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Will multiracial individuals change the face of American society?

Facharbeit (Schule) 2018 23 Seiten

Amerikanistik - Kultur und Landeskunde



1 Preface

2 Interracial Marriage Then and Now
2.1 The History of Interracial Marriage
2.2 The Influence of Social Status on Intermarrying
2.3 A Rise in Interracial Marriages

3 Multiracial Individuals
3.1 A Bill of Rights for Racially Mixed People
3.2 The Importance of Discovering Ones Heritage
3.3 The Share of Different Multiracial Groups
3.4 The Increase in Multiracial People

4 Post-Racialism
4.1 The Characteristics of a Post-Racial Society
4.2 Ways of Measuring Tolerance
4.3 Post-Racial Attitudes among Multiracial Individuals

5 Conclusion

6 Sources

1 Preface

Nowadays' society is ever-changing, just like the individuals it consists of. And even though it is becoming even more diverse over time, the idea of equality for all people is still spreading. Ever since the founding of the USA racism has been a problem. Even considering the huge improvements that already took place, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done until the American society can be called post-racial.

When you take a closer look at the individuals you might notice that by now you cannot simply divide people into uniform ethnic groups like Asian, Caucasian or African American. There are also persons who belong to two or even more ethnic groups, so-called multiracial individuals. Those are, among other reasons, the result of interracial marriage, a marriage in which the two partners are of different racial origin.

In the past decades, there has been a notable increase in numbers of the said multiracial individuals. There are many factors adding into that which beyond other topics will be discussed in this term paper. For example, slavery and certain regulations prohibiting interracial marriage caused a rather low amount of multiracial population back in time.

In the past years, many multiracial individuals gained popularity in general media, such as actress Angelia Jolie with Caucasian and Native American heritage. It came to my attention that those celebrities often seem to be notably supporting several charities and have a generally very tolerant and accepting personality compared to others in their business.

With all these contributing factors one could suppose that, because of their mixed- race heritage and the discrimination they face, multiracial individuals might be less racist than the rest of the general public. If there is a link between one's race and racism - and whether or not this will help to shape a less racist future in the USA - will be the main question discussed in this term paper.

In order to address this topic, we first need to take a closer look at interracial marriages, in particular the history, in order to understand the basis on which the acceptance of multiracial individuals is built. Afterwards I will examine the role of one's social status when it comes to the decision whether or not a mixed-race couple should marry and how it affects their children. Lastly we need to take a look at the development in numbers regarding to new interracial marriages.

As we now know about the background of multiracial families, next I will address mixed race individuals themselves as the most important topic. In the beginning of this chapter I will take a closer look at the informal Bill of Rights for Racially Mixed People and its importance nowadays. Next we will examine the process of discovering the heritage of a mixed-race person and to which degree it is important for their life and personality development. To round this topic off I will examine different statistics on the numeral development of the multiracial population.

Finally I will move on to the matter of post-racialism. In the beginning I will explain what is unique about a post-racial society in order to present ways of measuring post-racial attitudes afterwards. It will clarify how you can gain data on the rather abstract topic of tolerance. Closing this topic off I will present the post-racial attitudes present among mixed-race individuals as well as how they perceive themselves. In the end I will sum up the information presented before in order to answer the main question of this term paper.

2 Interracial Marriage Then and Now

2.1 The History of Interracial Marriage

The roots of interracial marriage date back to the very beginning of the US. Even before the United States of America were founded there were regulations on racial mixing. Every state could decide on its own whether or not to introduce a legislation concerning this topic. The first law prohibiting interracial marriage dates back to 1662 and was enacted in Virginia. Other colonies soon followed this example.

Racial mixing back then mostly occurred among black and white people. As African Americans were held as slaves at this time, the laws mainly meant to prevent relationships among slaves and non-slaves. Thus, already in 1661 the Maryland statute came into effect declaring every intermarrying person enslaved.

Many states settled for similar regulations. Zabel (1965: 56) states that "[d]uring the nineteenth century [...] thirty-eight states prohibited interracial marriages". Even though many states repealed their laws over time, in 1951 it remained illegal to marry a person of a different race than your own in 29 states. The penalties reached from fines up to 10 years of imprisonment. Many partners were separated due to these regulations, but the most outstanding case was Loving v. Virginia in 1967:

The black-white couple Richard and Mildred Loving legally married in Washington D.C. but as soon as they returned to Virginia, their marriage was declared a crime. At first, they were sentenced to one-year imprisonment. The sentence was repealed afterwards though. Instead, they were told to not return to Virginia for 25 years. This case caused a sensation in the whole country, as a marriage legal in one state could simply be claimed invalid in another judged by the means of the spouses' race.

The Supreme Court never ruled on the topic of intermarriage, which led to many similar incidents. As a result of the Loving v. Virginia case, many states repealed their laws on interracial marriage. The last one to do so was Alabama in 2000.

The fact that interracial marriage has been prohibited or even penalized for an incredibly long time period shows, that interracial families have experienced discrimination and suffered from racism towards their mixed-race families from the very beginning.

2.2 The Influence of Social Status on Intermarrying

The social class one lives in is a determining factor for the whole life. As segregated neighborhoods are still widespread, interracial couples are often confronted with the decision whether to live in an all-white or all-black district. Social status is an important factor for some couples when it comes to this choice. It appears that working-class black-white couples prefer to live in black areas as they feel more accepted in these surroundings. On the other hand, upper to middle-class interracial couples rather settle in white neighborhoods.

Once they decide on where to live, interracial families often face the question if their mixed-race child should attend schools with a majority of black or white students. This decision affects the child in many different ways. As they socialize with different groups, they adopt different attitudes, face discrimination or experience acceptance simply based on the school-choice. Of course, their private surroundings play an important role in this experience as well.

The opinions on intermarrying among the races are fairly different. Some Caucasian people even view interracial marriage as a loss of status, as African Americans are often perceived to have a lower social class. Childs (2010: 24) states that because of a "lack of social acceptance [...] and overall lower quality of life" white people often desist from engaging in interracial relationships. African Americans, on the other hand, argue that successful black people take their wealth into white communities and provide a "devaluation of black people" (Childs 2010: 24). These attitudes once again display that racism is still an issue in nowadays' society.

Overall the social circumstances of interracial couples play an important role in their experience with racism as different environments come with various factors that influence their mindset. It changes the way they perceive the race of others or even their own and the attitudes they pass on to their children later in life.

2.3 A Rise in Interracial Marriages

As discussed in 2.1, the number of interracial marriages increased very fast because of the fact that regulations were preventing it some ‘ntermarr>a^ centuries ago. In 1967, when Loving v. Virginia took place, only 3% of all marriages were among partners of a different race. In about 50 years this number increased by a multiple of about five up until 17% in 2015. This might not sound much, but even in 1965, Andrew D. Weinberger estimated that around 190,000 known mixed-race marriages existed and about 810,000 white-passing black-white marriages took place (see Zabel 1965: 61).

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

These sum up to one million interracial couples even back then, concluding now there are several million of them. If these couples get children, they of course are multiracial. The next chapter will take a closer look at those individuals and the challenges they face.

3 Multiracial Individuals

3.1 A Bill of Rights for Racially Mixed People

From a personal place of struggle, in 1992 Maria P. P. Root created the unofficial Bill of Rights for Racially mixed people. The author herself was unsuccessful in trying to fit in the established system of race when she decided to set these guidelines. It has the purpose to give oppressed multiracial individuals a voice but also shows the ambition to change something about the persisting racial discrimination. In the way the Bill of Rights is written it concludes as well that multiracial individuals face prejudice and hatred, but also that they are willing to stand up for their rights and try to make the world more tolerant.

Actually, the Bill of Rights is part of the American constitution and consists of 10 amendments. Those contain the most important laws like freedom of speech and were first written down in 1789.

This informal Bill of Rights is divided into three paragraphs Resistance, Revolution and Change. I will analyze one rule of each paragraph in order to point out important aspects of the multiracial experience with discrimination and specify the change Root wants to create.

Resistance: "I have the right not to keep the races separate within me." (Root 1992:121)

This quote refers to the erasure and invalidation of multiracial identities and shows that people of two or more races are often forced to choose one race for themselves. Root wants to break this system and end the discrimination by acknowledging and validating multiracial identities. It is often harmful to multiracial individuals when their race is reduced to one single ethnicity when they are actually proud of their mixed-race heritage. This guideline shows that nonetheless they are allowed to feel pride in their identity.

Revolution: "I have the right to identify myself differently than strangers expect me to identify" (Root 1992: 121)

Many multiracial individuals can be perceived as white-passing. This means that, even though they have a mixed heritage, their outer appearance matches a certain race, in this case, Caucasian. By stating this rule, Root acknowledges that a person can identify as multiracial, even if their appearance doesn't match their race according to societies' norms.

Change: "I have the right to have loyalties and identify with more than one group of people." (Root 1992: 121)

With this statement, Root wants to achieve no more separation among different social groups. Due to the one drop rule, back in time mixed-race individuals were forced to identify as one racial group, for the most part the minority. Even though this rule was abolished already the separation is still present in many people. By stating this rule, the author wants to stress that a change of this mindset is long overdue. Multiracial individuals can be the contact persons between various racial groups and help to build a connection between them. As this category is named change, this is a condition she wants to reach in the future. It shows that being multiracial can be important for the development of society. It is also important to note that this change cannot only be accomplished by multiracial individuals but that they can contribute to this.

In order to get a sense of belonging after all, the mixed-race person has to decide which racial group they feel connected to. The development of the journey of choosing the identity that suits them will be discussed in the following chapter.



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Titel: Will multiracial individuals change the face of American society?