The Multiracial Movement: Blurring Racial Boundaries

By Sheets, Rosa Hernandez | Multicultural Education, Summer 2000 | Go to article overview

The Multiracial Movement: Blurring Racial Boundaries


Sheets, Rosa Hernandez, Multicultural Education


The Multiracial Experience: Racial Borders as the New Frontier. Maria P.P. Root (Editor). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1996. 481 pp., $26.95 paper, ISBN 0-8039-7059-5.

The U.S. 2000 Census Advisory Committee met in December,1995 to began the process of improving the racial categories for the 2000 Census. This committee of 32 was given The Multiracial Experience: Racial Borders as the New Frontier, edited by Maria P.P. Root, as a resource to understand why the current multiracial movement argued that past classifications following rules of hypodecent (one drop rule) were both oppressive and unacceptable to multiracial individuals who have been historically and legally forced to categorize either monoracially or as "other." In March 2000, as households receive the United States Census 2000 official form, the social action of the multiracial movement can claim ownership to the significant changes specified below (United States Census 2000, Form D-1).

Individuals will answer two questions on "race." Question 8 asks if a person is "Spanish/Hispanic/Latino." If the answer is yes, the individual selects from one of the following groups: "Mexican, Mexican Am., Chicano," "Puerto Rican," "Cuban," or writes in "Other Spanish/Hispanic/Latino" group. Question 9 has three parts. The first part allows an individual to check off "one or more races" in the following categories "White,Black,African Am,or Negro,American Indian or Alaska Native-Print name of enrolled or principal tribe." In the second part, people can choose from the following ethnic groups: "Asian Indian, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Native Hawaiian, Guamanian or Chamorro, Samoan, and Other Pacific Islander-Print race." The last category asks "Some other race--Print race,"giving choice to self label.

While the racial classification system in the U.S. Census is an example of a vital contemporary racial issue addressed in this book,the major focus can best be described as a bold undertaking to dismantle prevailing theoretical and sociopolitical conceptualizations of race. Maria P.P. Root and contributors,representing scholars and practitioners from the fields of anthropology, education, ethnic studies, law, nursing, psychology, social work and sociology, use a multiracial model, which has been refined, embellished, and bounded by personal/professional experiences and empirical research, to construct and redefine race and ethnicity.

The book, divided into six sections, has four major areas that unify and integrate sections and chapters. These position multiracial people as: (1) being a significant number in the United States; (2) asserting their human and civil rights; (3) dismantling current constructions of race/ethnicity; and, (4) experiencing identity as multidimensional. These four positions express common concerns, suggest guidelines for action, and discuss collective efforts that contribute to race matters. To appreciate the contributions and significance of this book on the current race issues, each position is discussed.

Critical Mass

Demographic trends indicate that for the first time in history the number of biracial births is increasing at a faster rate than the number of monoracial births (U.S. Bureau ofthe Census,1992). For example, the Census Bureau ( 1992) reports that the number of monoracial black babies has increased 27 percent, the number of white births 15 percent, whilethe number of black/ white biracial babies has grown almost 500 percent. Accordingto the National Center for Health Statistics, the birth rate for monoracial infants has increased 15 percent while the birth rate for multiracial infants has increased more than 260 percent. Root states that this translates to over 100,000 births per year (at least since 1989 when race was recorded for both parents), or more than a million first-generation biracial individuals.

The U.S. Bureau of the Census (1992) projects that by the year 2050 the typical U. …

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