What do you call someone who is Native American, African-American, and Caucasian? Someone who loves fishing and dogs? What about a person?
Race are just some of the identity dimensions that describe Dak Prescott, (Rayne Dakota “Dak” Prescott) the rookie quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys.
New York Times best-selling author Michael Levin has written, co-written or ghostwritten over 100 books, of which nine are national best sellers, was curious about the name, so he searched the web and found Prescott’s photo. “I read every article I could find online about Prescott. I located only one reference to his racial or ethnic background. It came at the end of a lengthy Sports Illustrated profile, which mentioned, that Prescott is a mix of Native American, African-American, and Caucasian.
Leven believes that “we’re so touchy about race that not a single sports writer dared even mention the obvious–that the Dallas Cowboys have their first quarterback of color in more than 30 years, and that he could well be the future of the franchise.”
Prescott may be America’s first ever quarterback with a Native American background. I think it’s time to change the rules of social tradition in the United States that says he’s black.
As America becomes more racially blended and social prohibitions against interracial marriage fade, a new Pew Research Center survey finds that “majorities of multiracial adults are proud of their mixed-race background (60%) and feel their racial heritage has made them more open to other cultures (59%). Only 4% say having a mixed ethnic background has been a disadvantage in their life. About one-in-five (19%) say it has been an advantage, and 76% say it has made no difference.”
There Are Still Headwinds
The Pew study also highlights some challenges of being multiracial. A majority (55%) say they have experienced racial slurs or jokes, and about one-in-four (24%) have felt dismissed because people have made assumptions about their racial background. Still, few see their multiracial background as a liability.
Pew also found that “for multiracial adults with a black background, experiences with discrimination closely aligns single-race blacks. Among adults who are black and no other race, 57% say they have received poor service in restaurants or other businesses, identical to the share of biracial black and white adults who say this has happened to them. Forty-two percent of single-race blacks say they have been unfairly stopped by the police, as do 41% of biracial black and white adults. Mixed-race adults with an Asian background are about as likely to report being discriminated against as are single-race Asians, while multiracial adults with a white background are more likely than single-race whites to say they have experienced racial discrimination.
The Racial Journey of Tiger Woods
Seems like years ago but there was another famous multiracial American, Golfer Tiger Woods–whose father is black, Native American, and white and whose mother is Thai–likewise does not escape his racial history. When the young Tiger once asked his father for advice on navigating between his biracial worlds, his father responded: “When you’re in America, be black. When you’re in the Orient, be Asian.” Woods eventually solved his problem by labeling himself a “Cabinasian”–a word he coined from the first two letters of Caucasian, black, and Indian ancestry, followed by the word “Asian.” But when African-Americans are asked about Woods, race still matters many African-Americans classify Woods as black, as did the majority of the media during his epic rise to global fame. With so many ethnic and racial dimensions of his identity, why was Woods ever considered black?
The One Drop Rule
The long-standing tradition in the United States is that any person with any known African black ancestry is black. This definition reflects the long experience with slavery and later with Jim Crow segregation. In the South, it became referred to as the “one-drop rule,” meaning that a single drop of “black blood” makes a person a black. It is also known as the “one black ancestor rule,” some courts have called it the “traceable amount rule,” meaning that racially mixed persons are assigned the status of the subordinate group. This definition emerged from the American South to become the nation’s definition, generally accepted by people of all races and ethnicities.
The one-drop rule applies to no other group than American blacks, and the rule is unique in that it is found only in the United States and not in any other nation in the world. Definitions of who is black vary sharply around the world, and people in other countries express bewilderment about the United States definitions.
Who Are Multiracials?
During the twenty-first century, defining the term “race” has been a linguistic challenge. The complexity of racial self-identification has prompted Ellis Cose, author of Color Blind: Seeing Beyond Race in a Race-Obsessed World, to observe: “Tomorrow’s multiracial people could just as easily become the next decade’s something else. A name, in the end, is just a name. The problem is that socially we want those names to mean so much–even if the only result is a perpetuation of an ever-more-dysfunctional racial madness.
According to a 2013 analysis, multiracial Americans are dramatically younger than the country. “The median age of all multiracial Americans is 19, compared with 38 for single-race Americans.” According to Pew, during the twenty-first century, the number of mixed-race Americans will steadily grow. And with that growth comes the increasingly complex question of racial identification. Based on Pews analysis of the census data, the share of multiracial babies has risen from 1% in 1970 to 10% in 2013.
And with interracial marriages also on the rise, demographers expect this rapid growth to continue in the decades to come.
Let People Be Who They Are, Whole
CJ Williams of the Star-Telegram said after an interview with DAK in September of 2016, “No stage has been too big for him, and it’s his upbringing. “It’s being multi-racial,” said his brother, Tad, pointing to the brothers’ being Caucasian, African-American and Native American. “We see both sides of everything, and we know what there really is to be upset about. Our mom taught us the difference between the need and the want.”
When asked further about defining who he is he responded with five words when he was asked about his upbringing during the Star interview, “I am who I am,” Dak said, in a ‘what-you-see-is-what-you-get’ tone. “I don’t care what anybody says. I am who I am.”
Now it’s time to take his message to heart and change the way we perceive race.