The Rise of Interracial Marriage

Adele Booysen / Flickr

The changing attitude surrounding interracial marriages, which now make up 7.4 percent of all American marriages, was the subject of a recent NPR  piece that aired on All Things Considered.

According to recent data, the least common pairing is between black women and white men, followed by white women and black men. The most likely interracial marriage is between Hispanics and non-Hispanics, followed by those between white men and Asian American women. So what does that tell us about race in America? From NPR:

“It reflects the status hierarchy,” says Roderick J. Harrison, a demographer at Howard University. “If you’re trying to marry up, clearly whites are it. If you’re trying to avoid marrying down, it would still look like blacks might be the least preferred.”

But even though a relatively small percentage of all American marriages are interracial, attitudes have changed much more rapidly in recent years. In 1987, 48 percent of Americans felt it was okay for whites and blacks to date. By 2009, it jumped to 80 percent. And in 2008, almost 15 percent of all new marriages were interracial, a record number according to the Pew Center.

D.C. is a diverse, vibrant city, and the number of multiracial people living here has increased by about 2 percent over the past decade. By 2010, about 17,316 D.C. residents were multiracial, about 7,000 of whom reported to be black and some other race.

What do you think: do attitudes in D.C. reflect the national increase in interracial marriages? Is it more accepted in D.C. than in other places or is there still a taboo? What have been your experiences with interracial dating and marriage?

D.C. Youth On Mixed-Race Ancestry: It’s Complicated

Students of School Without Walls in D.C. speak about their personal and cultural identities in “Finding Self: Asian America’s Youth.” The short film, produced by  Dana Tai Soon Burgess & Co.’s Asian American Youth Program, profiles multiracial and mixed-Asian ancestry students. We’ve written before about how multiracial residents fit into D.C.’s landscape, but as these youth point out, mixed identities often go unacknowledged by others. One student states:

“There’s genetic identity, there’s cultural identity, there’s who you are compared to everyone around you. People expect everyone to be a single thing, like you can only be Asian, or someone can only be white, or only black or whatever. And I think everyone in that sense is a hybrid. No one is like a pure Asian, or a pure American.”

And sometimes other people’s perceptions trump your own reality. One student talks about her Chinese ancestry, but then mentions:

“People who are full Chinese never think I’m Chinese. Like they just straight up don’t believe me when I say I’m a quarter Chinese. They just say, ‘No, you’re white.’ It doesn’t really bother me because I know I’m Chinese and I have a relationship with my Chinese relatives.”

“Blackness that is uniquely and indisputably American”

Flickr: Natalie Woo

Billboard from 2009 along California's Interstate 5 freeway.

More on race and perception, though this time, the issue is not what people see– it’s what they know about President Obama’s ancestry. In “For Birthers, Obama’s Not Black Enough“, Melissa Harris-Perry wonders if the President’s lack of connection to “the historical variation of blackness that is uniquely and indisputably American” is part of what makes him suspect to those who doubt his citizenship:

The American slave system disrupted the ability of enslaved Africans to retain or pass along their ethnic identities. Igbo, Ashanti, Akan, Yoruba and Hausa became interchangeable units for sale. While slaves nurtured fragments of cultural, religious and familial traditions, much of the specificity of their African experience was surrendered to an imagined and indistinct notion of “Africa.” Moreover, the law did not initially recognize slaves or their US-born children as American. So enslaved Africans were women and men literally without a country, defined solely in terms of their labor value. Their descendants eventually achieved citizenship, but to be an American black, a Negro, is to be a rejected child who nonetheless clings to her abusive father because she knows no other parent. To be a black American descended from slaves is to lack, if not a birth certificate, then at least a known genealogy—to have only a vague sense of where one comes from, of who one’s ancestors were and of where one belongs.

In this sense, Obama is not very black. He is not a Negro. As a black man, President Obama’s confident and clear knowledge of his lineage is precisely the thing that makes his American identity dubious. Unlike most black people, he has easy access to both his American and his African selves.

D.C. Census: Our multiracial residents

Flickr: The White House

President Obama, filling out his 2010 Census form last March.

Much has been made of D.C.’s losing its Chocolate City status, but as one person rightly pointed out, the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau statistic of D.C.’s black population being 50.7 percent doesn’t include people who checked black and another race.

Nationwide there has been a significant increase — almost 50 percent among children — of people reporting multiple races in the 2010 Census. But how big of a jump was there in D.C., and how do multiracial residents fit into the District’s changing image of a majority-black city?

A look at the numbers leads us to believe this population isn’t making that much of an impact in a debate that’s largely white-black: in 2010, 17,316 people, or 2.9 percent of the District’s population, reported being of two or more races. That’s an increase from 2.4 percent in 2000. Not a phenomenal boost, no, but it is growing slightly.

In 2010, the largest number of multiracial residents were white and Asian (3,736), followed closely by people reporting to be white and black (3,476). But the number of people reporting to be black and  any other race was 7,436. Are those folks part of Chocolate City? If so, the statistical contribution would be a small one, said demographer Roderick J. Harrison, a senior fellow at the Joint Center and a Howard University associate professor. D.C. lost 39,000 black residents since 2000.

President Barack Obama most likely checked both the white and black boxes under race on his Census form. And yet many refer to President Obama as America’s first black president. Seldom do we hear “first biracial president.” The legacy behind that is a long one indeed, but there are also individuals who, while acknowledging their multiracial backgrounds, more closely identify with one over the other.
Continue reading