Multiracial People are Multiplying

Multiracial People are Multiplying

brianbantum: theology, culture, teaching and life in-between

Brian Bantum, Assistant Professor of Theology
Seattle Pacific University

The New York Times recently published a story highlighting the increase in numbers of multiracial children in the United States. The numbers of self identifying multiracial children has doubled in the United States to 2.9% of the entire population. With this data, coupled with a 2007 Pew Research Center report that interracial marriages represented 14% of all new marriages (up from 7% in 2000), we could begin to surmise an end to problematic racial distinctions and a truly new America, right?

Taken together these numbers indicate a movement towards greater acceptance of interracial/interethnic relationships as well as a greater freedom for multiracial children to claim this mixture as part of their identity. And perhaps this is the most significant aspect of these figures. While the idea of numbers doubling seems extraordinary, multiracial children still constitute only 2.9% of all children which means more often than not sexual desire and marriage is oriented towards similarity and homogeneity (it is also important to note how even mixed marriages follow patterns of desire away from African American women who marry outside of their race in the smallest numbers.)

In the midst of these numbers we must remember that multiracial identity is not confined to checking boxes. Interactions with friends, dating, interactions with co-workers do not begin with our self-assertions, but with a complicated set of markers and interpretations that the multiracial person is not entirely in control of.

The space to claim one’s “multi”ness is important, it is certainly important for myself and my children. At the same time, the existence of multiracial children does not diminish the realities of racial exclusion and economic oppression that are not only present, but becoming more vehement and stark in the wake of our first African American president. To put it a different way, we are not the future of America. Like all other people who are raised in a deeply racialized world, we are formed to resist certain notions of beauty, embrace or recoil from certain people…

…If we wish to celebrate the growth of multiracial children let us not pat ourselves on the back for a job well done, but begin to rage against the systemic realities that prevent these numbers from growing: mass incarceration of African American men, tragic inequities between white and black in access to education, anti-immigration legislation, perpetual wars that limit our economic options, images of beauty and health that implicitly deride dark bodies and work against white bodies, the perpetual differentiation, bullying and teasing that plants these seeds of difference in elementary age children…

Read the entire article here.

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