. Richard Loving, a white man with an aptronymic surname, traveled to Washington, D.C., to get married to a pregnant nonwhite woman (part Indian, part black), but when the couple returned to their home in Central Point, Va., cops staked out their house to try to catch them in the act of having illegal sex. They eventually did drag them out of bed and haul them down to the county courthouse, charged with violating the Virginia Racial Integrity Act.

The interesting thing about this 1924 law is that it defined a white person as having “no trace whatsoever of any blood other than Caucasian.” The definition of a black person, on the other hand, was someone who had any African blood (called the “one-drop” standard). Apparently there was no definition of Asian-American, Pacific Islander, or Native Alaskan blood ratios. But the state of Virginia’s case was based on the idea that there were 100 percent white people who needed to be protected from race-mixing.

The court looked at the evidence for white racial purity and found it sorely lacking. Chief Justice Earl Warren even sneered at “so-called races” in his opinion. He noted that the legal definitions of what it means to be white and what it means to be black keep changing over time, and he came this close to saying “Race doesn’t exist.”

He should have. Instead the court simply struck down the obviously unconstitutional law, and racial classification survived for another day.

But now that day is up. I’m applying the one-drop rule to everybody. If you have one drop of blood that doesn’t belong there, you’re a mongrel. You’re “Any Other Race.”

Or, better yet, you’re American. Be proud.

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