Good New York Times article on the impact Barack Obama’s candidacy is raising issues about being multiracial, and how we describe racial categories:
Being accepted. Proving loyalty. Navigating the tight space between racial divides. Americans of mixed race say these are issues they have long confronted, and when Senator Barack Obama recently delivered a speech about race in Philadelphia, it rang with a special significance in their ears. They saw parallels between the path trod by Mr. Obama and their own….
Americans of mixed race say that questions about whether Mr. Obama, with a white mother from Kansas and a black father from Kenya, is “too black” or “not black enough,” as the candidate himself brought up in his speech on March 18, show the extent to which the nation is still fixated on old categories….
The old categories are weakening, however, as immigration and the advancing age of marriage in the United States fuel a steady rise in the number of interracial marriages. The 2000 Census counted 3.1 million interracial couples, or about 6 percent of married couples. For the first time, the Census that year allowed respondents to identify themselves as being two or more races, a category that now includes 7.3 million Americans, or about 3 percent of the population.
Of course, part of the appeal of California is that the Bay Area is ahead of this particular curve. The fact that everyone is from somewhere else– and even many of us who are “natives” can tell how many generations it’s been since their ancestors arrived here– tends to make interracial relationships less notable than in some other places. Indeed, after years of having classmates who speak with Australian or Hong Kong accents, who have parents who graduated from IIT or Oxbridge, or whose parents are of different ethnicities, my kids assume that everyone is at least partly from somewhere else. And even though they’re both native Californians (sixth or second generation, depending on whether you count from my wife’s side or mine), growing up within a couple miles of the house their mother was raised in, they see themselves that way, too.
[To the tune of Dan Fogelberg, “Tell Me to My Face,” from the album “Twin Sons of Different Mothers”.]