Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Mixed Race America--how does it begin?

I don't know if anyone has noticed, but I added this handy little widget on my blog that allows me to see how people arrived at this site. And as I suspected, most people get here by doing a google search--many of them typing in words and phrases related to mixed race people and subjects and/or inter-racial relationships.

[aside--one of the more disturbing combinations that I've found used a google search and the words "Michelle Obama looks like a monkey" and it deposited this person on my post "Now introducing: Michelle Obama" and I'd like to hope that this person learned something--namely how accomplished and poised and intelligent and beautiful Michelle is--because when I saw this google search I got ANGRY and felt a surge of RAGE that someone actually thought to type this combination of words into a google search--I mean, I know racism is alive and well but seeing it in google form just pisses me off to no end! And it reminded me of "The Land of the Not-So-Calm's" post about finding someone who found her site by typing "how do i return children i've adopted"--which is another google search phrase you never want to see]

So, since I know many of you non-regular readers may well expect, want, and wish to see a blog called "Mixed Race America" talk more directly about people who identify as "mixed-race" or "mixed-race" issues (beyond the everyday issues of race in America and the corollaries that go with it), let me start by talking about how we get to racial mixtures, namely inter-racial relationships.

[Second aside--I do research on race and mixed-race issues, and I've written about these topics elsewhere in this blog (and in my professional life) so I want to acknowledge that I'm not trying to reinforce the idea of pure "races" by talking about "mixed-race" because in many ways we are ALL part of a mixed-race America (or mixed-race world for those visitors outside the Americas). But because in the U.S. we are largely guided by the racial pentagram (white-black or Caucasian-African American- Asian American-American Indian or Native American-Hispanic (or my preference) Latino) and because anti-miscegenation (a pejorative term in our day and age) was a guiding force in American life, I am going to treat mixed-race as a real entity, in a sort've "common-sense" way. So while once upon a time a Japanese American and Filipino immigrant were seen to be in an inter-racial relationship (and while we may think of them as such today in certain circles) most likely this couple would be seen to be in an inter-ethnic relationship--as would an Irish American married to a Greek or a Jamaican American married to a person from Kenya.]

Although I don't like to get into many personal details on this blog, I will acknowledge that I've only dated one Chinese American man in my life. Which means that almost all of my dating habits have been inter-racial (and some inter-ethnic)--and many of them have been with white men.

I'm acutely aware of demographics and politics related to being an Asian American woman dating a white man. While I was an undergrad at Santa Barbara I received plenty of dirty looks and a few comments by Asian American men when I was seen walking with white guys (whether they were romantically linked to me or not). Another friend, who is Filipina, received the same kind of treatment by African American female peers when she and her African American boyfriend now husband (who is actually mixed-race himself: his mother is white-Jewish and his father is black) were seen walking across campus. And then there are the hard looks I've received here in "The South" when I've left the small circle of my university town--most recently it happened about 20 minutes from where I live at a Citgo gas station at midnight. Southern Man and I were returning from a party in a semi-rural area and we stopped at a gas station since prices were about a dime less than in town, and when I got out of the car, I swear that it felt like everyone was staring at us--not necessarily in a hostile way but in a way in which I felt on display--as if my boyfriend and I were a living and walking example of miscegenation--although there was a car with African American patrons, all other cars (and oddly enough it was a fairly happening spot at midnight) were white--and no cars appeared to have people of different races inside.

I understand that in terms of the Asian American men and African American women at my alma mater, the racial and gender pairing of my friend and myself was an affront to a sense of racial solidarity. Probing further, I'd also say that there is a fear, perhaps more on the part of the Asian American female-white male pairing that an attention to racism and an anti-racist perspective will be lost (since I think that may be what is motivating charges of "selling out your race"). For the patrons at the gas station, I wonder if it has to do with fear of change--that seeing an inter-racial couple is a signal that there is a sea change going on in terms of society and culture. Because the real fear is never the couple itself but the family they will create -- the mixed-race children that will come from the inter-racial couple--or even when thinking of adoption, the fact that the child, regardless of his/her race, will be raised by parents who look different from one another--who come from different cultures, different perspectives.

The truth is, stats for inter-racial couples and mixed-race people are still pretty small when looking at a national picture. I don't have the stats at my fingertips, but I think it's less than 10% of the population checked off more than one box on the 2000 census in terms of race/ethnicity. And I think inter-racial relationships make up about the same percentage (just under 10%). If anyone out there has hard numbers I'd be interested--they are buried in my research files somewhere, so hopefully I'll trip across them and post them soon.

Anyway, the more telling statistic is that every ten years, the number of children living in households where their parents are not of the same race has doubled. In 1970 it was 460,000, in 1980 it was 996,070, and in 1990 it was 1,937,496--and I'm sure it more than doubled by 2000. So what we do know is that people who self-identify as mixed-race and being in mixed-race families exponentially increases every 10 years. Which means mixed-race families and children and people -- those who are choosing a mixed-race identification -- will continue to grow as we get to the next census count in 2010.


CVT said...

I often wonder how much of the "increase" in mixed progeny is a result of similarly increased interracial unions, as opposed to how people are choosing to identify.

I tend to favor the latter (mostly).

Speaking of beginnings, I have finally begun my own "mixed-race" blog. Somewhere I can elaborate on all my ridiculously long comments without automatically making people shut down.

Check it out:

Jennifer said...

I also wonder the same thing--is the increase due to more interracial couplings or great numbers of mixed-race people claiming that affiliation.

I actually think it's a combo--I mean, stats show that interracial unions are on the rise, but I also think that more people are claiming a mixed racial identification or bi-racial identification rather than just choosing one racial affiliation.

And thanks for the link to your blog--as you see, I've already paid a visit.