Checking More Than One Box: A Growing Multiracial Nation
All Things Considered
National Public Radio
Arun Rath, Host
[Note from Steven F. Riley: My wife and I live in the White Oak neighborhood of Silver Spring, Maryland, USA.]
Larry Bright holds his 3-year-old son’s hand while the boy steps through a leafy playground in Silver Spring, Md., and practices counting his numbers in English.
At the top of the slide, the boy begins counting in his other language: Vietnamese.
Bright, the boy’s father, is African-American; his mother, Thien Kim Lam, is Vietnamese. The couple has two children.
“They are a perfect mix between the two of us,” Lam tells Arun Rath, host of weekends on All Things Considered.
Bright and Lam’s son and 7-year-old daughter are multiracial, just two of thousands born in what’s been called a multiracial baby boom. Today, 15 percent of marriages are interracial and inter-ethnic…
Multiracial people identifying as just one race is part of a long trend. University of Southern California professor Marcia Alesan Dawkins’ father was one such man: part black and part white.
“He has lived his life as an African-American man. He lived through segregation, he lived through civil rights,” Dawkins says. “And though he acknowledges these other aspects of his identity, he sees the world from the perspective of a black man. That’s how he chooses to identify.”
But just one generation makes all the difference for Dawkins herself, who claims black, white and Latino heritage. Dawkins and her sister see the world a little differently, she says.
“I don’t think it’s better or worse, but I think it’s a credit to the progress in both ways that people can choose to identify just as one, or choose to identify as two or more,” Dawkins says.
Despite the trend, Dawkins says it is important to remember that it is still less than 3 percent of the population that identifies as multiracial. The overwhelming majority of Americans identify as having one race only.
“That’s not a bad thing, but we have to be really careful how we read and interpret and spin these census results,” she says.
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