Jeff Yang I’ve been deeply intrigued by the implications of multiracialism on race. We’re rapidly entering a period in our national history where race and ethnicity no longer fit the boxes we’ve conventionally assigned them to (if they ever really did, as more than clumsy shorthand). Our first black president is also our first multiracial president, and our first Third Culture Kid president [since he grew up outside his parents’ culture]. The president has consciously claimed black identity (and told the story of that process), but he has also at varying times claimed Pacific identity, from his upbringing in Hawaii; Desi identity, from his close friendships with South-Asian Americans and perhaps his years in Indonesia, though that doesn’t entirely factor; and white, lower-middle-class descent. What’s interesting is that none of these are actually contradictory to his personal narrative. And we’re seeing more and more people for whom that is true. Are we finally seeing, not an erasure of race, but a divorcing of racial identity from racial origin/phenotype?
Raquel Cepeda In 2050, we’ll be casting a wide net when apologizing to Latino/Latina-Americans for sticking to archaic black-white paradigms when reporting race. In fact, we won’t have enough rope left on earth to create a net wide enough. We’ll probably still not know who exactly we are talking about, since the largest news networks won’t be able to stop cramming us into checkboxes. Perhaps we’ll apologize for not recognizing the class, biological, and phenotypical diversity that exists within this group.
By 2050, Latinos, born liminal by definition (mixed-race, regardless of phenotype), will have become so used to negotiating being in racial limbo (by American standards/constructs), that we’ll likely take over the media. This person will be a woman and my descendant, and her name will be Arianita Huffinguez. Seriously, though, we need to deconstruct race, in order for it not to “matter” anymore—but that takes time and effort and work and inclusion.
Latoya Peterson I’m with Jeff—the very way we identify race and racial boundaries is changing before our eyes. All the racial constructs are flawed—they are our attempts to make our complicated histories fit somewhere. But reality continually changes—and our understanding of that reality and our identity changes as well. So I would not be surprised to see news outlets in 2050 finally being forced to tackle many of these questions head-on, as the idea of a “neutral” white default erodes. And this will be good—in many ways, increased racial awareness will force people to confront their own internalized biases about what “black” consumers, “Latino” consumers, “Asian” consumers want, and instead remember that each set has dozens of factions.
I think news consumers in 2050 will be amazed at how little voices of color participated in national conversations, and how limited the perspectives truly were. And I would expect strong, passionate conversations on national identity, as all the different Americas have to converge at some point.
Jeff Yang Raquel, the racialization of Hispanics (defying the whole “Hispanics can be of any race” line) is already happening. Multicultural MONITOR’s demo question bank, like the Census, asks about Hispanic ethnicity first and then for a racial identification (white, black, Asian, Native American, other). The percentage of respondents to the survey who declare themselves Hispanic and do not claim any (other) race is significant—over 20 percent—and rising.
Raquel Cepeda Jeff, from my own reporting on the subject and personal background, I have found that the racial line is left blank in many cases (or, alternatively, I’ve known people who have checked every racial box), because Latino immigrants and their children are looking at the question [through] a different lens than we do here in the States.
June Cross [Looking back from 2050,] we will have missed the nuances of race and ethnicity. When I get together with my Latino friends, they talk about how different their individual cultures are: Mexican, Dominican, Puerto Rican, Colombian, and Guatemalan [cultures] not only have different holidays and use the same word to connote different things; they also speak Spanish in different accents. The cities that receive immigrants are creating a melting pot of Latin America that I haven’t seen reported at all in mainstream press. Ditto for the immigrant flow from Africa and the West Indies. Further, in the press’s binary paradigm, undocumented immigrants are rarely Russian, Eastern European, Canadian, Irish—even though their ranks also fill immigration detention centers.