More Iowans identifying as mixed race

More Iowans identifying as mixed race

The Daily Iowan
The Independent Daily Newspaper for the University of Iowa Since 1868

Alison Sullivan

Photo: Christy Aumer/The Daily IowanSophomore Tevin Robbins poses in the window of the second floor at the Afro-American Cultural Center on April 5. Robbins is currently majoring in psychology but has switched his major from engineering to better accompany other areas of his life. 

University of Iowa student Tevin Robbins sat lounging on the couch at the UI’s Latino Native American Cultural Center with friend, Michael Harbravison, on a Friday evening.

Robbins’ light coffee-crème complexion is juxtaposed by his hair — a thick, rusty-red mass sitting on top of his head.

“I don’t even know what type of skin color I am,” Robbins said. The 19-year-old, part Cherokee, African American, and white, makes the statement not out of confusion but merely the inability to choose.

Robbins is one among an increasing number of Iowans who identify as more than one ethnicity, according to data from the 2010 U.S. Census released in March. The number is still small—fewer than 2 percent of Iowans identified themselves as more than one race—but it is a 68 percent jump from 2000.

Growing up for Robbins was difficult because of his complexion. Too light, he said, to pass as African American, but dark enough to not pass as white. He never felt accepted in any one “group.”

“Why do I have to choose to identify as something?” he said. “I’m not one ethnicity.”

The 2010 census was the first time researchers were able to use the comparable data. In Johnson County, there has been a 77 percent increase. And at the University of Iowa, 223 students identified as two or more ethnicities in the fall of 2010—an increase from the 133 students in 2009, when the UI first began collecting such data.

Overall, the census shows a 60 percent increase in minorities in Iowa.

“This is a group whose choices have changed,” said Mary Campbell, a UI associate professor of sociology.

Campbell said roughly 40 years ago, people who had more than one ethnicity faced the pressures to identify with a single one, but now, social change has eased such constraints…

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