Posted on October 19, 2012

The Postracial Elite

Stephen Marchie, Esquire, October 18, 2012

My best friend in high school — I’ll call him John Lee — had generous and loving parents who insisted on only one rule: John was going to marry a nice Chinese girl. The Lees were certainly not racist in any way that I could detect — John’s father helped teach me how to play xiangqi, and when I came over after school his grandmother, who spoke no English, would dole out endless bundles of sticky rice wrapped in banana leaf and gingerly pat me on the head as though I were a curious specimen of large dog. But the Lees did keep a small book in the house with a list of every gift they had ever given their children; all they asked for in return was Chinese grandchildren. Needless to say, I spent about three years covering for John, because the only women who interested him were white. I don’t pretend to know why the Lees craved that racial and cultural purity, but twenty years later it’s become evident that they were wrong, and not just in some vague, politically correct sense. John’s children would be richer if he married out rather than in, a part of the new emerging postracial elite.

Cultural and political mouthpieces have been forecasting — or warning about — the mixing of race via marriage for decades. And a recent study by the Pew Research Center indeed showed a marked rise in the number of intermarriages in America, from less than 7 percent in 1980 to more than 15 percent in 2010. The 2010 census showed an even sharper acceleration in the trend, with interracial couples constituting nearly 10 percent of American married couples, a 28 percent jump since 2000. But what nobody foresaw was the power and influence mixed families would wield. According to Pew, couples who marry out tend to be slightly wealthier and more educated than ones who marry in. More generally, biraciality has become a signifier of currency and prosperity. Just look at Mark Zuckerberg and his new wife, Priscilla Chan. Or Rupert Murdoch’s Wendi Deng, with her sweet right hook. Or George Soros’s fiancée, Tamiko Bolton. {snip} Now the percentage of Americans who feel that the rise of intermarriage has been a change for the better is 43 percent, with the number increasing to 61 percent for the under thirties.

It’s a shocking transformation when you consider the context: Being of mixed race, for most of American history, has been the ultimate state of pariahdom. The products of illicit relationships provided unimpeachable evidence of common humanity, violating the fundamental categories of blood and soil. They didn’t fit in the little boxes of antique society. But it is exactly those same realities today that mark the biracial as members of the new elite. They are inherently the product of the world between worlds, divorced from blood and soil, living proof of the postracial and even postnational state that we are morphing into at an ever faster rate.

They make a mockery of racial purity, which has been one of the world’s most toxic ideas even as it has been one of its most easily exploded. The wonderful PBS series by Henry Louis Gates Jr., particularly Faces of America and Finding Your Roots, have been extended demonstrations that virtually every identifiable group in America has always been in everybody else’s beds. The Anglo-Saxons are, even in their name, a mongrel people, comprised of the various tides of Celts and Danes and Angles and Saxons who charged around northern Europe massacring and screwing one another for a few centuries. Americans are the mongrels bred from these mongrels.

{snip} The number of people identifying themselves as belonging to more than one race jumped 32 percent over the past decade. The number identifying themselves as both black and white rose by a staggering 134 percent. That rise isn’t so much attributable to the rise of mixed-race people as it is to the number of people who choose to identify themselves as such. Biraciality is a desirable status. They know they are the future.

{snip} Japan, which has basically locked the door on outsiders, is now the world’s first geriatric nation: a nation of old Japanese men and women, with nobody left to care for them or to work. They are a warning to the world. The future — where we all will live whether we like it or not — is not closed. It is an amalgamated mix. Anyone too prejudiced or too stupid to deal with this fact will be left behind.