Race isn’t real. There is no scientific proof it exists, and yet the concept shapes how we see the world, how we are perceived by others and how we see ourselves. History shows us that four-letter word is often all that stands between freedom and captivity, prosperity and poverty, even life and death. And when it comes to personal identity, society’s interpretation of this concept doesn’t really allow for people who may be a combination of two or more ethnicities.
Feeling different or excluded is a shared experience among many children of two or more ethnicities. That is largely due to society’s lack of understanding around the issue. The census has only recently allowed this population to self-identify as black and white, Hispanic and black, white and Asian. Not too long ago those individuals would fall into one catchall category: other.
A majority of mixed-ethnicity individuals (55%) say they’ve been the butt of racial jokes and slurs, and about one in four say they feel frustrated when people make assumptions about their identity, according to a survey from the pew research center. The survey showed that about one in five individuals (21%) say they feel pressure from family, friends or society to identify with one ethnic group. Additionally, experiences and attitudes are vastly different based on the cultures at play.
Asian and white couples are the most common form of intermarriage today. Many are seen as white and identify as white.
When multi-ethnic individuals seek acceptance among minority communities, they often encounter the open wounds of systemic racism and the privileging of lighter skin and the glorification of Eurocentric beauty standards.
The Southern Poverty Law Center reports a dramatic uptick in hate crimes between the election on November 8 and November 14. Over 400 incidents targeted minorities around the country. A racist flyer was passed around the Southern Methodist University campus warning white women against entering relationships with black men. An “alt-right” logo in the bottom right corner leads many to believe the flyer is associated with the fringe white nationalist group the alt-right. President Donald Trump’s chief political strategist Steve Bannon is the former head of Breitbart News, an outlet Bannon proudly told reporters is “the platform for the alt-right.”
Backlash from white supremacist groups comes as America’s demographics are changing. Since 1980 the rate of intermarriage has almost quadrupled. In 2013, 2.1 percent of Americans self-identified as two or more races. And that number climbs to around 7 percent when parents’ and grandparents’ ethnicities are factored in.
As we look towards a nation filled with mosaic members of the human race, maybe we as a society should rethink how we approach identity.