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The Myth of a Post-Racial Society

Publications like National Geographic and  TIME magazine have featured stories about racially-ambiguous people. These articles propose that not only will the new face of the United States be that of a mixed-race person, but our multiracial future will be devoid of racism. However, celebrating changes in racial identities without dismantling structural inequities is a problem, not a solution (The Atlantic). 

There were 33.8 million multiracial people in the U.S. population in 2020, a 276% increase since 2010. Although they represent 10% of the population, they are the country’s fastest-growing demographic, spanning multiple combinations of race and ethnicity. While a shift to a “minority white” population is projected for 2045, the largest multiracial pairings are between white people and another race (Census, Brookings). This includes people who self-identify as multiracial upon taking a genealogy test and discovering they are “97% white and 3% Black and Asian” (The Washington Post).

TAKE ACTION

• Donate to Project RACE, an organization advocating for multiracial people and for adding a “multiracial” option to any forms that require racial identification.

• Consider: How can celebrating mixed-race children or couples ignore or perpetuate anti-Black and racist ideas? Is waiting for demographic change an acceptable solution when confronted by oppression and systemic inequalities?

The growth in the multiracial population can be attributed to the Census adding space for people to explain their racial backgrounds and check off more than one race, which they couldn’t do before. 

The questionnaire changed because of the shift in how Americans viewed “race” and “ethnicity,” which caused people to be confused or excluded when answering the previous race and ethnic questions. For the agency, “these changes reveal that the U.S. population is much more multiracial and more diverse than what we measured in the past” (Census, Census).

But increased diversity doesn’t guarantee racial harmony or equality. And racial colorblindness doesn’t mean racism no longer exists.

Race plays a role in the everyday lives of multiracial people (Vox). Idolizing mixed-race Americans as the solution for racism disregards their struggles for acceptance. It also implies that racism exists solely on skin-deep biases and not deep-seated structural racism and inequities. It ignores how anti-Blackness and discrimination can coexist amongst communities of color, even shared ethnicities. 

Racist ideas permeate the idealization of mixed-race babies. Preferential treatment towards an ambiguous-looking baby with loose curls, fair or “caramel” skin, and blue or hazel eyes allows one to be “pro-diversity” while still aligning with whiteness. But not all mixed babies will fit this description. With racial fetishization, the unfavorable racial features of Black, Asian, and Indigenous people become more palatable or seen as “beautiful” and “exotic” when they are diluted with characteristics common to white people (Stylist).

Living in a more ambiguous-looking country doesn’t address racism. All the internalized racism and institutions created to oppress and discriminate against marginalized communities will still be present. Criteria of who gets to be the new white and the new Black might manifest using barely-outdated practices like the Brown Paper Bag Test, which stratified people by way of skin tone. Beyond racism, colorism measures the degrees of darkness in skin tones, glorifying those with a lighter tone. 

Opportunities to align with whiteness are rarely rejected. This happened in the late 19th century with Irish and Italian immigrants. Instead of building solidarity with Black people, they fought to be classified as white by U.S. standards, despite being considered racially inferior to Anglo-Americans and facing discrimination (The ARD). “Having fair skin made the Irish eligible to be white, but it didn’t guarantee their admission. They had to earn it” by joining in on the oppression of Black people (Z Magazine). The supremacy of whiteness depends on the oppression of another group of people. In the absence of an effort to repair the structural inequities created by white supremacy, we risk redefining the description of who gets oppressed.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

• Mixed-race people in the U.S. are its fastest-growing demographic.

• Black and Indigenous people in self-described “post-racial” societies still experience systemic and societal racism.

• A racially ambiguous country doesn’t actually address America’s racist, structural inequities.

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