The New Face of America: The Number of Young Americans Who Identify Themselves as Multiracial Is Soaring. What Effect Will They Have on the Country's Racial Identity?

By Saulny, Susan | New York Times Upfront, March 14, 2011 | Go to article overview

The New Face of America: The Number of Young Americans Who Identify Themselves as Multiracial Is Soaring. What Effect Will They Have on the Country's Racial Identity?


Saulny, Susan, New York Times Upfront


Ask Michelle Lopez-Mullins, a junior at the University of Maryland and the president of the school's Multiracial and Biracial Student Association, how she marks her race on forms like the census, and she says, "It depends on the day, and it depends on the options"

Lopez-Mullins, 20, is Chinese and Peruvian on one side and white and American Indian on the other. She's is part of a generation of young adults of mixed racial backgrounds who are rejecting the color lines that have defined Americans for decades in favor of a more fluid sense of identity.

The crop of students moving through college right now includes the largest group of mixed-race people ever to come of age in the United States, and they are only the vanguard: The country is in the midst of a demographic shift driven by both immigration and intermarriage.

It's a sea change from how things were 50 years ago: In 1961, mixed-race marriages were illegal in at least 16 states. Then in 1967, those laws were declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court's Loving v. Virginia ruling. In the years since, interracial marriage among all groups has skyrocketed.

Today one in seven new marriages is between spouses of different races or ethnicities, according to the Pew Research Center. Multiracial and multiethnic Americans (usually grouped together as "mixed race") are one of the country's fastest-growing demographic groups; census estimates from 2009 indicate there are about 7.5 million. And the racial results of the 2010 Census are expected to show the trend continuing or even accelerating.

Transcending Race?

Laura Wood, 19, a sophomore at the University of Maryland, is half black and half white. "I think it's really important to acknowledge who you are and everything that makes you that," she says. "If someone tries to call me black I say, 'Yes--and white.'"

No one knows how the growth of the multiracial population might change the country. Optimists say the blending of the races is a step toward transcending race, toward an America free of bigotry and prejudice.

Pessimists say that a more powerful multiracial presence will lead to more stratification and come at the expense of other minority groups, particularly African-Americans, who could lose influence.

And some sociologists say that grouping all multiracial people together glosses over differences in circumstances between someone who is, say, black and Latino and someone who is Asian and white. Among interracial couples, white-Asian pairings tend to be better educated and have higher incomes, according to Reynolds Farley at the University of Michigan. And the rates of intermarriage are lowest between blacks and whites, which may be a result of the economic and social distance between them.

Rainier Spencer, director of the Afro-American Studies program at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, thinks there is too much "emotional investment" in the notion of multiracialism as a panacea for the nation's age-old divisions.

"The mixed-race identity is not a transcendence of race; it's a new tribe," he says.

Americans mostly think of themselves in singular racial terms. Consider President Barack Obama's answer to the race question on the 2010 Census: Although his mother was white and his father was black, the President checked only one box, black, even though he could have marked both faces.

'One-Drop Rule'

Of course, some portion of the country's population has been mixed-race since the first white settlers had children with Native Americans. What has changed is how mixed-race Americans are defined and counted.

A century ago, the nation saw itself in a range of hues: The 1890 Census included categories for racial mixtures such as quadroon (one-fourth black) and octoroon (one-eighth black). And all the censuses from 1850 to 1920, with one exception, included a mulatto category, which was for people who had any perceptible trace of African blood. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

The New Face of America: The Number of Young Americans Who Identify Themselves as Multiracial Is Soaring. What Effect Will They Have on the Country's Racial Identity?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.