According to a Pew Research Center analysis of 2017 Census Bureau data, 1 in 7 U.S. infants who were born in 2015 were multiracial or multiethnic. Those statistics tripled since the 1980s.
Nowadays it’s not uncommon to see multiracial families. Researchers and historians have proposed that chattel slavery was the birth of colorism, and the preference for lighter skin. The so-called “mulatto slaves” were reportedly favored by the slave owners and received less harsh punishment. Although, the term mulatto is now considered to be derogatory, it’s actually derived from the Portuguese word “mulato” or “mulo” and means “hybridity” in the racial sense. This preference for lighter skin was continued throughout the postbellum period.
A sensitive topic
The new ABC show “Mixed-ish,” a spin-off of the show “Black-ish,” starring Tracee Ellis Ross (“Girlfriends”) and Anthony Anderson (“The Departed”), focuses on the struggles and challenges of a biracial adolescent in the ‘80s.
The show tells the story of young “Rainbow ‘Bow’ Jackson” portrayed by Arica Himmel (“Sesame Street”) who is biracial and recently moved from a hippie commune to White suburbia. Now she’s trying to figure out her place and her identity in a mixed public school, where she neither is accepted by her African-American peers, nor by her fellow White students. She and her siblings become outcasts.
It’s important for parents to talk about being multiracial. According to a report by Francis Wardle, Ph.D, many psychologists agree that multiracial children have difficulties identifying what racial identity they belong to in society. Therefore it’s important to address their needs, since it becomes a continuous struggle for children once they enter school. But it’s also said that if children identify with both parents’ racial backgrounds and cultures from an early age, they will have less problems regarding their racial identity.
Change for biracial relations
The Supreme Court case Loving v. Virginia of 1967 struck down all state laws banning interracial marriage. Plaintiffs, Richard and Mildred Loving, who were in a state-determined illegal, interracial marriage, filed against the state of Virgina with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
“It’s the principle. It’s the law. I don’t think it’s right,” said Mildred Loving in an HBO documentary based on archival videos. “And, if we do win, we will be helping a lot of people.”
The vote was unanimous, saying that the so-called “anti-miscegenation” laws were hurting individuals’ constitutional rights under the 14th Amendment, which states “[…] No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States […].”
‘Too White’ or not ‘Black enough’
But the issues from the past still exist, and so do the struggles for many bi- and multiracial families and their children. Oftentimes parents like to raise their children as “colorblind,” but that doesn’t erase racism. It’s important to talk about it.
The biracial rapper Earl Sweatshirt (born as Thebe Neruda Kgositsile) has said in one of his lyrics that he is “too Black for the White kids, and too White for the Blacks,” many bi- and multiracial individuals can relate to those words.
Huffington Post contributor Alexander Williams, who is biracial, thinks it might have something to do with the fact that both racial groups carry some sort of “baggage” with them. In a personal essay, he wrote what it means for him, to not be fully White or Black.
“When you don’t fit in, you’re forced to see things through multiple viewpoints and create a balance between how you are perceived and who you actually are,” Williams wrote. “Being multiracial forces you to move between different worlds, across categories and through all definition.”
Forming attitudes towards racial groups
Psychologist Allison L. Skinner, Ph.D. thinks that “attitudes toward interracial couples may not be as positive as they seem,” despite their recent increase in number. But based on her own research, the outcome looks different. In collaboration with fellow psychologist James Rae, the two analyzed implicit and explicit attitudes in regards to Black and White interracial couples, conducted from participants.
The difference between “explicit” and “implicit biases,” is that the first is controllable and intentional and the second is unconsciously held and problematic to control. However, implicit biases are usually something that have been socially embedded into the subconscious mind of the individual. It’s the way individuals have been raised. It usually does not reflect on someone’s personality or opinions, but can shape their attitude.
Hatred from Both Races
Williams mentions the time his parents spent in the late ‘80s, living in Burbank, California, before they got married and had kids. Although, the Golden State was filled with hippy communes and liberals, hatred was still a thing towards interracial couples. His parents would often get looks or racist comments from both races.
Nearly 40 years later, society still has an issue with interracial couples.
In 2016, in Olympia, Wash., a 33-year-old White man named Daniel B. Rowe stabbed an interracial couple.
The so-called “preference for whiteness thesis,” is a psychological and anthropological theory. The theory argues that humans unconsciously classify the world in two social groups. An in and an out group, which they use to organize their own behavior. It’s common that individuals prefer an in-group, that they favor, over an out-group that they reject. Which leads to a pattern of behavior regarding treatment of specific groups in different levels of social power, such as racial groups that can result in general social inequality. Individuals would pay attention to visual cues, and categorize them into in- and out-groups, by identifying someone as White or Black, and then deciding how they will be treated. Many individuals would be categorized by how “more White” and “less Black” they were. The more they’d fit in the all-White in-groups, the more benefits they’d receive, and get higher positions than their dark-skinned counterparts.
White or Black?
Studies focus on the connection between the preference of light-skinned African-Americans over dark-skinned African-Americans, as well as the difference in the economic point of view in regards to the disadvantages for African-Americans.
“The racism I receive as a Black man in the United States isn’t just an attack to the racial heritage I carry on from my Black ancestors,” Williams continued. “It’s an attack specific to my racial mixture – and I experience this racism not only as a Black man, but as a Native American and a European.”
Williams also mentioned that although his African-American background got him to be part of the Black culture, his good grades, and his love for rock music made him look White and therefore part of the out-group. His fellow Blacks called him an “Oreo” and not “Black enough.”
“The common thread that connects all mixed- race individuals is the inclusion and exclusion we receive from our communities,” Williams wrote, “and how we all navigate through our own individual paths toward identity, acceptance and freedom.”