Moving beyond monoracial categories

Moving beyond monoracial categories

The Daily: of the University of Washington

Emily Muirhead

I once had a professor claim that in 50 years, everyone will be so racially “mixed” and therefore ambiguous, no one will be able to distinguish “what someone is,” so race won’t matter much anymore.

As a biracial individual who has been asked “What are you?” more times than not, race does matter. It matters more than many people choose to believe. Despite the fact that racial categories are arbitrary social constructs, race still has very real personal and public implications aside from blatant racism — which seems to be the only times race is actually is talked about.

Categorizing someone into a racial category upon meeting them happens instantaneously. For most people this isn’t problematic because it’s merely a harmless form of observation, but sometimes, regardless of intent, a person’s race negatively or positively changes how someone is perceived and interacted with.

Ralina Joseph, associate professor in the communication, ethnic studies, and women’s studies departments, and a woman of color, has experienced racially rooted assumptions when it comes to teaching. She explained how on a number of occasions on the first day of class while standing alongside a white male TA, students will wrongly address the TA as “professor,” likely due to the image that comes to mind when one thinks of a person in this profession — i.e., a white man.

Being half-Japanese and half-Caucasian (predominantly Scottish), I straddle two sides of a racial spectrum, one foot in an American minority and the other in the majority. I’ve even been called “exotic,” a Eurocentric term that labels me as a sort of racial commodity against which monoracial individuals may be measured. To some, my whiteness blended with Asian features automatically places me into the irritatingly vague racial category of “half-white, half-something,” but there is much more to my identity than that…

Read the entire article here.

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