Is America Coming To Terms With A Changing Biracial And Multiracial Identity?
This is a research paper I wrote for my college anthropology class.
This paper touches on the sensitive issues surrounding the identity of biracial and multiracial people in America. From early in America’s history, to changing developments in race relations over time, to the nation’s seeing its first black President, America has undergone a change in its once singular identity where there was a fine line drawn between black and white. Today those colors are mixed.
This paper will discuss how those changes came about, how biracial and multiracial identities affect people especially youth today, and how Americans identify themselves today. The hot button and current issues regarding people’s opinions of interracial marriages will be addressed.
The paper also mentions the issues regarding race and racism, discrimination in education, the workplace, and society. Lastly, the paper will conclude on where America stands at the present and what hopes may lie in the future for this nation’s changing racial identity.
A Biracial and Multiracial America
Is America Coming To Terms with Its Changing Biracial and Multiracial Identity?
Race is an important issue in this nation and has been since the early days of colonization, slavery, and the existence of strong barriers between races. Through America’s history, the idea of people staying within the limits of their own race was strictly enforced.
People of different races and backgrounds were not allowed and many times shunned from interracial marriage. A child born of a White mother and Black father, or Asian mother and Hispanic father was looked down on and treated unfairly by those in the majority of the population.
Even fellow minorities held the view that interracial marriages and mixed children were to be avoided and treated differently. Therefore, the topic of biracial and multiracial backgrounds in America has been surrounded by controversy involving racism, hate, prejudice, and discrimination over the years.
Not As Taboo
Yet in present society, many of the issues regarding race are changing. “Today, children of biracial or multiracial marriages try to build their own identities in a country that seems intent on placing them in some single, traditional category” (Schaefer, 2012).
The idea of seeing a mother and father from different racial backgrounds and their mixed child is not as taboo as it once was. However, what defines a biracial or multiracial person? The term biracial describes a person whose parents are from two different races, such as a Hispanic mother and a White father.
Whereas a multiracial describes a person whose parents each have more than two races in their background, such as a mother or father that are both mixed.
Since America is the most culturally and racially diverse country in the world, it only follows that Americans once singularly recognized backgrounds would begin to change as people became more socially accepting of other races and the once high barriers were lowered, allowing for greater acceptance of mixed marriages.
Identifying As Biracial Or Multiracial
In America today, “increasing numbers of people are identifying themselves as biracial or multiracial or, at the very least, explicitly viewing themselves as reflecting a diverse racial and ethnic identity” (Schaefer, 2012).
Seeing as racism among minorities and the majority has died down since the effective use of civil rights for people of color, the nation as a whole has come to admit or recognize its diversity in the background of its people.
Surveys suggest that more and more Americans identify with a diverse background and where they once only identified with one race, they now acknowledge multiple races.
This fact is especially true for America’s youth who are growing up with the challenge of being biracial or multiracial in a society where a Caucasian majority dominates the education, healthcare, and workplace. So what is to be said for a person who is White with a biracial or multiracial background?
Lines Are Blurring
It is possible as “France Twine, a cultural anthropologist who did a case-study on biracial females, explains in her article that race is culturally determined and how someone classifies themselves can depend on tradition, history, or personal experiences” (McClarin, 2009).
Among America’s youth, the lines between color and race are blurring. As of the 2000 U.S. Census, Americans were first given the option of checking two or more races for their ethnicity. This option was not available in any of the U.S. Census in time past. More Americans took advantage of this new option.
Mono Or Singular Race?
However, some still checked only one box even though they are from mixed racial backgrounds. The fact that many Americans still think in mono or only a singular race was evident in President Barrack Obama’s race selection on the 2010 census.
As we witnessed “President Obama’s answer to the race question on the 2010 census: Although his mother was white and his father was black, Mr. Obama checked only one box, black, even though he could have checked both races” (Saulny, 2011).
Why is it that while a number of Americans are engaging in mixed relationships and marriages and yet people of diverse backgrounds only choose to predominantly identify with one race?
One Train Of Thought
Data from the Pew Research Center shows that “one in seven new marriages is between spouses of different races or ethnicities, according to data from 2008 and 2009” (Saulny, 2011).
However, many biracial and multiracial individuals identify with only a single race because of the way such Census functioned in the past. Many Americans still seem programmed to one train of thought and therefore they identify with the dominant racial features they think they possess.
But as Susan Graham, the president of the non-profit organization Project Race, stated that the classification of being “multiracial is important so children have an identity; having to check 'other' on a form means they are different, and that is a label no person should have to bear” (“Catching up to”).
Unfortunately, biracial and multiracial people are still being discriminated against. Still considered as minorities, people of diverse backgrounds face problems with race in society as a whole in education, the workplace and even the media.
For example, earlier this year a controversy occurred over a Cheerios commercial on many televisions across America. The simple commercial featured a mixed child with her white mother and black father.
Yet there was an uproar from some racially biased Americans and even racist groups across the country that protested the commercial for the fact that it featured a mixed family.
However, even with the negative views of some, “publicity surrounding prominent Americans of mixed cultural heritage, such as athletes, actors, musicians, and politicians, has highlighted the issues of multicultural individuals and challenged long-standing views of race” ("Multiracial children," 2011).
International adoptions of children from other races have also added to the increase in racial diversity within American families.
Prejudice Against Mixed Backgrounds
It is not only America’s youth that faces issues regarding race but also even the President has had his challenges in office. President Obama being black man with a biracial heritage, a father who is black and a mother who is white, has had his share of facing racial tensions, not only with Republicans but also with those prejudice against people with a mixed background.
Yet the facts are clear that “the increase during the last 10 years shows how attitudes have shifted radically from the days of segregation the "one-drop rule," a defunct idea that said a person with one drop of nonwhite blood belonged only to a nonwhite race” (Patterson, 2011).
In America today, “multiracial people now number 9 million, about 2.9 percent of the total U.S. population” (Patterson, 2011). The nation’s largest group of mixed couples is between Blacks and Whites.
Discrepancies Because Of Race
Sadly, however, minorities still make up a high percentage of the population in America’s jails including Blacks and Hispanics. There are more black males in prisons than in colleges. Also, Hispanics and Blacks reside at the lowest income levels in America.
It is evident that Whites Americans make a great deal more in income, receive more healthcare advantages, and paths to education. In the workplace, more White Americans hold roles in management and higher levels than those of minorities, and those of biracial and multiracial background struggle in the areas of work advancement as well.
Obstructions such as glass walls and glass ceiling prevent minorities from moving forward or advancing to certain positions within the work force. Even the area of education proves to have its challenges when biracial and multiracial individuals face discrepancies because of their racial backgrounds.
In conclusion, biracial and multiracial Americans have faced issues of discrimination, racism, and prejudice over the course of the nation’s history.
However, there have been advancements through these racial barriers to an America today that has a population growing in a diverse background, a changing image, and new growths toward social acceptance of mixed races.
- Catching up to the fact of biracial America. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://bit.ly/1o3wJ2Y
- McClarin, L. (2009). Being multiracial in a country that sees black and white. Retrieved from http://bit.ly/1wxHIW2
- Multiracial children. (2011, March). Retrieved from http://bit.ly/1mf9bUG
- Patterson, T. (2011, April 18). Neither black nor white: Three multiracial generations, one family. Retrieved from http://cnn.it/1mq668R
- Saulny, S. (2011, January 29). Black? White? Asian? More young Americans choose all of the above. Retrieved from http://nyti.ms/1qwlhOu
- Schaefer, R.T. (2012). Racial and Ethnic Groups, 13th Ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Photos from http://www.freepik.com.