This week the New York Times ran a story speculating on the impact of so many young people identifying as "mixed-race." The heavy implication of the piece was the old chestnut that when everyone is the same color, racism will cease to exist.
We’ve heard that before. And it just so happens that the head of our publisher’s research department, Dom Apollon, has been out in the field gathering empirical data on this very subject, interviewing millennials about their thoughts on the future of race and racial inequities. On Friday, he was kind enough to drop some science on us. And y’all were as excited as we were.
In the comments, we heard from Poison Ivy League:
The pushback was certainly necessary here. Thanks for voicing such important points!
And to add to the above: Many critical mixed race studies suggest that the picture also isn’t as rosy and perfectly progressive as the NYT article implies. As I’m sure your focus group respondents suggested, many individuals begin to assume a more ‘mixed race’ identity in contradistinction to the dominant cultures of ‘blackness’ and ‘white identity.’ A deeper exploration usually reveals that this new-found, de facto identity was formed through a gradual process filled with an immense deal of hurt, pain, and feelings of otherness. So despite how checking the ‘mixed race’ box might be seen like a phenomenon that ‘transcends race,’ I think it’s all the more evidence of how race and racial constructs delineate (and exclude) those of us who exist in this very palpable shade of gray.
Spectra Speaks wrote:
Thank you SO much for this grounded analysis and counter-point to the NYT article. I particularly appreciate the point you made about bringing "relief"; I think that’s exactly what is happening anytime mainstream media attempts to assert that we’ve transcended race in the US. Having mixed heritage certainly doesn’t absolve one from having to witness/experience the effects of our socialization and/or the effects of class, gender, and socio-economic disparities which are also often linked. I can always count on Colorlines.com to respond to important social commentary.
And on our Facebook page, we heard from Lauren Michelle Kinsey:
"Nothing says that you can’t go on the other side of La Brea [Avenue]," said one African-American male who was raised and went to school in South L.A., where blacks and Latinos live at poverty rates exceeding most other areas of the region…. "But it’s a different world over there. [I visited] Beverley Hills High School once. They had a gym that had a pool under it. My school didn’t even have books," he said about his resource-poor institution."
~ I can’t understand why some people still think we live in a meritocracy instead of a corporatocray/plutocracy.
Ebony Murphy-Root added:
I read a bunch of articles after that including this one [Ta-Nehisi Coates’ "Miscegenation Ball," at the Atlantic]. I have no problem with folks eschewing the one drop rule in favor of a more authentic identity, but the whole tone of the Times piece smacked of the notion that blackness in particular in something in order to overcome in order to be modern. Coates raises the idea of ‘postracial’ America as one ebbracing a black/non-black binary instead of a white/non-white one. In others, some folks will still be white with all the rights and privileges that entail, others (some middle class and educated Asians and Latinos primarily) will move into whiteness as the Polish, Irish and Italians did, but that blackness will still be devalued as lesser and less desirable.
I’ll second that TNC’s written some must-read material on the matter. In a followup on the same subject, Ta-Nehisi responds to a post I wrote at the American Prospect, discussing the ways in which systemic racism excludes historically Asian communities from whiteness. Is this a shoutout to myself? Yes. In all seriousness, his well-considered thoughts on the future of race in America are required reading, and his community of commenters is crazy smart too.