Book Review: Race & Reality {We’re All Mixed}


Last year I read a book called, Race and Reality: What Everyone Should Know About Our Biological Diversity by Guy P. Harrison.

This was definitely not light, relaxing reading but I’m happy that I pushed through and finished it.

Here’s the Book Description:

“Drawing on a wide variety of evidence – the hard data from fossils and DNA, interviews with the victims of racism, and personal experiences – Harrison dismantles the ‘race’ concept, bolt by bolt. Exposing race as a social illusion and political tool – rather than a biological reality – Harrison forces the reader to consider how they think about ‘other folk.’ Anthropologists have no use for the race concept, and neither should educated citizens.” -Cameron M. Smith, PhD, Department of Anthropology, Portland State University


Before reading Race & Reality, I already considered myself well-educated on the topic, but this book opened my eyes in new ways. I really haven’t been able to look at people, race or society the same ever again. (Now remember, we’re talking about race here – not culture. They are two very different things. The craziness I observe in my own bi-cultural household on a daily basis is proof enough to me that cultural differences exist!)

The author argues that we all have roots in Africa and we are one human race – that any categories based on hair type, skin color, facial features, etc. – are simply man-made.  By the time I finished reading this book I felt simultaneously freed…and trapped by the idea. I do see myself as race-less, but this just isn’t practical in the society we live in.

Imagine if I go to renew my driver’s license at the Department of Motor Vehicles. I’ll fill out the form – name, address and all that good stuff – but then I come to the race boxes. After a moment I’ll decide to leave the race boxes blank because they seem silly and irrelevant. I turn in my form at the front counter.

“Ma’am, you didn’t check a box for race.”
“I know. I don’t want to. I don’t believe in races.”
“Yes ma’am, that’s real cute, but you have to choose one. I can’t process an incomplete form…”
I’ll sigh, take my pen in hand, and check off a race.
“Hmm… I suppose this one is most accurate,” I’ll say to myself.
I’ll hand the form back to the DMV clerk who looks it over. Her satisfied smile at my compliance soon turns to a frown.


So, I don’t think race will be disappearing any time soon – and maybe it would be irresponsible of me to pretend our world doesn’t see these man-made boxes, regardless of what I personally feel. I have two sons who are struggling with their identity, and answering their questions with a cheerful, “Race doesn’t exist” – is not going to help them sort things out.

Just last year a classmate approached my older son and said, “Are you Mexican?” … My son, (having picked up on his father’s annoyance at constantly being incorrectly labeled Mexican instead of Latino or Salvadoran), replied with a simple, curt, “No.”

I told him that he should have used the opportunity to educate his classmate, but I wonder if that was fair of me. As a so-called “white” girl amongst other “white” kids, I never had to explain myself. It must get annoying having to patiently tell people “what you are.” It must make one feel very “other”… and that’s never a good feeling, no matter how old you are – but especially in middle school.

The book, Race and Reality, re-printed a “Bill of Rights for People of Mixed Heritage” which I think is empowering, not just for people who are traditionally considered “multi-racial” by today’s society – but for all of us. In the end, there is no such thing as a pure race. We are all mixed and we are all human.


Bill of Rights for People of Mixed Heritage:

Not to justify my existence in this world.
Not to keep the races separate within me.
Not to justify my ethnic legitimacy.
Not to be responsible for people’s discomfort with my physical or ethnic ambiguity.

To identify myself differently than strangers expect me to identify.
To identify myself differently than how my parents identify me.
To identify myself differently than my brothers and sisters.
To identify myself differently in different situations.

To create a vocabulary to communicate about being multiracial or multi-ethnic.
To change my identity over my lifetime -and more than once.
To have loyalties and identification with more than one group of people.
To freely choose whom I befriend and love.

© Maria P. P. Root, PhD


[originally posted on]



  1. says

    Thanks for this review–I will be looking for this book! My son is middle school-aged too and we are starting to have some of the same issues you mention with your son. I am really interested to find out how he will deal with questions, comments. That Bill of Rights made me really think about how complex things can be: I want my children to identify themselves, but it will be so strange if they each identify differently. We are family, and the same….but each different. Very interesting post! Have you found any books or materials to help your son think about how to deal with the questions? 

  2. says

    I love this version of the Bill of Rights — it's the first time I've seen written, "To identify differently in different situations." I agree with all of these wholeheartedly, but this one in particular is so hard to explain to people who are not bicultural or biracial. This book sounds like a thoughtful discussion on a difficult subject. Thank you for sharing it.

  3. Glenn Robinson says

    Excellent post Tracy. On such an important topic, I wonder how many school teachers explain it accurately? In most conversations, using the word "race", in itself, creates an oversimplification of the complexity of human variation. 

    I think it has not helped my argument when I tell people that "There are no races, only clines." Since most people have been brought up to believe that there are a handful of "races" in the world – implying that they drop that idea might me an affront to their dignity. 

    Instead I think I will ask people if they are familiar with the terms haplotype, and phenotype in hopes that they will use these more descriptive words instead and do justice to the vast variety of humankind.