Lansing has highest percentage of people who identify as multiple-race black

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Media Archive, United States on 2011-12-08 21:16Z by Steven

Lansing has highest percentage of people who identify as multiple-race black

Lansing State Journal

Matthew Miller

Gianni Risper has a black mother, a white biological father (as opposed to the father who raised him, his mother’s husband) and a way of describing himself that isn’t found on any Census form: Italian-Caribbean-American.

“Race is becoming more muddled,” he said, and, at 19, he is part of a generation that is muddling it, more likely to be mixed race than their elders, more likely to reject the rigidity of prevailing racial categories in favor of more fluid identities.

“I try not to put myself into a category of being either black or white or just one thing,” Risper said, “because I’m not.”

And, living in Lansing, he has plenty of company.

Lansing has the highest percentage of people who identify as black and some other race of any place in the country, at least any place with a population of 100,000 or more.

According to the 2010 Census, it’s 4.1 percent, more than one out of every 25 people in the city…

Kristen Renn, a professor of education at Michigan State University who has studied mixed-race identity in college students, said space began to open up for more complicated racial identities in the latter part of the 1990s.

“Part of this is liberal baby boomers marrying outside their race or having kids with people of other races and liberal baby boomers being very vested in raising happy children,” she said.

But the shift also coincided with the growth of the Internet, which made it easier to create communities around mixed-race identities or even specific racial combinations.

It coincided with celebrities – Renn mentioned Tiger Woods – beginning to speak publicly about their blended ancestries.

As a result, among the younger generation in particular, “it has become more OK,” she said. “There is a youth movement around mixed race.”

And if that’s more true in Lansing than other places, she sees it as a good sign.

“When people are less comfortable, they have to draw the boundaries much more clearly, ‘You’re one of them. You’re one of us. You’ve got to be one or the other,’ ” she said.

“People in more cosmopolitan areas are just used to a more diverse, global kind of population.”…


Nikki O’Brien was raised by her white mother. She didn’t know her black father until she was an adult. She identifies herself as black.

“You’d think I would be more malleable in my racial identity,” she said, “but really the experience of being other or different was enough that I constantly knew that I was black and the strength and community that I pulled from that identity just pushed me.”

But O’Brien, a program adviser at MSU who spent years working with minority students, sees the conversation about mixed-race identity more as one about self-definition, including the right to identify as one race or another…

Read the entire article here.

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