Has multiracial identity become more accepted?

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

When I first moved to the U.S. and people asked me why my last name was Van Kerckhove, I would go into the whole explanation about how my mom is Hong Kong Chinese and my dad is Belgian. After I answered the question in detail, inevitably people would reply: “Oh. So you’re really just Asian then.”

I realized then how uncomfortable Americans were with the idea that you could be more than one thing at the same time. Eventually I also learned about the one drop rule and how deeply ingrained that mentality was in this country.

The clips above are from the workshop Cute But Confused: Myths and Realities of Mixed Race Identity. When Jen and I started New Demographic in 2004, one our primary goals was to dispel common stereotypes of multiracial people as being confused about their identity, trying to escape racism, trying to be white, and so on.

Since then, I’ve noticed that while those stereotypes still persist — ahem, see this or this thread for instance — overall, there seems to be less resistance to people identifying as multiracial.

Multiracial folks, what do you think? Do you get less pushback now than maybe 5 or 10 years ago when you identify as mixed, biracial, or multiracial? Are there any differences in the reactions you get?

A story in today’s New York Times explores how multiracial folks are identifying with Obama’s frank discussion of his own racial background:

Being accepted. Proving loyalty. Navigating the tight space between racial divides. Americans of mixed race say these are issues they have long confronted, and when Senator Barack Obama recently delivered a speech about race in Philadelphia, it rang with a special significance in their ears. They saw parallels between the path trod by Mr. Obama and their own.

…Carmen Van Kerckhove, a diversity consultant who runs a blog on race and popular culture, racialicious.com, said she doubted that the uproar that greeted Tiger Woods when he described himself as “Cablinasian” (for heritage that includes Caucasian, black, American Indian and Asian) in 1997 would be as strong today.

“When you’re multiracial, you can be several things at the same time,” said Ms. Van Kerckhove, 30, who is white and Asian and has endorsed Mr. Obama on her blog for moving the race debate away from “who’s black and who’s white, or who’s a victim and who’s an oppressor.”

Unfortunately, Ms. Van Kerckhove added, suspicions persist about the motivation of people who identify themselves as mixed race. Many people, she said, wonder, “Are multiracial people trying to be multiracial as a way to escape racism?”