Multiracial American

Multiracial American
Multiracial Americans
Barack ObamaMariah CareyLou Diamond Phillips
John EnsignVanessa HudgensTatyana Ali
Dwayne JohnsonJennifer TillyDella Reese
Hines WardHalle BerryJennifer Beals
Maggie QTiger WoodsVin Diesel
Jason MomoaOlivia MunnAlicia Keys
Barack Obama • Mariah Carey • Lou Diamond Phillips
John Ensign • Vanessa Hudgens • Tatyana Ali
Dwayne Johnson • Jennifer Tilly • Della Reese
Hines Ward • Halle Berry • Jennifer Beals
Maggie Q • Tiger Woods • Vin Diesel
Jason Momoa • Olivia Munn • Alicia Keys
Total population
9 million (2.9%)[1]
Regions with significant populations
Western US 2.4 million (3.4%)

Southern US 1.8 million (1.6%)
Midwestern US 1.1 million (1.6%)
Northeastern US 0.8 million (1.6%)
(2006 American Community Survey)

Multiracial Americans, US residents who identify themselves as of "two or more races", were numbered at around 9 million, or 2.9% of the population, in the census of 2010.[2][3] However there is considerable evidence that the real number is far higher.[4] Prior to the mid-20th century many people hid their multiracial heritage.[4] Consequently many Americans today are multi-racial without knowing it.[4]

Since the 1967 Supreme Court decision that deemed anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional, there has been a considerable increase in the number of interracial couples and mixed-race children. Until 1989, children continued to be classified as belonging to the race of the non-white parent, reflecting historical hypodescent laws. Since the 1980s, the United States has had a growing multiracial identity movement,[5] culminating in the 2000 census, which for the first time presented the opportunity to self-identify as multiracial, and the election of Barack Obama, the first President of the United States with an acknowledged multiracial background, in November 2008.[6]



The American people are mostly multi-ethnic descendants of various culturally distinct immigrant nationalities. Assimilation and integration began to take place in the second half of the 20th century, notably as the result of the African-American Civil Rights Movement (1955–1968), but the multiracial identity remains marginal, embraced by well below 5% of the population, in the 2000s.

Interracial marriage in the United States, most notably between whites and blacks, was deemed illegal by anti-miscegenation laws in most states in parts of the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries. California and the western US had similar laws to prohibit European-Asian American marriages until the 1950s.

Early United States history

In spite of social stigma and legal persecution, interracial and multiracial relationships have a long history in the United States, that started with the intermixing of the native population and European settlers. One of the most famous and controversial was the relationship between Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, who was said to have borne several multiracial children by him. Some Africans were freed as early as the 17th century. Many of those "free Negroes" migrated to the frontiers of Virginia and North Carolina, together with other settlers.

In 1789 Olaudah Equiano, a former slave turned abolitionist, published his autobiography, which advocated interracial marriage between whites and blacks.[7]

In 1790, the first population census enumerators were asked to classify free residents as white or "other." Slaves were counted separately.

20th century

Although by the late 20th century, multi-racialism was becoming more acknowledged in the U.S., it was not until 1967 that miscegenation laws were ruled unconstitutional, most famously in the Supreme Court case, Loving v. Virginia.[8]

Until a change in policy in 1989, biracial babies with a white parents were assigned the racial status of the nonwhite parent... Before 1989 biracial children faced hypodescent laws that positioned them in the non-white racial group, thus barring their entrance into the white race, though they may not necessarily have been welcomed within the other racial/ethnic group with open arms.[9]
The National Association of Black Social Workers has influenced the American court system by arguing that biracial children should be treated as completely black. Consistent with this view, courts and adoption agencies usually categorize biracial children as black when considering placement. The primary justification for this treatment is that, in the eyes of American society, a biracial child is black and, therefore, must identify positively with being black and must be able to cope with discrimination toward her as a black person. ... As a result, the NABSW concludes that when an adoption or custody proceeding concerns a biracial child, a court or adoption agency should favor placing the child with Black parents.[10]

By 1990, there were more than a dozen more ethnic/racial categories on the census, reflecting not only changing social ideas about ethnicity, but the expanded regions of the world from which immigrants were arriving after changes to immigration laws in the 1960s. In a United States in which racial mixing has been increasingly acknowledged and society is becoming more diverse, identifying oneself by just one category has been difficult. The Census Bureau changed its data collection by allowing people to check off more than one classification when identifying their ancestry.

The proportion of multiracial children in the United States is growing. Interracial partnerships are on the rise, as are transracial adoptions. In 1990, about 14% of 18- to 19-year-olds, 12% of 20- to 21-year-olds and 7% of 34- to 35-year-olds were involved in interracial relationships (Joyner and Kao, 2005).[11]


To many mainline civil rights groups, the new census is part of a multiracial nightmare. After decades of framing racial issues in stark black and white terms, they fear that the multiracial movement will break down longstanding alliances, weakening people of color by splintering them into new subgroups.[12]

Some multiracial individuals feel marginalized by U.S. society. For example, when applying to schools or for a job, or when taking standardized tests, Americans are sometimes asked to check boxes corresponding to race or ethnicity. Typically, about five race choices are given with the instruction to "check only one." Many other such surveys include an additional "other" box, but this unfortunately groups together individuals of many different multiracial types (ex: European Americans/African-Americans are grouped with Asian/Native American Indians).

The 2000 U.S. Census in the write-in response category had a code listing which standardizes the placement of various write-in responses for automatic placement within the framework of the U.S. Census's enumerated races. Whereas most responses can be distinguished as falling into one of the five enumerated races, there remains some write-in responses which fall into the "Mixture" heading which can't be racially categorized. These include "Bi Racial, Combination, Everything, Many, Mixed, Multi National, Multiple, Several and Various".[13]

In 1997, Greg Mayeda, a Board of Directors person for the Hapa Issues Forum, attended a meeting regarding the new racial classifications for the 2000 U.S. Census. He was arguing against a multiracial category and for multiracial people being counted as all of their races. He argued that a "separate Multiracial Box does not allow a person who identifies as mixed race the opportunity to be counted accurately. After all, we are not just mixed race. We are representatives of all racial groups and should be counted as such. A stand alone Multiracial Box reveals very little about the person's background checking it."[14]

There remain many circumstances in which biracial individuals are left with no real response when asked for demographic data. But multiracial people won a victory of sorts after years of effort when in 1997, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) changed the federal regulation of racial categories to permit multiple responses, resulting in a new format for the 2000 United States Census, which allowed participants to select more than one of the six available categories, which were, in brief: "White," "Black or African American," "Asian," "American Indian or Alaskan Native," "Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander," and "Other." Further details are given in the article: Race (U.S. census). The OMB made its directive mandatory for all government forms by 2003.

According to James P. Allen and Eugene Turner from California State University, Northridge, by some calculations in the 2000 Census the actual multiracial population that is part white, by far the largest percentage of the multiracial population, is as follows: the largest part of the white bi-racial population, is white/Native American 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.[15]

In 2010, 1.6 million Americans checked both "black" and "white" on their census forms, a figure 134 percent higher than the number a decade earlier.[16]


Given the variety of the familial and general social environments in which multiracial children are raised, along with the diversity of their appearance (vis-a-vis their component races and their family members), it can be difficult to make generalizations about multiracial children's challenges or opportunities.

The racial social identity of children and that of their parents in the same multiracial family may vary or be the same.[17] Some multiracial children feel pressure from various sources to "choose" or to assimilate into a single racial identity, while others whose identity or lifestyle is perceived to be closer to some of their component races than others may feel pressure not to abandon one or more of their ethnicities. Many other have chosen to create a whole new type of racial category as in the case of Tiger Woods, who has claimed this he is not just an African American but "Cablinasian," a mixture of Caucasian, African American, Native American, and Asian.[18]

Still other children grow up without race being a significant issue in their lives.

[B]eing multiracial can still be problematic. Most constructions of race in America revolve around a peculiar institution known as the 'one-drop rule' ... The one-drop conceit shapes both racism—creating an arbitrary 'caste'—and the collective response against it. To identify as multiracial is to challenge this logic, and consequently, to fall outside both camps.[19]
[M]any monoracials do view a multiracial identity as a choice that denies loyalty to the oppressed racial group. We can see this issue enacted currently over the debate of the U.S. census to include a multiracial category— some oppressed monoracial groups believe this category would decrease their numbers and 'benefits.'[9]
Many students who called themselves 'half-Asian/Black/etc.' came to college in search of cultural knowledge but found themselves unwelcome in groups of peers that were 'whole' ethnicities.' (Renn, 1998) She found that as a result of this exclusion on campuses designed to accommodate monoracial individuals, many multiracial students expressed the need to create and maintain a self-identified multiracial community on campus. This is due in part to the fact that multiracial people may identify more with each other, because "they share the experience of navigating campus life as multiracial people," (Renn, 1998) than with their own ethnic groups. This is true in spite of the fact that these multiracial individuals may all have completely different heritages.[20]

African Americans

American sprinter Lolo Jones is of African American, Native American, Norwegian, and French descent.

Americans with Sub-Saharan African ancestry for historical reasons (one-drop rule, one-eighth law) tend to self-identify as African American even if they have significant European American or Native American ancestry. For African Americans, the one-drop system of pigmentocracy was a significant factor in ethnic solidarity. African Americans generally shared a common lot in society and, therefore, common cause, regardless of their multiracial admixture or social and economic stratification. Another factor adding to the difficulty of people of African American descent learning about their Native American heritage is elder family members withholding pertinent genealogical information.[21] Tracing the genealogy of African Americans can be a very difficult process, especially for descendants of Native Americans, because African Americans who were slaves were forbidden to learn to read and write, and a majority of Native Americans neither spoke English, nor read or wrote it.[21] In the 1980s, parents of mixed-race children began to organize and lobby for the addition of a more inclusive term of racial designation that would reflect the heritage of their children. When the U.S. government proposed the addition of the category of "bi-racial" or "multiracial" in 1988, the response from the public was mostly negative. Some African American organizations, and African American leaders such as Congresswoman Diane Watson and Congressman Augustus Hawkins, were particularly vocal in their rejection of the category, fearing massive defection from the African American self-designation.[22] During the 1990s and 2000s, the terms mixed-race, biracial, and multiracial were used increasingly, although it still remains common for those who possess any visible traits of black heritage to identify or be identified solely as blacks or African Americans. Thus, Barack Obama, who is of East African and White American ancestry to equal parts (excepting that, according to his memoir, his mother may have had Cherokee as well as White ancestry) self-identifies as African American,[23] A majority of Asian and African Americans consider Obama black, while a majority of White and Latin Americans of any race classify him as biracial.[24]

A 2003 study found an average of 18.6% (±1.5%) European admixture in a population sample of 416 African Americans from Washington, DC.[25] African Americans can be classed into two types for genetic purposes, based on ancestry: those who are "mostly African" (less than 25% European) and those who are "mostly mixed" ("over 25% European"); according a 2006 study, African Americans fall primarily into the first group with 80% of the population being "mostly African".[26] 20% has more than 25% European ancestry, reflecting long history of both groups in the U.S. The "mostly African" group is substantially African, as 70% of African Americans in this group have less than 15% European ancestry. The 20% African Americans in the "mostly mixed" group (2.7% of US population) are almost entirely between 25% and 50% European.[27] If the "mostly mixed" African Americans are included in the count, the demographic segment of US residents of mixed-race ancestry would rise to some 15 million, or 5% of population. In addition, more recent studies agreed by some historians estimate that most African Americans have significant Native American heritage due to many different circumstances in different families.[28] African Americans with Native American descent have been accused either of not having Native American ancestry or of possessing little Native ancestry. One reason for this may be that the genetic tests used to test for how much Indian Blood a person has does not present a complete picture, as argued by numerous geneticists, because tests trace direct male or female bloodlines only and thus exclude most ancestors.[29]

For example, the short series African American Lives was greatly criticized because the program did not acknowledge nor inform those who were tested that not all ancestry may show up in the tests, especially for those who claimed part-Native American descent.[29][30][31] The genetic tests done only research a few ancestors, resulting in false negatives being given to the test taker.[30] It is possible that while some Native American groups sampled did not share the pattern of markers being searched for, others might, since these genetic markers do not exclusively belong to any one group of our existing racial, ethnic, linguistic, or tribal typologies.[30] In addition, not all Native Americans have been tested, so scientists do not know for sure that Native Americans have only the genetic markers they have identified, even when their maternal or paternal bloodline does not include a non-Native American.[29][30]


On census forms, the government depends on individuals' self-identification. Due in part to a centuries-old history within the United States, historical experiences pre- and post-slavery, and migrations throughout North America, contemporary African Americans possess varying degrees of admixture with European ancestry. A percentage also have various degrees of Native American ancestry.[32][33]

Based on Mark Shriver's research, historian Henry Louis Gates, Jr. put African American ancestry in these terms:

  • 58 percent of African Americans have at least 12.5 percent European ancestry (equivalent of one great-grandparent);
  • 19.6 percent of African Americans have at least 25 percent European ancestry (equivalent of one grandparent);
  • 1 percent of African Americans have at least 50 percent European ancestry (equivalent of one parent); and
  • 5 percent of African Americans have at least 12.5 percent Native American ancestry (equivalent to one great-grandparent).[34]

The most numerous families of free African Americans in the Upper South by the end of the 18th century were descended from white women, free or servant, and African men, slaves, free or indentured servants, who worked and lived closely together during the colonial period in Virginia. Their free descendants migrated to the frontier of Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina in the 18th and 19th centuries. There were also similar free families in Delaware and Maryland, as documented by Paul Heinegg.[35] In addition, many Native American women turned to African American men due to the decline of Native American men.[36] Native American women were also buying African slaves but unknown to European sellers the women were freeing the African men and marrying them into their respective tribe.[36] Furthermore, it was beneficial for an African American man to have children by a Native American woman because children followed the status of their mother making them free.[36]

In their attempt to ensure white separatism, in the early 20th century some southern states created laws defining a person as black if the person had any known African ancestry. This was a stricter interpretation than what had prevailed earlier and went against commonly accepted social rules of judging a person by appearance. It became known as the one-drop rule, meaning that a single drop of "black blood" made a person "black". Some courts called it the traceable amount rule. Anthropologists called it the hypodescent rule, meaning that racially mixed persons were assigned the status of the subordinate group.

Prior to the one-drop rule, different states had different laws regarding color. More importantly, social acceptance often played a bigger role in how a person was perceived and how identity was construed than any law. In frontier areas there were fewer questions about origins, and the community looked at how people performed, whether they served in the militia and voted. When questions about racial identity arose because of inheritance issues, for instance, litigation outcomes often were based on how people were accepted by neighbors.[37]

In Virginia prior to 1920, for example, a person was legally black if he or she had at least one-eighth black ancestry. The one-drop rule originated in some Southern United States in the late 19th century, likely in response to whites' attempt to limit black political power following the Democrats' regaining control of state legislatures in the late 1870s.[38][39] The first year in which the U.S. Census did not count mulattoes separately was 1920, evidencing a shift in the American conception of what an African American is.[39]

For African Americans, the one-drop system of pigmentocracy became a significant factor in ethnic solidarity. The binary division of society by race forced African Americans to share more of a common lot in society than they might have after the Civil War, given widely varying ancestry, educational and economic levels. The binary division altered the separate status of the traditionally free people of color in Louisiana, for instance, although they maintained a strong Louisiana Créole culture related to French culture and language, and practice of Catholicism. African Americans began to create common cause—regardless of their multiracial admixture or social and economic stratification. In further changes, during the Civil Rights and Black Power movements, the African American community increased its own pressure for people of any portion of African descent to be claimed solely by the black community.

By the 1980s, parents of mixed-race children (and adults of mixed-race ancestry) began to organize and lobby for the ability to show more than one ethnic category on Census and other legal forms. They refused to be put into just one category. When the U.S. government proposed the addition of the category of "bi-racial" or "multiracial" in 1988, the response from the general public was mostly negative. Some African American organizations and political leaders, such as Senator Diane Watson and Representative Augustus Hawkins, were particularly vocal in their rejection of the category. They feared a loss in political and economic power if African Americans abandoned their one category.

This reaction is characterized as "historical irony" by Daniel (2002). The African American self-designation had been a response to the one-drop rule, but then people resisted the chance to claim their multiple heritages. At the bottom was a desire not to lose political power of the larger group. Whereas before people resisted being characterized as one group regardless of ranges of ancestry, now some of their own were trying to keep them in the same group.[22]

The African-American experience

Some black scholars have argued that the term "African-American" should refer strictly to the descendents of West or Central African slaves and free people of color who survived the slavery-era, and not the sons and daughters of black immigrants who lack that ancestry.[40] The argument being that grouping all blacks together regardless of their unique ancestral circumstances would inevitably deny the lingering effects of slavery with in the American slave descendent community, in addition to denying black immigrants recognition of their own unique ancestral backgrounds.

In the book The End of Blackness published by author Debra Dickerson, she warned against drawing favorable cultural implications from Obama's political rise: "Lumping us all together,"[41] Dickerson claimed it, "erases the significance of slavery and continuing racism while giving the appearance of progress." On the liberal website Salon Dickerson wrote, "African-American", in our political and social vocabulary, means those descended from West African slaves, because Obama is not a descendant of West Africans brought involuntarily to the United States as slaves, he is not African-American".[41]

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 election African-American columnist David Ehrenstein 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.[42] 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." [42]

Reacting to media criticism of Michelle Obama during the 2008 presidential election, Charles Kenzie Steele, Jr., Southern Christian Leadership Conference CEO said, “Why are they attacking Michelle Obama, and not really attacking, to that degree, her husband? Because he has no slave blood in him."[43] He later claimed it was just meant to be "provocative" but declined to expand on the subject.[43] Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (who was famously mistaken for a "recent American immigrant" by French President Nicolas Sarkozy[44]), 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 term "black" or "white" to denote the African and European U.S. founding populations.[45]

Native Americans

Olympic athlete Jim Thorpe was of Native American (Sac and Fox) and European American ancestry.

Interracial relations among Native Americans and Europeans did occur, beginning with the French and Spanish explorers and trappers. Even though Europeans considered both Africans and Native Americans inferior and made efforts to make both of them enemies, European impact was immediate, widespread, and profound—more than any other race that had contact with Native Americans during the early years of colonization and nationhood.[36][46] Europeans living among Native Americans were often called "white indians". They "lived in native communities for years, learned native languages fluently, attended native councils, and often fought alongside their native companions."[46]

Some early male settlers married Native American women. Early contact between Native Americans and Europeans was often charged with tension and emotion, but also had moments of friendship, cooperation, and intimacy.[47] Marriages took place in both English and French colonies between European men and Native women. On April 5, 1614, Pocahontas married Englishman John Rolfe, and they had a child called Thomas Rolfe.

In the early 19th century, the Native American woman Sacagawea, who would help translate for the Lewis and Clark Expedition, was forced to married to French trapper Toussaint Charbonneau. A Native American man had to get consent of the European parents in order to marry a white woman, and when such marriages were approved, it was with the stipulation that "he can prove to support her as a white woman in a good home".[48] In the late 19th century, three European-American middle-class female staff members married Native American men they had met during the years when Hampton Institute ran its Indian program.[49] Charles Eastman married his European-American wife Elaine Goodale whom he had met in Dakota Territory when Goodale was a social worker and the superintendent of Indian education for the reservations.

Interracial relations between Native Americans and African Americans has been a part of American history that has been neglected.[21] The earliest record of African and Native American relations occurred in April 1502, when the first Africans kidnapped were brought to Hispaniola to serve as slaves. Some escaped, and somewhere inland on Santo Domingo, the first Black Indians were born.[50] In addition, an example of African slaves' escaping from European colonists and being absorbed by Native Americans occurred as far back as 1526. In June of that year, Lucas Vasquez de Ayllon established a Spanish colony near the mouth of the Pee Dee River in what is now eastern South Carolina. The Spanish settlement was named San Miquel de Guadalupe. Amongst the settlement were 100 enslaved Africans. In 1526, the first African slaves fled the colony and took refuge with local Native Americans.[51]

European colonists created treaties with Native American tribes requesting the return of any runaway slaves. For example, in 1726, the British governor of New York exacted a promise from the Iroquois to return all runaway slaves who had joined them. This same promise was extracted from the Huron Nation in 1764, and from the Delaware Nation in 1765, though there is no record of slaves ever being returned.[52] Numerous advertisements requested the return of African Americans who had married Native Americans or who spoke a Native American language. The primary exposure that Africans and Native Americans had to each other came through the institution of slavery.[53] Native Americans learned that Africans had what Native Americans considered 'Great Medicine' in their bodies because Africans were virtually immune to the Old-World diseases that were decimating most native populations.[54] Because of this many tribes encouraged marriage between the two groups, to create stronger, healthier children from the unions.[54]

Eurasian Americans

According to the United States Census Bureau, concerning multi-racial families in 1990:

Census data indicate that the number of children in interracial families grew from less than one-half million in 1970 to about two million in 1990. In 1990, for interracial families with one White partner, the other parent ... was Asian for 45 percent [of all children.][55]

According to James P. Allen and Eugene Turner from California State University, Northridge, by some calculations the largest part white bi-racial 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.[15]

The US Census categorizes Eurasian responses in the "Some other race" section as part of the Asian race.[13] The Eurasian responses the US Census officially recognizes are Indo-European, Amerasian, and Eurasian.[13]

Afro-Asian Americans

In 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed and Chinese workers who chose to stay in the U.S. could no longer be with their wives who stayed behind in China. Because European Americans looked at Chinese labor workers as stealing employment, they were harassed and discriminated against. Many Chinese men settled in African American communities and in turn married black women.[56]

Tiger Woods, a famous golf player, is of Dutch, Chinese, Native American, Thai, and African American descent; his father being half African American heritage and half Asian while his mother is of mostly Asian heritage. R&B singer Amerie is another famous Afro-Asian American, with her father being African American and her mother Korean. Hines Ward, an NFL football player, is also an Afro-Asian. He currently plays for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

As of the census of 2000, there were 106,782 Afro-Asian individuals in the United States.[57]


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


"Passing" is a term for a person whose ancestry is in part that of the dominant group with some ancestry of a subordinate group, but who is seen as only being part of the majority 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.[58]

Multiracial families

A 2004 California wedding between a Filipina bride and a Nigerian groom.

In an article about mixed-race children having identity problems, Charlotte Nitary states:

Wardle (1989) says that today, parents assume one of three positions as to the identity of their interracial children. Some insist that their child is 'human above all else' and that race or ethnicity is irrelevant, while others choose to raise their children with the identity of the parent of color. Another growing group of parents is insisting that the child have the ethnic, racial, cultural and genetic heritage of both parents.[10]

In her book Love's Revolution: Interracial Marriage, Maria P. P. Root writes:

Women with children, especially biracial children, have fewer chances for remarriage than childless women. And because the children of divorce tend to remain with mothers, becoming incorporated into new families when their mothers remarry, interracial children are more threatening markers of race and racial authenticity for families in which race matters.[59]

In 2009, Keith Bardwell, a justice of the peace in Robert, Louisiana, refused to officiate a wedding for an interracial couple and was summarily sued in federal court. See refusal of interracial marriage in Louisiana.

In fiction

Charles W. Chesnutt was one of the authors who explored the stereotypes in the depiction of multiracial characters as portrayed in fiction and early films.

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.[60]

The figure of the "tragic octoroon" was a stock character of abolitionist literature: a light-brown-skinned woman raised as if a white woman in her father's household, until his bankrupty or death has her reduced to a menial position[61] She may even be unaware of her status before being reduced to victimization.[62] The first character of this type was the heroine of Lydia Maria Child's "The Quadroons".[62] This character allowed abolitionists to draw attention to the sexual exploitation in slavery, and unlike the suffering of the field hands, did not allow slaveholders to retort that the sufferings of Northern mill hands were no easier, since the Northern mill owner would not sell his own children into slavery.[63]

Mulattos, as with abducted white people, were often used to arouse sentiments against slavery by showing Northerners slaves who were visually indistinguishable from them.[64]

See also


  1. ^ 2010 census, based on self-identification
  2. ^ Jones, Nicholas A.; Amy Symens Smith. "The Two or More Races Population: 2000. Census 2000 Brief" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-05-08. 
  3. ^ "B02001. RACE - Universe: TOTAL POPULATION". 2006 American Community Survey. United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-30.  has 6.1 million (2.0%)
  4. ^ a b c Gates, Henry Louis, Jr. Faces of America: How 12 Extraordinary Americans Reclaimed Their Pasts (New York University Press, 2010)
  5. ^ Root, Multiracial Experience pp. xv-xviii
  6. ^ Obama raises profile of mixed-race Americans San Francisco Chronicle 21 July 2008.
  7. ^ "Campaigners From History: Olaudah Equiano". Anti-Slavery International. 2007. Archived from the original on 2008-06-03. Retrieved 2008-06-18. 
  8. ^ PBS (May 1999). "Jefferson’s Blood: Mixed Race America". WGBH Educational Foundation. Retrieved 2008-06-18. 
  9. ^ a b Yuen Thompson, Beverly (2006). The Politics of Bisexual/Biracial identity: A Study of Bisexual and Mixed Race Women of Asian/Pacific Islander Descent (Reprint ed.). Snakegirl Press. ISBN 1-23456-789-0. Retrieved 2008-07-18.  at p. 26
  10. ^ a b Nitardy, Charlotte (2008-05-14). "Identity Problems in Biracial Youth". University of Minnesota. Retrieved 2008-07-14. 
  11. ^ Lang, Susan S. (2005-11-02). "Interracial relationships are on the increase in U.S., but decline with age, Cornell study finds". Chronicle Online. Cornell University. Retrieved 2008-07-14. 
  12. ^ Rodriguez, Cindy (2000-12-16). "The US Census now recognizes multiracial entries". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved 2008-07-14. 
  13. ^ a b c "Census 1990: Ancestry Codes". University of Michigan. Archived from the original on 2008-05-02. Retrieved 2008-07-18. 
  14. ^ Tate, Eric (1997-07-08). "Multiracial Group Views Change to Census as a Victory". The Multiracial Activist. Retrieved 2008-07-18. 
  15. ^ a b
  16. ^ Cohn, D'Vera. "Multi-Race and the 2010 Census". Retrieved 2011-04-26. 
  17. ^ "Thandie Newton - Actress". Mixed-Race Celebrities. Intermix. Retrieved 2008-07-14. 
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  • 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 9780871546586.

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