The contrast between the multigenerational and first-generation experiences

The contrast between the multigenerational and first-generation experiences is further underscored by the fact that the latter is frequently viewed as a more legitimate basis for multiracial identity. The reasons for this are related to the repeal of anti-miscegenation laws in 1967 and the liberalization of social attitudes on race over the past three decades. Moreover, the first-generation experience originates in the context of interracial marriage and thus includes an element of choice. Marriages confer equal legal status on both parties and, by extension, equal legitimacy on both parents’ identities. The one-drop rule, therefore, has been less consistently enforced, both in theory and in practice, in the case of their offspring. This is particularly true of policies at the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) and to a lesser extent of the Census Bureau. Before the 1980s, the NCHS ciassified racially blended children in terms of the “minority” parent, while the Census Bureau classified them in terms of the father’s racial or ethnic identity. Since the 1980s both agencies have based the children’s race on the racial identity of the mother. Many multiracial  children of European American mothers have therefore been designated as “white” rather than as “biracial.” Since the mid-1960s, however, adoption agencies have tended to describe blended children as “racially mixed” or “biracial” in order to attract white adoptive parents by appealing to their Eurocentric bias.

Such flexibility has not been extended so readily to multi generational individuals. Their experience carries with it the implicit stigma of concubinage, rape, and illegitimacy; and the parents and families of these individuals have typically been seen as African American. Attitudes toward Native Americans and Latinos—two other populations that have experienced significant miscegenation with European Americans—provide a point of contrast. The European American, as well as the Native American and Latino communities, have more openly acknowledged multiple racial and cultural backgrounds in the discourse on identity. In these populations as well, however, the same divisive and pernicious “colorism” that has infected African-descent Americans has arisen, with the result that  lighter-skinned and otherwise more European-appearing Latinos and Native Americans are  treated preferentially within and outside their communities. Nevertheless,  greater openness among these groups to multiracialism has mitigated the generational differences as the primary factor determining the legitimacy of multiracial identity. Multigenerational individuals of European American and African American decent, therefore, find themselves at odds not only with the larger society and the African American community, but often with first-generation individuals as well. Since most African-descent Americans have some European American ancestry in their genealogy but identify themselves as black, blacks often accuse multigenerational individuals of trying to escape the stigma attached to “blackness.”  Some first-generation individuals contend that their own biracial experience is the legitimate starting point for a blended identity…

Daniel, G. Reginald. More Than Black? Multiracial Identity and the New Racial Order. (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2002). 104-105.

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