Census: U.S. Biracial Figure Jumps 32% in 10 Years

Megan Schmidt, Holland Sentinel, September 27, 2011

When she got her first job in retail as a teenager, co-workers teased Latoya Gates for not knowing Spanish.

Her co-workers–and sometimes customers–assumed she was Latina because of the color of her skin. They judged her for not speaking the language they felt matched how she looked.

“One of my co-workers would always say, ‘You should know Spanish,'” Gates said. “I asked him why. I knew he was only saying this because he was mistaken about my racial identity. He wouldn’t believe me that I wasn’t Latina.”

Like an ever-growing number of Americans–Gates identifies as biracial. Her father is black and her mother is white.

The multiracial and multiethnic population is one of the fastest-growing demographics in the U.S. The 2010 U.S. Census showed 2.3 percent of Michigan residents defined themselves as two or more races, which is deceptively small–it’s a 19.7 percent increase from 2000.

Michigan’s biracial population is slightly below the national average, which was 2.9 percent of the population, or about 9 million people, according to 2010 Census data. That’s a 32 percent increase from 2000.

One in seven U.S. marriages in 2008 and 2009 was between people of different races or ethnicities, according to the Pew Research Center.

Looking back, Gates believes the misunderstandings and insensitive remarks made her more attune to others’ feelings about racial identity.

“I work with some Latino students now who don’t speak Spanish,” said Gates, assistant director of multicultural education at Hope College. “I empathize with their feelings of embarrassment and ‘not being Latino enough’ in a way I never could have, had I not faced similar prejudice.”

‘My identity is much stronger’

Even though she is biracial, Amy Otis-De Grau realized at an early age that strangers often saw only part of her ancestry.

Sitting on the school bus as a teen, she noticed another student staring at her. She asked the student if anything was wrong.

In response, the student asked: “Do you see as much as I do?”

“I was stunned,” said Otis-De Grau, 36. “I realized then that I couldn’t just blend in, but that people would always first see the Asian in me.”

Although her mother is Japanese-American, Otis-De Grau knew little about that part of her racial background growing up in Germany. Her father is of European ancestry and an American.

“My mom would cook some Japanese meals for us . . . but I didn’t necessarily associate it with my heritage,” Otis-De Grau said.

It wasn’t until after she moved to the U.S. and attended Hope College that she began to explore her Japanese ancestry.

“In college, one of my best friends was a Japanese-Italian-Irish guy from Hawaii. He could not believe how little I knew about my Japanese heritage,” she said. “At one point, he even jokingly said that I was a disgrace to the Asian race and that I needed to start figuring out who I truly was.”

After that, Otis-De Grau started to dig into her family’s history, which included relatives being forced into internment camps during World War II. She took a Japanese language course. She made several trips to Japan.

“My identity is much stronger today than when I was in college and, in part, it’s because I’m more comfortable with having multiple identities,” she said.

Otis-De Grau’s husband is Mexican, which means their future children will have even more cultures to explore.

“When people find out that my husband is from Mexico, they often talk about how cute our kids will be,” she said. “And then they start asking how we are going to raise them–speaking Spanish, English or German at home.”

The best of both worlds

In raising her 2-year-old son, Daniel, Sarah Salguera and her husband look for “teachable moments” when it comes to how his ethnicity compares to others. The U.S. Census categorizes Hispanic origin as an ethnicity, not a race.

“If we’re reading a book, we’ll point out the different races of people on the page,” said Salguera, 29. “His skin color is different than mine and different from his dad’s. We want him to know it’s something we’re comfortable talking about.”

Salguera is a South Haven native with German, Irish and English ancestry. Her husband, Francisco, is Nicaraguan. The two met when Salguera studied abroad. After Salguera graduated, the couple spent about three years in Nicaragua before moving to Michigan and marrying, she said.

Some people have been less than kind to her family in public, but racism is “not something you can nail down easily,” Salguera said.

“There are times when people have been extremely rude beyond all reason,” she said. “You notice it in the way someone yells at you if you’ve parked your car in the wrong place. We’ve had instances where we go out and people don’t react in a friendly way. Since I’m white, and I grew up in a white family, I never had to think about the fact that not everyone gets treated the way I do.”

Salguera credits the Institute for Healing Racism–a program examining the roots of prejudice–for helping her consider what life is like for her husband, an immigrant.

Since taking the course, Salguera accepted a position as program director of the Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance, host of the institute.

Whatever society’s view of multiracial or multiethnic families might be, “in our house, we celebrate it,” Salguera said.

“We can pick the positive things out of each of our cultures and integrate them into our lives,” she said. “We can have the best of both worlds.”

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  • Anonymous

    This is a classic example of how statistics, without lying, can be so misleading. You see a high percentage increase because the absolute numbers are so low.

  • Jason Robertson

    “Hybridization..is increasing today…because of the tendency of contemporary civilization toward the elimination of the spiritual and cultural barriers still effective in restraining hybridization…. Genetics will profit greatly by the study of these crossings, and they should be initiated before the phenomenon enters the phase of panmixia and precise analysis becomes difficult…. Such experimental enquiries can well reveal the hereditary dynamics that pathology identifies as characteristics of given races or subraces. See a paper by Saldanha (1962) as an example of the anthropological and medical malformations consequent upon immigration and a century of diverse crossings in a Brazilian rural community… The emphasis on panmixia tends, in fact, to result in a certain amount of counter-selection and of genetic disharmonies….

    “Racial and ecologic differentiation has in the past had a vast influence on the psychical life of a population, directing the selection of the mental and vocational traits that were fundamental in the development of civilization. The psychological aspect of the phenomenon of panmixia is thus worth investigating while it is still in the preliminary, verifiable phase…in an objective and calm manner….” – Dr Luigi Gedda, Director of the Gregor Mendel Institute (Rome)in “Race and Modern Science” (ed. R.E. Kuttner, NY 1967).

  • olewhitelady

    The term “biracial” is stupid when it applies to the offspring of an American black and a white person because nearly all American blacks are part white, and almost all simply don’t know what the percentage is! Many American blacks have Native American ancestry as well.

    One might be able to consider American blacks as forming an ethnic group. Then, a child of an American black and a white might be thought of as bi-ethnic.

    And speaking of stupid, who could believe that a girl named Latoya Gates was Hispanic?

  • Anonymous

    3 — olewhitelady wrote at 8:13 PM on September 28:

    The term “biracial” is stupid when it applies to the offspring of an American black and a white person because nearly all American blacks are part white, and almost all simply don’t know what the percentage is! Many American blacks have Native American ancestry as well.

    One might be able to consider American blacks as forming an ethnic group. Then, a child of an American black and a white might be thought of as bi-ethnic.

    ———————————————

    They DO have a name! It is MULATTO! NO, not bi-ethnic like you would like to have. Why would you want to change it?

    As for people saying that most American blacks have White blood and visa versa, I do not buy into that propaganda. It is only used to degrade Whites and make them think a lie. I see far too many black black people and no, they aren’t “immigrants”…

  • Anonymous

    Notice the Mullato has a white mother and black father and the “Eurasian” has an oriental mom and a white dad. Anyone see a familiar pattern here? And the radical egalitarians want us to believe race and gender are social constucts!

  • Mike H.

    @ 1

    I completely agree. A while back someone had pointed out that the percentage of whites in SA shot up by a larger percentage than any other racial group.

    When you looked at the absolute numbers, however – every other group gained massively more. It’s simply because there were so few whites that the “increase” looked so large when broken down into percentages.

  • olewhitelady

    #4 Anonymous:

    Stating that most American blacks have white blood is not propaganda. When do you ever hear contemporary liberals touting such a fact? They, instead, try to make a big deal out of their so-called biracials, like Obama for instance. And many thinkers in the Old South, for that matter, insisted that miscegenation caused lower intelligence and higher criminality among blacks. Black/white sex was highly condemned, but history tells us that it was common among white men and black women.

    If you look at most American blacks, they look markedly different than most Africans. Their average IQ is 85, while that of sub-Saharan Africans is 70. I’m sure DNA testing would prove a large influx of European heritage in the vast majority of American blacks.

    Mulatto, of course, is an acceptable and widely used term, when referring to someone of mixed black and white blood. It initially referred to a person who was half and half, but later was not that distinquishing. Bi-ethnic would refer to someone who simply has parents of two different ethnic groups. If two black parents have a child, that child would not be bi-ethnic, regardless of the degree of white blood either parent has.

  • Anonymous

    Most, if not all people are of mixed descent. It’s the immediate, first-generation biracials growing in disturbing numbers in one nation that is the problem. These people will be confused as to their identity and will feel out of place in their countries of birth. As such, they wont identify with it, and will naturally go against the conservative majority or the dominant ruling order of the nation and breed an endless cycle of social problems that will go on for generations.

  • The Bobster

    Black/white sex was highly condemned, but history tells us that it was common among white men and black women.

    _____________

    What history? Revisionist history from your communist professors?

    http://www.vdare.com/articles/strom-thurmond-really-was-exceptional

    Shriver’s team has found DNA evidence that the influx of white genes was fairly constant over the centuries. From that, we can roughly estimate the fraction of African-American women’s babies who were fathered by white men (assuming all the admixture was from white man-black woman matings, which isn’t true, but it’s close enough).

    If miscegenation has been going on for, say, 300 years, that’s 12 generations. If African-Americans are 18 percent white, you can divide by 12 generations to get a 1.5 percent influx of white genes per generation.

    Multiply that by two to get the male contribution, and you come up with this estimate: on average, three percent of African-American women’s babies were fathered by white men—about one out of 33. This is a very rough estimate, but it’s probably in the ballpark.

  • Anonymous

    8 — Anonymous wrote at 8:03 AM on September 29:

    Most, if not all people are of mixed descent.

    ———————————————————

    No, that is not true. Whites, for the most part are NOT of mixed racial descent, if that is what you mean. Whites intermixed with their own RACIAL group. Swedes, Germans, Norwegians, English, Nordic, Dutch, Irish, etc. That in no way makes them bi-racial.

  • Anne M.

    How many times do they have to use the nonsensical “best of both worlds” line to excuse and promote miscegenation? Not looking like either of your parents and being thought a foreigner in your own country is the “best of both worlds”? Being shoved into the identity of a race whose culture you don’t consider your own is the “best of both worlds”? I have nothing but disgust for such selfish, deluded parents to impose such a fate on their children.

    About most people being “mixed”: I might add that the “one drop rule” is a relatively modern phenomenon; quadroons and octoroons in the Antebellum South could be legally accepted as White. It’s only modern blacks who insist on claiming historical figures of this sort as merely “passing” for White, so they can claim their accomplishments as their own. Obviously this does not mean -most- Whites have black ancestry, but blacks are the only ones benefiting from nitpicking about who has the slightest percentage of black blood.

  • Anonymous

    To posts nos. 10 and 11: In a world where throughout history humans have immigrated throughout the globe for thousands of years, with the inevitable interbreeding that occurred; and at a time when it’s been revealed that Dick Cheney and Al Sharpton are related – you’re Stormfront “whites are simon-pure” ludicrousness is as pathetic as it is self-defeating. Tell me a person who can trace his ancestry back to 500,000 years and prove that each and every one of his ancestors interbred with his / her own kind and I’ll gladly agree to your arguments. Til then, I stick to my very obvious point.

    Just because a person looks white that doesn’t means he’s of purely european descent. And that goes on for other races. Do I have to mention this?

    Don’t be ridiculous.

  • Jason Robertson

    Skin color isn’t everything. I would prefer a Brahmin scientist or a Japanese musician to some white skinned moron as a dinner party companion, but that isn’t the major concern at present. (A eugenic policy WITHIN each “race” would be universally beneficial). It is often mechanically repeated, without complete and universal DNA data, that no population group is “pure”, and that the Queen of England, for example, counts Muhammad among her ancient ancestors. But so what? It is obvious that human population groups still share common characteristics that differ from other population groups, and the process of selective adaptation, as well as some migration and crossing, has gone on for a long time. Some groups are more polymorphic than others.

    The “racist” Japanese combine two related but different populations. Ditto the British combination of Nordic and Mediterranean strains. Homogeneity has been an asset to both island peoples.

    Some groups are more obviously of “mixed ancestry” than others; e.g. the Cape Coloureds (a biologically unstable community, whose health problems may have some genetic as well as environmental cause).

    But the “grand races” are still visible on the planet, and still worth preserving. For details, see Garn’s “Human Races”, Coon’s “Living Races of Man”, Baker’s “Race”, and Sarich & Miele’s “Race: The Reality of Human Differences” – just for starters.

    How wonderful these varieties are! Why should they be merged in a biological mess any more than animal breeds? The “white” race deserves at least as much specific protection as the “white” polar bear or “red squirrel”. No dog breed is “absolutely pure” but that is no reason to turn Borzois, Alsatians, Pekinese and Dachshunds into one huge mongrelised muddle.

  • Precision Poster

    9 — The Bobster wrote at 10:35 AM on September 29:

    Black/white sex was highly condemned, but history tells us that it was common among white men and black women.

    _____________

    What history? Revisionist history from your communist professors?

    http://www.vdare.com/articles/strom-thurmond-really-was-exceptional

    Shriver’s team has found DNA evidence that the influx of white genes was fairly constant over the centuries. From that, we can roughly estimate the fraction of African-American women’s babies who were fathered by white men (assuming all the admixture was from white man-black woman matings, which isn’t true, but it’s close enough).

    If miscegenation has been going on for, say, 300 years, that’s 12 generations. If African-Americans are 18 percent white, you can divide by 12 generations to get a 1.5 percent influx of white genes per generation.

    Multiply that by two

    Actually the Bobster is correct. There are a well documented books out there that give credence to this.

    Slumming,

    Interzones,

    Clinging to Mammy,

    At the Dark End of the Street.

    Sisters of the Yam

    Coming of Age in Mississippi

    and many others.

    You are correct Bobster.

  • Jason Robertson

    Surely it is well known among anthropologists (whatever their “political” orientation) that the socially, or legally defined, “black” population in the USA inherits some “white” and some “Amerindian” genes; and the percentages have been estimated in several textbooks.

    Of course, the anti-“racists” use this social, rather than biological, definition to assert (1) “race” is an illusion, and/or (2) “blacks” are (on average) as intellectually proficient as “whites”.

    Old Otto Klineberg at the London University Institute of Education way back in 1964 responded to a student, who asked whether climatic adaptation may have caused some intellectual differences between Africans and Europeans, by pointing to his head and rubbing his skin, saying there was no automatic linkage between brain and pigmentation. But this point has another implication. Average IQ and cranial formation are probably more closely connected than “mere” complexion; and there is a sharp difference between the original west African and north European skull shape. (As with opera singers, there are notable individual exceptions.)

    And as the late Glayde Whitney argued, some medical weaknesses within the visibly so-called “black” (in fact considerably mixed) population in the USA may be attributable to racial-genetic disharmony.