28 June 2015
Diversity: Categorizing Mixed Race
From birth, people are forced to identify as either black or white. Mixed race is not an option on birth certificates, educational, or government documents. Census forms are the only official documents that globally recognize mixed-race. Census statistics are incorrect due to a flawed system. Also, being categorized as either black or white, has detrimental effects mixed-race individuals in their education and overall life satisfaction. I believe that adding a mixed-race option to all official documents will lower Census discrepancies, decrease racial insecurities, and enable mixed-race people to live a healthier happier life.
From the teachings of a college level sociology class, it was explained that the categorization of people began with the introduction of the “one-drop rule”, introduced in the nineteenth century, as early as 1822, with white supremacy. This idea was made to identify any individual with one drop of black blood as black. This was a major factor in segregation. By identifying all blacks by one drop of blood, the government knew how to segregate people and more importantly who had rights; especially voting rights. “A paradox of the one-drop rule is that it is never a two way street” (Funderburg 13). The one-drop rule was adopted in Tennessee in 1910 followed by Virginia in 1924. The one-drop rule was abolished in 1967 with the court case Loving v. Virginia declaring the Racial Integrity Act. After the law was abolished, as taught in college courses, the categorizations remained on official documents for Census’s statistical count, which evaluates Federal population since 1790. When given the choice people chose not to identify as mono-racial as Townsend proved in her case study: “Study 1, mixed-race participants did not identify mono-racially as White.” (Townsend 5). Therefore, since the categorization began with a law that was abolished almost fifty years ago, the only reason to continue to categorize individuals is for a correct Census count.
There lies a problem within Census statistics being inconsistent. Census is the only form that globally recognizes mixed-race, “Although having parents of different racial and ethnic backgrounds has a long history in the United States, the 2000 Census was the first “official” opportunity for mixed-race individuals to identify as biracial or multiracial” (Townsend 1). Scholars argue: “Data prioritization practices conceal data about mixed-race/ethnicity people by funneling their data into single racial or ethnic categories during data preparation and analysis.” (Valles 4). It is hard to get an honest description of populations if school records only show black and white students. There are concern about government forms: Medicaid, food assistance benefits, and welfare benefit recipients are forced into a category of either black or white. Programs such as WIC and Section 8 also offer an option of black and white. Employees fill out an application for employment, background history, credit checks, insurance paperwork, 401K documents, and tax forms which indicate them as black or white. Although skeptics argue race is irrelevant for these types of forms, these numbers are alarming to the Census Bureau: “This indicates that providing resources for multiple race/ethnicity patient recording is insufficient for adequate collection” (Valles 5). It is impossible to keep track of mixed-race individuals on a demographic population chart if the information provided is flawed.
As a society, we have to think about what we are doing to the children of mixed race. Funderburg argues “tragic mulattoes [are] the perpetual victims of a racial polarized society” (Funderburg 10). From elementary school they are forced to identify as either black or white. Scholar’s research shows: “Consequently, mixed-race middle-class individuals may prefer to identify as biracial because the option enhances feelings of distinctiveness” (Townsend 7). If they do not choose to identify as a single race, they may feel isolated. These children, especially females, tend to isolate themselves because of low self-esteem and depression due loss of identity. The students that choose to identify as either black or white tend to feel the pressures of identity crisis at a later timer in life. This usually occurs as they enter college and the mixed race individual has to make new friends. They often feel lost and do not know who to identify with because they have identified with one race for so long. A mixed-race student usually has less social interaction, suffer more depression, and isolate themselves. Mixed race students have equal opportunity to join certain clubs in college that would benefit them socially but they rarely take it because they are worried if they will fit in.
In the field experience, a girl in the class expressed her loneliness because her mother was German and her father was Haitian. She said that she considered joining activities or a culture club but she felt that she was too dark to be German and too light to be Haitian, so her so she chose not to join anything. Now in her last semester, this student shyly admits to having made no friends in college, joining no clubs, and attending no events because she felt uncomfortable with who she is. Lack of social interaction causes depression. This could all be avoided if the option of mixed race was on official documents to be more openly accepted by others allowing individuals of mixed race to feel comfortable with who they are. People of mixed race do not want to be forced into a black or white category. These individuals need to have their own identity that they can proudly represent, from birth, on all legal forms.
Research, case studies, and field experience show that mixed-race individuals struggle more academically, socially, and in their profession career due to identity crisis. Skeptics may think that isolated students focus more on school but research shows that these individuals are more likely to suffer from depression. The symptoms include loss of interest in activities, change in sleep habits, loss of energy, and appetite changes. This is not a healthy lifestyle for a student. By adding a third category of mixed race to all official and government forms will help society grow. A mixed-race category will help get the statistics right, help validate identity of these individuals instead of forcing them into categories that causes emotional damage, and it may give the next generation of students a better overall life.
Brittian, Aerika S., Adriana J. Umana-Taylor, and Chelsea L. Derlan. “An Examination Of Biracial College Youths’ Family Ethnic Socialization, Ethnic Identity, And Adjustment: Do Self-Identification Labels And University Context Matter?.” Cultural Diversity & Ethnic Minority Psychology 19.2 (2013): 177-189. Academic Search Premier. Web. 14 June 2015
Funderburg, Lisa. Black, White, Other: Biracial Americans Talk about Race and Identity. Ed. Lisa Funderburg. New York: Quill 2014. 9-16. Print.
Ingram, Patreese, Anil Kumar Chaudhary, and Walter Terrell Jones. “How Do Biracial Students Interact With Others On The College Campus?.” College Student Journal 48.2 (2014): 297-311. Academic Search Premier. Web. 19 June 2015
Townsend, Sarah S. M., et al. “Being Mixed: Who Claims A Biracial Identity?.” Cultural Diversity & Ethnic Minority Psychology 18.1 (2012): 91-96. Academic Search Premier. Web. 7 June 2015.
Valles, S. A., R. S. Bhopal, and P. J. Aspinall. “Census Categories For Mixed Race And Mixed Ethnicity: Impacts On Data Collection And Analysis In The US, UK And NZ.” Public Health (Elsevier) 129.3 (2015): 266-270. Academic Search Premier. Web. 7 June 2015.