Multiracial Americans

Since the late twentieth century, the number of African and Caribbean ethnic African immigrants have increased in the United States. Together with publicity about the ancestry of President Barack Obama, whose father was from Kenya, some black writers have argued that new terms are needed for recent immigrants. There is a consensus that suggests that the term African-American should refer strictly to the descendants of American Colonial Era chattel slave descendants which includes various, subsequent, Free People of Color ethnic groups who survived the Chattel Slavery Era in the United States.[114] It's been recognized that grouping together all Afrodescent ethnicities, regardless of their unique ancestral circumstances, would deny the lingering effects of slavery within the American Colonial Era chattel slave descended community.[114] A growing sentiment within the Descendants of American Colonial Era Chattel Slaves (DOS) population insists that ethnic African immigrants as well as all other Afro-descent and Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade descendants and those relegated, or self-designated, to the Black race social identity or classification recognize their own unique familial, genealogical, ancestral, social, political and cultural backgrounds.[114]

Stanley Crouch wrote in a New York Daily News piece "Obama's mother is of white U.S. stock. His father is a black Kenyan," in a column entitled "What Obama Isn't: Black Like Me." During the 2008 campaign, the mixed-race columnist David Ehrenstein (who is less than half African-American) of the LA Times accused white liberals of flocking to Obama because he was a "Magic Negro", a term that refers to a black person with no past who simply appears to assist the mainstream white (as cultural protagonists/drivers) agenda.[115] Ehrenstein went on to say "He's there to assuage white 'guilt' they feel over the role of slavery and racial segregation in American history."[115]

Reacting to media criticism of Michelle Obama during the 2008 presidential election, Charles Steele Jr., CEO of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference said, "Why are they attacking Michelle Obama and not really attacking, to that degree, her husband? Because he has no slave blood in him."[116] He later claimed his comment was intended to be "provocative" but declined to expand on the subject.[116] Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (who was famously mistaken for a "recent American immigrant" by French President Nicolas Sarkozy[117]), said "descendants of slaves did not get much of a head start, and I think you continue to see some of the effects of that." She has also rejected an immigrant designation for African-Americans and instead prefers the terms black or white.[118]

White and European-American identity

Some of the most notable families include the Van Salees,[77] Vanderbilts, Whitneys, Blacks,[119] Cheswells,[120] Newells,[121] Battises,[122] Bostons,[123] Eldings[124] of the North; the Staffords,[125] Gibsons,[126] Locklears, Pendarvises,[78] Driggers,[127][128] Galphins,[129] Fairfaxes,[130] Grinsteads (Greenstead, Grinsted and Grimsted),[131] Johnsons, Timrods, Darnalls of the South and the Picos,[132] Yturrias[133] and Bushes of the West.[134]

DNA analysis shows varied results regarding non-European ancestry in self-identified White Americans. A 2002 DNA analysis found that about 30% of self-identified White Americans have recent sub-Saharan African ancestry.[135] A 2014 study performed on data obtained from 23andme customers found that the percentage of African or American Indian ancestry among White Americans varies significantly by region, with about 5% of White Americans living in Louisiana and South Carolina having 2% or more African ancestry.[136]

Some biographical accounts include the autobiography Life on the Color Line: The True Story of a White Boy Who Discovered He Was Black by Gregory Howard Williams; One Drop: My Father's Hidden Life—A Story of Race and Family Secrets written by Bliss Broyard about her father Anatole Broyard; the documentary Colored White Boy[137] about a white man in North Carolina who discovers that he is the descendant of a white plantation owner and a raped African slave and the documentary on The Sanders Women[138] of Shreveport, Louisiana.

Racial passing and ambiguity

Passing is a term for a person whose ancestry is mostly that of the dominant group with some ancestry of a subordinate group and who is perceived as being part of the majority group, when social conventions would classify the person with the subordinate group.

The phenomenon known as "passing as white" is difficult to explain in other countries or to foreign students. Typical questions are: "Shouldn't Americans say that a person who is passing as white is white or nearly all white and has previously been passing as black?" or "To be consistent, shouldn't you say that someone who is one-eighth white is passing as black?" ... A person who is one-fourth or less American Indian or Korean or Filipino is not regarded as passing if he or she intermarries with and joins fully the life of the dominant community, so the minority ancestry need not be hidden... It is often suggested that the key reason for this is that the physical differences between these other groups and whites are less pronounced than the physical differences between African blacks and whites and therefore are less threatening to whites... [W]hen ancestry in one of these racial minority groups does not exceed one-fourth, a person is not defined solely as a member of that group.[143]

Laws dating from 17th-century colonial America defined children of African slave mothers as taking the status of their mothers and born into slavery regardless of the race or status of the father, under partus sequitur ventrem. The association of slavery with a "race" led to slavery as a racial caste. But, most families of free people of color formed in Virginia before the American Revolution were the descendants of unions between white women and African men, who frequently worked and lived together in the looser conditions of the early colonial period.[149] While interracial marriage was later prohibited, white men frequently took sexual advantage of slave women, and numerous generations of multiracial children were born. By the late 1800s it had become common among African Americans to use passing to gain educational opportunities as did the first African-American graduate of Vassar College, Anita Florence Hemmings.[150] Some 19th-century categorization schemes defined people by proportion of African ancestry: a person whose parents were black and white was classified as mulatto, with one black grandparent and three white as quadroon, and with one black great-grandparent and the remainder white as octoroon. The latter categories remained within an overall black or colored category, but before the Civil War, in Virginia and some other states, a person of one-eighth or less black ancestry was legally white.[151] Some members of these categories passed temporarily or permanently as white.

After whites regained power in the South following Reconstruction, they established racial segregation to reassert white supremacy, followed by laws defining people with any apparent or known African ancestry as black, under the principle of hypodescent.[151]

However, since several thousand blacks have been crossing the color line each year, millions of white Americans have relatively recent African ancestors (of the last 250 years). A statistical analysis done in 1958 estimated that 21 percent of the white population had some African ancestors. The study concluded that the majority of Americans of African descent were today classified as white and not black.[152]

Hispanic and Latino American identity

A typical Latino American family may have members with a wide range of racial phenotypes, meaning a Hispanic couple may have children who look white and African and/or Native American and/or Asian.[153] Latino Americans have several self-identifications; most Latinos identify as white in terms of race, while others identify as black and/or Native American and/or Asian. Latinos who do not want to identify as one of those identify simply as Hispanic and/or some other race as their race.

Many Latin American migrants have been Amerindian, mestizo or other mixed race.[154] Multiracial Latinos have limited media appearance; U.S. critics have accused Latin American media of overlooking the brown-skinned indigenous and multiracial Hispanic and black Hispanic populations by over-representation of blond and blue/green-eyed White Hispanic and Latino Americans (who resemble Scandinavians and other Northern Europeans rather than they look like white Hispanic and Latino Americans mostly of typical Southern European features) and also light-skinned mulatto and mestizo Hispanic and Latino Americans (often deemed as white persons in U.S. Hispanic and Latino populations if achieving the middle class or higher social status), especially some of the actors on the telenovelas.[155][156][157][158][159][160][161][162][163]

Pacific Islander American identity

During the 1800s Christian missionaries from Great Britain and the United States followed traders to the Hawaiian islands. Long-termly, the Anglo-Saxon presence negatively impacted the level of regard Hawaiian royal women held for their own indigenous looks. For centuries prior the arrival of Christians, first nation Hawaiian aesthetics, such as dark skin and ample bodies, had been considered signs of nobility. No matter how much they adapted their mannerisms to Western standard, some of the Anglo-Saxon missionaries were relentless in referring to the indigenous women as "Hawaiian squaws." By the last half of the 19th century, some Hawaiian women began marrying European men who found them exotic. The men, however, selected Hawaiian women who were thinner and paler in complexion.[174]

While some American Pacific Islanders continue traditional cultural endogamy, many within this population now have mixed racial ancestry, sometimes combining European, Native American, as well as East Asian ancestry. The Hawaiians originally described the mixed race descendants as hapa. The term has evolved to encompass all people of mixed Asian and/or Pacific Islander ancestry. Subsequently, many ethnic Chinese also settled on the islands and married into the Pacific Islander populations.

There are many other Pacific Islanders outside of Hawaii that do not share this common history with Hawaii and Asian populations are not the only race that Pacific Islanders mix with.

Eurasian-American identity

In its original meaning, an Amerasian is a person born in Asia to an Asian mother and a U.S. military father. Colloquially, the term has sometimes been considered synonymous with Asian-American, to describe any person of mixed American and Asian parentage, regardless of the circumstances.

According to the United States Census Bureau, concerning multiracial families in 1990, the number of children in interracial families grew from less than one-half million in 1970 to about two million in 1990.[185]

According to James P. Allen and Eugene Turner from California State University, Northridge, by some calculations the largest part white biracial population is white/American Indian and Alaskan Native, at 7,015,017; followed by white/black at 737,492; then white/Asian at 727,197; and finally white/Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander at 125,628.[19]

The US Census categorizes Eurasian responses in the "Some other race" section as part of the Asian race.[17] The Eurasian responses which the US Census officially recognizes are Indo-European, Amerasian and Eurasian.[17]

Afro-Asian-American identity

Chinese men entered the United States as laborers, primarily on the West Coast and in western territories. Following the Reconstruction era, as blacks set up independent farms, white planters imported Chinese laborers to satisfy their need for labor. In 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed and Chinese workers who chose to stay in the U.S. were unable to have their wives join them. In the South, some Chinese married into the black and mulatto communities, as generally, discrimination meant they did not take white spouses. They rapidly left working as laborers and set up groceries in small towns throughout the South. They worked to get their children educated and socially mobile.[199]

As of the census of 2000, there were 106,782 Afro-Asian individuals in the United States.[200]

In fiction

The figure of the "tragic octoroon" was a stock character of abolitionist literature: a mixed-race woman raised as if a white woman in her white father's household, until his bankruptcy or death has her reduced to a menial position[207] She may even be unaware of her status before being reduced to victimization.[208] The first character of this type was the heroine of Lydia Maria Child's "The Quadroons" (1842), a short story.[208] This character allowed abolitionists to draw attention to the sexual exploitation in slavery and, unlike portrayals of the suffering of the field hands, did not allow slaveholders to retort that the sufferings of Northern mill hands were no easier. The Northern mill owner would not sell his own children into slavery.[209]

Abolitionists sometimes featured attractive, escaped mulatto slaves in their public lectures to arouse sentiments against slavery. They showed Northerners those slaves who looked like them rather than an "Other"; this technique, which is labeled White slave propaganda, collapsed the separation between peoples and made it impossible for the public to ignore the brutality of slavery.[210]

Charles W. Chesnutt, an author of the post-Civil War era, explored stereotypes in his portrayal of multiracial characters in southern society in the postwar years. Even characters who had been free and possibly educated before the war had trouble making a place for themselves in the postwar years. His stories feature mixed-race characters with complex lives. William Faulkner also portrayed the lives of mixed-race people and complex interracial families in the postwar South.

The 21st-century filmmaker Greg Pak suggests that multiracial characters in film have often been portrayed as more driven by instinct than whites. He writes,

Multiracial characters have often been depicted as 'Wild Half-Castes', sexually destructive antagonists explicitly or implicitly perceived as unable to control the instinctive urges of their non-white heritage. Media which portrays multiracials as the 'half-breed' predator... [and] 'halfbreed' temptress perpetuates the association of multiraciality with sexual aberration and violence. Another recurring stereotype is the 'Tragic Mulatto', a typically female character who tries to pass for white but finds disaster when her non-white heritage is revealed... [T]he 'Half Breed Hero' provides a more 'empowering' stereotype... the 'Half Breed Hero' seemingly inspires identification as he actively resists white racism.[211]

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Further reading

  • G. Reginald Daniel, More Than Black?: Multiracial Identity and the New Racial Order, Temple University Press (2002) ISBN 978-1-56639-909-8.
  • Teja Arboleda, In the Shadow of Race: Growing Up As a Multiethnic, Multicultural, and Multiracial American (1998) ISBN 978-0-585-11477-4.
  • Yo Jackson, Yolanda Kaye Jackson, Encyclopedia of Multicultural Psychology (2006), ISBN 978-1-4129-0948-8.
  • Joel Perlmann, Mary C. Waters, The New Race Question: How the Census Counts Multiracial Individuals (2005), ISBN 978-0-87154-658-6.

External links

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