Blurring the color line: the new America

Blurring the color line: the new America

The Tufts Daily
Medford, Massachusetts

Sylvia Avila

Students identify as multiracial more than ever before

Once considered a black and white issue, racial identity is hazier than ever.

According to findings released in June 2010 by the Pew Research Center, the current generation of American college students is the most multi−racial in history. One out of every 19 children born in the United States is the product of parents of different races or ethnicities and one out of every seven marriages today is between people of different races or ethnicities—a particularly noteworthy statistic considering interracial unions were illegal in some states as recently as 1967.

But the marked expansion in numbers brings unique complexities to the lives of mixed−race Americans. Issues can range from the trivial—indicating racial background on documents—to the critical, such as why and how to self−classify one’s race. President Barack Obama, perhaps the most prominent individual of mixed descent in the world, considers himself African−American rather than biracial.

Senior Jeewon Kim said that he doesn’t face a dilemma when asked about his race on paperwork.

“Nowadays you can always do multiple ones, so I always put ‘Caucasian/White’ and ‘Asian−American,’ and specifically ‘Korean’ if it lets me,” he said.

Kim explained that he has been at peace with his dual identity since high school…

…According to Lecturer in Anthropology Cathy Stanton, the reversal of the stigmatization of multiracial identity has been a long time coming.

“It seems like social thinking about this has finally come around to reflecting that fact and a lot of people are just saying, race doesn’t work for me as a category to capture who I am,” Stanton said.

Kim sees the potential for greater awareness of the distinctions and similarities both within and between racial groups.

“I hope that it means that there will be less ignorance… The question of ‘who are you?’ is more complicated than guessing it by sight and you would actually have to stop and learn something about that person,” he said.

Stanton, however, is less optimistic.

“If we’re in a moment where socially people are saying, ‘I don’t need the construct of race anymore to describe who I am politically and in a broader social context,’ are we at a point where we can stop talking about it?” she said. “Probably not, because of the historical injustices and divisions and hierarchies are still in place and their effects are still in place.”

Professor of Sociology Susan Ostrander expanded upon these inequalities.

“Research shows that individuals who are perceived to be black or Latino (whether they actually are or not) get fewer call−backs on job interviews, are arrested more often, have shorter life expectancies, are less likely to go to college,” Ostrander said in an e−mail to the Daily. “You can’t stop any of those events by shouting, ‘But I’m not really black. I’m half−white!'”…

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