Study illuminates why multiracial Americans almost never call themselves white

Study illuminates why multiracial Americans almost never call themselves white


Jenée Desmond-Harris

Look up any article about President Obama that focuses on his role as the first black president.

Go ahead, do it now.

Scroll down to the comments.

I promise you, you’ll find earnest inquiries asking why the president is considered black or biracial when his mother is white. You’ll find people who are sincerely saddened by the idea that he would “reject” her contribution to his heritage. You’ll find people who are legitimately confused about why half black plus half white sometimes equals black and sometimes equals biracial, but rarely if ever seems to equal white…

This is why multiracial people don’t normally identify as white

A new study by Pew Research Center takes a comprehensive look at the experiences of multiracial Americans.  Using a different approach than the census by taking into account people’s parents’ and grandparents’ racial backgrounds in addition to their self-reported race, it concluded that multiracial adults currently make up 6.9 percent of the adult American population.

One of its many findings has to do with multiracial identity, and that age-old question of why mixed-race Americans like Obama and so many others don’t seem to give their white parents’ ethnicity the same weight as their other heritage when it comes to self-description…

The study revealed that people who identify as multiracial say they experience discrimination based on the part of their heritage that is not white. Here’s how Pew explained it in the write-up (emphasis added):

For multiracial adults with a black background, experiences with discrimination closely mirror those of single-race blacks. Among adults who are black and no other race, 57% say they have received poor service in restaurants or other businesses, identical to the share of biracial black and white adults who say this has happened to them; and 42% of single-race blacks say they have been unfairly stopped by the police, as do 41% of biracial black and white adults. Mixed-race adults with an Asian background are about as likely to report being discriminated against as are single-race Asians, while multiracial adults with a white background are more likely than single-race whites to say they have experienced racial discrimination.

This echoes the way Obama has explained why he calls himself black. “I’m not sure I decided it,” he once said in an interview with 60 Minutes. “I think, you know, if you look African-American in this society, you’re treated as an African-American.”

He later told PBS, “If I’m outside your building trying to catch a cab, they’re not saying, ‘Oh, there’s a mixed-race guy.'”…

Read the entire article here.

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