Addressing biracial issues in workplace
Using information from the article by Wright et al., and other sources, describe the major issues, themes, needs and challenges that biracial individuals face.
Identify effective interventions for biracial individuals in the workplace.
Describe how biracial individuals are similar to and different from other groups.
Describe what current researchers say about these issues.
Apply your findings to how these issues and ideas support cultural sensitivity and positive interactions in the workplace.
Discuss how these findings promote fair and equal treatment and consideration for the biracial individual.
Further, can you address the issue of the term "biracial" in your response.
This question has the following supporting file(s):
- Cross Racial Lines.pdf
700 word summary of the article attached about Biracial Perspectives and Issues including additional references.
This answer includes:
- Plain text
- Cited sources when necessary
- Attached file(s)
- brainmass biracial issues.doc
- biracial issues revised.docx
Active since 2010
Extracted Content from Question Files:
- Cross Racial Lines.pdf
Progress in Human Geography 27,4 (2003) pp. 457–474
Crossing racial lines: geographies
of mixed-race partnering and
multiraciality in the United States
Richard Wright,1* Serin Houston,1 Mark Ellis,2
Steven Holloway3 and Margaret Hudson3
1Department of Geography, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH 03755-3571, USA
2Department of Geography and Center for Studies in Demography and Ecology,
Box 353550, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA
3Department of Geography, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602-1502, USA
Abstract: This review highlights geographical perspectives on mixed-race partnering and
multiraciality in the United States, explicitly calling for increased analysis at the scale of the
mixed-race household. We begin with a discussion of mixed-race rhetoric and then sketch
contemporary trends in mixed-race partnering and multiraciality in the US. We also weave in
considerations of the public and the private and the genealogical and social constructions of
race. Our challenges to current thought add to the landscape of scholarship concerned with
race and space. By presenting mixed race in fresh ways, we offer new sites for intervention in
this evolving literature.
Key words : mixed-race partnering, multiraciality, mixed-race household, race, scale.
How does n ewness come into the world? H ow is it b orn? Of what fusions, translations, conjoinings is it made?
How d oes it survive, extreme and dangerous as it is? W hat compromises, what deals, what betrayals of its s ecret
nature m ust it make to stave off the wrecking crew, the exterminating angel, the guillotine?
(Salman Rushdie, Satanic v erses, 1988: 8 )
We begin this essay by appending Rushdie’s well-known rhetorical questions with the
additional query: ‘where?’ Where does newness enter the world? Where is it born and
by what processes? Where does it survive and flourish and where is it challenged?
*Author for correspondence (e-mail: email@example.com).
© Arnold 2003 10.1191/ 0309132503ph444oa
458 Geographies of mixed-race partnering and multiraciality in the US
Reworking Rushdie’s questions in these ways enables us to conceptualize newness as
it relates to scholarship concerned with race and space. We use this frame to survey the
literature and direct attention to new research questions on mixed-race partnering and
multiraciality. Previous studies tend to emphasize either the scale of the body
(corporeal dimensions of mixed-race identity) or the structural forces (such as
residential or workplace organization) that contribute to mixed-race partnering. Few
investigators question what happens once people create a mixed-race household or
how a shift in scale might uncover different racial geographies. In other words, few
people ask where mixed-race partners live, how these residential decisions are made,
how place affects the identities of multiracial children, or what racial identities emerge
in mixed-race households.
Of course, spatial analysis of mixed-race partnering, multiraciality and households is
not entirely new (e.g., Peach, 1980; Wong, 1999). Still, the racialized household remains
underexamined. In speaking to this absence, this essay culminates with the argument
that the household is a key geographical scale that links bodies to broader geographic
contexts, especially neighborhoods. Neighborhoods are homes to not only mixed-race
households but also multiracial people. Scholars often assume, however, that bodies
and households are monoracialized. We stress in this paper that both households and
bodies can be plural, mixing up commonplace notions of segregation, integration and
diversity. Thus part of this paper is a call to researchers to re-evaluate and re-imagine
linguistic, physical and theoretical conceptions of singularly ‘black’ , ‘white’, or ‘Asian’
bodies, households and parts of town.
We begin our essay with a discussion of racial discourse, wherein our language
choices correlate with scale, and then review the contemporary literature on multiscalar
trends in mixed-race partnering and multiraciality in the US. We acknowledge that
these geographies derive from a complicated history of racial mixing in the US where
the black-white color line commands center stage (e.g., Sollors, 2000; Tyner and
Houston, 2000; Kennedy, 2003). Mutually reinforcing systems of patriarchy, race and
class often drove many whites to maintain their social, political and economic
advantage through vilifying any person who transgressed this color line (e.g., Moran,
2001). This context shapes contemporary geographies. Its full exploration, however, lies
beyond the scope of this review.
Our accent on current racial mixing means that we consider mixed-race options in
addition to the black-white union. By redirecting attention in this way, we hope to
deflate the hierarchical structure that privileges whites as the main group with whom
mixing occurs; this in turn renders deepened understandings of whiteness itself.
Analyses at the national and regional scales open the section on contemporary trends.
We then move on to multiracial identities, embodied in literal and metaphorical
corporeal cartographies, and close by arguing for greater attention to the mixed-race
The inspiration for our review derives from several key political and social moments.
Early twentieth-century shifts in immigrant origin countries and the 1967 US Supreme
Court decision in Loving v. Virginia dramatically changed race relations in the United
States. Starting in the 1950s, the balance of immigration to the US from non-European
countries relative to European countries and Canada has progressively tipped in favor
of immigrants from Mexico, Central and South America and Asia (Rumbaut, 1996).
New immigration laws in the mid-1960s also paved the way for significant increases in
Richard Wright et al. 459
the number of immigrants entering the US. Around the same time, Loving v. Virginia
struck down remaining anti-miscegenation laws, thus lifting the political and legal pro-
hibitions placed upon mixed-race partnering. Consequently, in the last few decades, the
increasingly diverse US population has had new legal freedoms for crossing racial lines.
As a result, the rate of mixed-race partnering has risen consistently for almost all groups
(e.g., Eschbach, 1995; Nash, 1995; US Bureau of the Census, 1998; Root, 2001).
Changes in immigration laws and the legalization of mixed-race partnering inspired
Time magazine to print a special issue in 1993 called ‘The New Face of America’ . This
edition signaled a new popular awareness of mixed race based on a computerized trope
of the Melting Pot (see Chavez, 2001: 63– 64). It also carried with it a set of apprehen-
sions about US racial futures. The cover of the issue featured a computer-generated
image of a ‘multiethnic’ woman’s face that Time called ‘the New Eve’. The face
represented the blending of elements from six different racial and ethnic groups: Anglo-
Saxon, Middle Eastern, African, Asian, Southern European and Hispanic. The editors
commented: ‘[L]ittle did we know what we had wrought. As onlookers watched the
image of our new Eve begin to appear on the computer screen, several staff members
promptly fell in love. Said one: “It really breaks my heart that she doesn’t exist.” We
sympathize with our lovelorn colleagues, but even technology has its limits. This is a
love that must forever remain unrequited’ (Time, 1993: 2). On the one hand, then, the
special issue celebrated multiraciality by claiming that the country was becoming
multiracial, that multiracial people were among us and that the melting pot was
simmering. On the other, the image on the cover showcased not only the woman’s mul-
tiraciality but also her sex, and was cast(e) as exotic, impossible to achieve and therefore
all the more desirable. Moreover, the essays that followed anxiously forecasted the
eventual minoritization of ‘whites’, highlighted the need to reinforce ‘American’
moralities and eroticized otherness. Time publicly attempted to celebrate assimilation
and calm fears about difference, and yet its articles also reflected persistent private
ambivalences regarding multiraciality and racially inflected societal change.
The writers in Time contributed to other considerations of race, too, particularly in the
field of race classification. In 1997, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB)
revised its famous 20-year-old Directive 15 (which established monoracial categories
for data collection), granting the option of multiple-race responses for the 2000 Census
and other Federal forms (see Perlmann, 1997; Spencer, 1999). The United States has
always tinkered with race classifications in the Census, but this recent revision went
further by allowing individuals for the first time to claim more than one race. Although
debates over demographic enumeration, civil rights, racial projections and multiracial
identity predated and motivated this policy shift, the OMB’s rewriting ushered in new
opportunities for political action, legal battles and scholarly inquiry (e.g., Goldberg,
1997; Anderson and Fienberg, 1999; Allen and Turner, 2001; Ellis, 2001).
The debate over race classification resonates in both public and private ways. In the
US, race functions predominantly as a socially constructed category imbued with
power (cf. Tyner, 2002) that, in turn, hierarchically and very publicly organizes
differently racialized groups.1 The social distinction of whiteness, for example, carries
with it a public and private position of power and privilege. For people without this
racial identity, whiteness represents social, political, economic and spatial advantage
(Roedigger, 1991; Allen, 1994; 1997; Delgado and Stefancic, 1997; Warren and Twine,
1997; Lipsitz, 1998; Hartigan, 2000). Whiteness functions, then, as invisible and
460 Geographies of mixed-race partnering and multiraciality in the US
normative. In contrast, non-white identities are subject to public scrutiny, monitoring
and disciplining. This axis of power reproduces race, at the national scale, in ‘the service
of economic and social privilege’ ; it also indicates that, ‘at a personal level, race is very
much in the eye of the beholder ’ (Root, 1992: 4). As the ‘process of racial labeling starts
with geography, culture, and family ties and runs through economics and politics to
biology’ (Spickard, 1992: 16), everyone’s racialized identity has an individual (private)
genealogy too. We can look to our ancestors, assess their racial backgrounds and then,
according to a conception of blood, establish our personal racial identities.
Race as social construct and race as genealogy apply and matter at a multitude of
scales. This essay foregrounds the household because previous research either skips
this scale or fails to situate mixed-race households in space. The household as
monoracial incubates the idea of singular races and identities. The mixed-race
household challenges all this because public and private discourses of mixed race come
together here. Such unions, after all, are where newness can enter the world.
‘In race matters, words matter too’:2 the language of mixed race
Inasmuch as visual imagery, such as Time’s cover, communicates racialized thoughts
and perceptions, language is the main medium through which we express and convey
racial identities and stereotypes (Chavez, 2001: 35). Language shapes (mixed) racial
formation (Omi and Winant, 1994) through affording common idioms and facilitating
discussion. It is fraught, though, with multiple meanings and situation-dependent
(mis)understandings. Wu (2002: 22), for example, describes a personal moment when
the word ‘jap’ moved from being a derogatory term for the Japanese to stand for the
insult ‘Jewish American Princess’. He notes that in different times and places words
take on different derogatory connotations. Such variation both produces barriers to
effective sharing of racial research and knowledge and illustrates the contextuality of
Historically, amalgamation commonly described racial or ethnic sexual mixing in the
US and Europe. By the 1830s, amalgamation became a pejorative term to describe black-
white sexual and social relations in the US (Harris, 1999: 191). In 1864, miscegenation
supplanted amalgamation in common discourse through a political hoax aimed at
undermining President Lincoln’s re-election bid. In late 1863 a pamphlet, entitled
Miscegenation: the theory of the blending of the races, applied to the American white man and
negro , appeared on newsstands. The anonymous authors (later revealed to be David
Croly along with George Wakeman, Copperhead [zealous, pro-slavery Democrats]
journalists from the New York World) coined miscegenation from the Latin miscere – to
mix – and genus – race. Among a litany of ideas, the authors stated that Lincoln, evident
in his emancipation proclamation, only passively supported amalgamation and failed
to see the economic, biological and moral imperative of ‘miscegenation’ . Croly and
Wakeman argued that, if the human race were to survive, racial mixing had to happen,
as ‘the miscegenetic or mixed races are much superior, mentally, physically, and
morally, to those pure or unmixed’ (Croly, 1863: 8–9). This critique came at a pivotal
moment as the Civil War raged and Lincoln worried about his prospects for re-election.
The miscegenation debate splashed into national politics on 17 February 1864, when
Samuel Cox, the leading Lincoln opponent, attacked the Republican Party, accusing it
Richard Wright et al. 461
of now ‘supporting’ ‘miscegenat ion’. F rom February through to the election,
newspapers of all political persuasions ran editorials, articles and debates on misce-
genation. Despite the heated dialogue, Lincoln won re-election and the word misce-
genation found a place in our lexicon (Bloch, 1958; Kaplan, 2000; Saks, 2000). The mis-
cegenation ruse reveals the power present in the mixing of politics, sex, language and
Miscegenation is fading from usage, and intermarriage, the umbrella term for racial
mixing, has become convention.3 Some scholars employ the terms exogamy and
endogamy or in-group and out-group relations instead of intermarriage (Kalmijn, 1998;
Jasso et al., 2000; Kalmijn and Flap, 2001). Other recent literature spools out references
to mixed parentage, mixed heritage, interracial, mulatto/a, mestiza/ o, metis/ se, creole,
colored, mixed racial descent, mixed origins, dual heritage, dual parentage, biracial,
multiracial, multiethnic, half-caste, half-breed, hybrid, mongrel and so on. We settle on
terms that mark and correspond to several scales of racial mixing. At the scale of the
mixed-race pair, we prefer the term ‘partnership’ because it includes those who are
married, same-sex couples and people in cohabiting relationships. We use ‘mixed race’
at this scale because it centers attention on the process of racialization. Specifically, it
‘presumes differently racialized parentage’ (Ifekwunigwe, 2001: 46), or as Tyner and
Houston (2000: 390) phrase it ‘multiracialized sexual relations’. At the scale of the body,
we invoke ‘multiracial’ when describing the children of mixed-race partnerships. These
offspring literally embody blended strands of differently racialized parentage and
experience different, contextually dependent, types of racialization. Mixed-race part-
nerships and multiracial children live in an assortment of arrangements within
mixed-race households. The expression ‘household’ expands on ‘partnership’ and
provides increased latitude in understanding residential choice, identity formation and
Mixed race is the preferred language of scholars and researchers in Britain, used to
describe both the children of mixed-race partners and the couples themselves. Critics
claim that this usage refers exclusively to black-white mixed people. Mahtani and
Moreno (2001) argue, for instance, that this connotation precludes the term from being
inclusive or accurate. They suggest that such a definition marks all British mixed
people’s identities as white-black. Thus, they call for either a recasting of the term
mixed race (particularly within Britain) or a switch to the more inclusive term of
multiethnic. In the Canadian context, Mahtani (2001a: 173) uses the term multiethnic,
rather than multiracial, because the socially constructed nature of race can ‘obscure, and
sometimes even prevent, promising epistemological and pedagogical analyses of
racialized experiences’ . Recently, though, Mahtani moved from using multiethnic to
‘mixed race’ in her work on identity because she is ‘more concerned with informants’
own participation in the ongoing process of the constitution of subjectivity within the
rigid restraints of racialized hierarchy’ (Mahtani, 2001b: 304) as ‘the way they
[informants] saw themselves was a very important part of their social identity’
(Mahtani, 2002: 440). Clearly Mahtani is not entirely settled in her language choices,
perhaps because of the changing contexts of her work.
Some social scientists remain suspicious (rightly in our view) about granting too
much credence to ethnicity. Koshy (2001), for example, warns against the displacement
of race vocabularies with a renewed focus on ethnicity. Similarly, Tizard and Phoenix
(2002: 4) note that people who share an ethnic background, that is related histories,
462 Geographies of mixed-race partnering and multiraciality in the US
languages, cultures and religions, might not have the same skin color. Omi and Winant
(1994: 23) add that ‘the majority of Americans cannot tell the difference between
members of these various [ethnic] groups. They are racially identified . . .’. They further
state that ‘we utilize race to provide clues about who a person is’ (1994: 59, italics in the
original). Stereotypes and other forms of social subordination often stem from skin
color not ethnic background. Thus, we, like others, prefer the term race to ethnicity
(Anderson, 2002; Tizard and Phoenix, 2002).
No expression, including ‘mixed race’, is free from possible pejorative interpretation.
We acknowledge that the term might suggest the existence of discrete racial categories.
We also know that ‘mixed’ carries in some quarters a politics of demonization and
punishment. We stand up to this history and intentionally recast this phrase because,
for us, ‘mixed’ explicitly acknowledges prior racialization. The term ‘mixed race’ may
fix an inherently mobile concept but it allows us to linguistically depict a union of two
differently racialized individuals.
III ‘It ain’t where you’re from, it’s where you’re at’:4 contemporary mixed-race
We use scale as the organizing theme in this part of the review. Much of the work
coming from demography and population geography on mixed-race partnering and
multiraciality privileges broad regional or national patterns. These works tend to focus
on gathering and producing racial statistics, sometimes at the expense of detailed expla-
nations of process. Educational attainment, population density and white baselines
surface again and again in this research; our review of this literature reflects these
trends. Feminist and poststructural research on multiraciality provides less aggregate
and thus more nuanced readings of racialized identity construction. This work,
however, tends to concentrate on the body, often leaving invisible the mixed-race
household. Accordingly, we highlight questions emerging from the mapping of mixed-
race households onto neighborhood geographies. In so doing, we anticipate that we
will be able to ‘scale up’ the insights of research on the body through the household
while at the same time ‘scaling down’ the gaze of spatial demography and population
geography to view neighborhood and household racial geographies in new ways. This,
we hope, will provide a fertile ground for fruitful engagement with geographies of
Coarse-scale mixed-race projects:5 the region and the nation
Generation, gender, place of birth, human capital and nativity all bear on regional and
national patterns of mixing. Few extensive in-depth regional studies, however, have
been conducted since T. Monahan’s (1970; 1971; 1976; 1977) explorations of mixed-race
marriage. Given the changes in the number and proportions of mixed-race partnerships
in the last 25 years, the time is ripe for a renewed research effort. Between 1960 and 1992
mixed-race marriages grew from about 0.4% to 2.2% of all marriages 6 (US Bureau of the
Census, 1998). If we count Hispanics as a racialized minority then almost 5% of all
marriages crossed racial lines in 2000. Not surprisingly, between 1980 and 1990, the
Richard Wright et al. 463
percentage of non-Hispanic whites that out-married tripled. Blacks recorded a similar
rate of change: 2.2% to 5.8%. For those identifying themselves as Hispanic, out-
marriage rose from 13% of all marriages to 19%. In 1990, almost 60% of all American
Indians out-partnered; they, along with Hawaiians (52.4%), were the racial group most
likely to out-marry. Only the Asian rate of out-marriage declined in this decade, shifting
down noticeably from 25% to 15% of all marriages (Lee and Fernandez, 1998: 328).
The 1970 US Census showed that 35% of married American Indian women partnered
with white men and 2.3% partnered with black men. American Indian men chose white
wives 33.4% of the time; 1.3% of them married black women (Roberts, 1994: 63).
Breaking down the Native population into tribes, Wong (1999: 35, Table 1), using
unpublished US Bureau of the Census data, observed that Cherokee, Chippewa, Navajo
and Choctaw tribes out-married with people from other tribes with the greatest
frequency, whereas Sioux rarely partnered with non-Sioux people. American Indians in
small tribal groups tended to form mixed-race households with whites in greater
numbers, primarily because of the pool of available partners (Wong, 1999: 35). Of the
84,000 or so recorded marriages for American Indians in the Southwest in 1990, for
example, only 16% were with a non-Native partner. In contrast, 82% of the 39,442
unions in the Midwest were with a non-Native partner (Eschbach, 1995: 95). The
progeny of such racial crossings command a significant presence, as multiracial
individuals claiming both white and American Indian ancestry in the 2000 Census are
the largest group of biracial persons in the US (Allen and Turner, 2001).
The majority of out-marriages involving Asians occurs between native- and foreign-
born Asian women (of different ethnicities) and white men (Goldstein, 1999: 401),
indicative of relatively small social distance between these groups. This trend also
depends on location as Asian women disproportionately reside in large metropolitan
areas, places where highly educated white men also tend to be overrepresented (Lee
and Fernandez, 1998). Using 1990 Census data, Qian (1999: 588) found that mixed-race
partnering rates between Asians and whites had a direct correlation with educational
attainment. White men who completed college were 3.5 times more likely to marry an
Asian woman than those who had less than a high-school diploma. Surprisingly, these
better-educated men were 34% more likely to be less educated than their Asian wives.
These high rates for college-educated white males may be associated with interactions
that take place in academic settings, residential neighborhoods and workplaces but, as
far as we know, these hypotheses remain understudied. College-educated white
women were 3.7 times more likely to marry Asian men than their high-school-educated
counterparts. These Asian men were 89% more likely to be better educated than their
wives (Qian, 1999: 588). Most Asian-origin Americans reside in metropolitan areas but,
since the geography of Asian mixed-race partnering remains largely unknown, future
research might also compare patterns between metropolitan and non-metropolitan
Asian is a broad, problematic category. Lee and Fernandez (1998) divided ‘Asian’ by
nativity and found that trends in three Asian subgroups drove the decline between 1980
and 1990 in racially mixed Asian marriages. Out-marriages among Koreans declined
from 32% to 6.5% and rates for Vietnamese and Filipinos declined 20% and 10% respec-
tively. These shifts may stem from changes in the proportion of foreign-born (who are
less likely to out-marry than native-born) and the fact that more Asian immigrants are
arriving already married. The trends may also be related to the development of a pan-
464 Geographies of mixed-race partnering and multiraciality in the US
Asian identity in the US. In the 1980s, while rates of Asian-other marriages declined,
pan-Asian marriages (e.g., Korean-Chinese) increased from about 11% to 21% (Lee and
Fernandez, 1998: 328– 29).
Of all mixed households in the US in 1990, white and non-white Hispanic ones
accounted for just over 25% (Wong, 1999: 34). White-non-white Hispanic households
were among the three most common in all states but seven (Wong, 1999: 39). Regionally,
13.4% of all Hispanics living in the Northeast, 13.6% in the Midwest, 32.9% in the South
and 40.1% in the West out-married (Suro, 1999: 58). The rates of out-marriage for
Hispanics increase with education: those with a high-school education out-married
nearly 5% of the time whereas those with a college degree out-married 35% of the time
(Suro, 1999: 58). Fu (2001: 156) found that the white husbands of Mexican American
women were 13% more likely to have a college degree than white men who married
white women. White women were 34% more likely to be better educated than their
Hispanic partner but college degrees made white women 53% less likely to marry
Hispanics (Qian, 1999: 588).
In the last few decades, the number of black-white marriages grew from about 51,000
in 1960 to about 330,000 in 1998 in the United States (Nash, 1995: 959; Kennedy, 2002).
Although this is more than a six-fold increase, black-white marriages remain less than
1% of all marriages. In terms of gender, about 1% of black men married white women
in 1970 and 0.7% of black women married white men. These rates varied regionally
with the West having the highest rate, recording 4.5% of black men married to white
women and 1.6% of black women married to white men. Similarly, in the 1990s, African
Americans were four times more likely to marry whites if they lived in the West
compared to the South. The magnitude of difference was lower in the Northeast and
Midwest, but African Americans were also more likely to out-marry whites there than
in the South (Qian, 1999: 589) where the legacy of race relations inhibits mixed-race
partnering (or might encourage the outmigration of mixed-race partners!). Other
questions deriving from this sort of regional analysis should include more attention to
scale (within and between regions) and analyses of intergroup contact/partnering that
does not include whites and their associated social status.
The 1990 Census reported that 17.6% of all unions involving blacks occurred with
whites. Black men married white women more often than black women married white
men. This unequal rate of out-marriage between black men and women (coupled with
poverty and male imprisonment) contributed to what Crowder and Tolnay (2000)
called a ‘marriage squeeze’ for black women, meaning that the most eligible and
desirable men out-married leaving black women with few partner options (see also
Kennedy, 2002; Spickard, 1989). Education factored into this. College-educated African
American men were 34% more likely to marry a white woman than black men with
only a high-school education. They were also 34% more likely to be better educated
than their wives (Qian, 1999: 580). African American women were also more likely to
out-partner after college, but the numbers remain small. College degrees made white
women 42% less likely to partner with African Americans (Qian, 1999: 588). Black-white
relationships between members of socio-economic groups with relatively equal income
and educational levels are not usually as controversial as those between individuals
with differing economic and educational status (Johnson and Warren, 1994; Roberts,
1994; Cready and Saenz, 1997).
Shifting scales and adding nativity, Model and Fisher (2001: 177– 81) compared 1990
Richard Wright et al. 465
rates of partnering for blacks from the British West Indies and whites and African
Americans and whites for both sexes in the United States. They divided West Indian
blacks into four categories, according to time of arrival and native and foreign birth, to
underscore the influence of generation and immigration status. Model and Fisher found
that native-born British West Indians were more likely than African Americans to out-
partner. Nearly 12% of native-born British West Indian men and 8.6% of the women had
white partners. These numbers were significantly higher than the 3.9% for African
American men and 1.1% for African American women. Foreign-born British West
Indians who arrived as adults had the lowest rates of out-partnering with whites, and
foreign-born people who arrived as children had the highest among all foreign-born
British West Indians.
Recently, Model and Fisher (2002: 728) expanded upon this research to compare
mixed-race partnering between native-born whites and blacks in England and the US.
Blacks were divided into three categories in this study: black Caribbeans, ‘other ’ blacks
and, in the US, African Americans. Model and Fisher found that, with or without
controls and irrespective of ethnicity, British blacks were more likely to have a native-
born white partner than US blacks. These results could indicate a more hospitable
environment for mixed-race partnering in Britain, greater levels of racial residential
segregation in the US, varying rates and types of assimilation, and different national
conceptions of who is black or white (2002: 746– 48).
In the United Kingdom, rates of intermarriage between first- and second-generation
blacks and native-born whites are at least double those found in the US. Tizard and
Phoenix (2002: 22) report that 24% of ‘black’ (where ‘black’ was taken as first- and
second-generation immigrants from the West Indies or Africa) males and 18% of ‘black’
females were married to or living with a white partner. They found even higher rates
among West Indian populations under the age of 30. A total of 27% of men and 28% of
women had a white partner. Part of the difference between Britain and the US
undoubtedly results from dissimilar opportunities for finding a partner from the same
group; the smaller black population of Britain decreases the odds that a member of this
community will find a black partner. Other factors could include immigration and
settlement policies and the particular cultures of racism in the two countries.
Immigration shapes the regional geographies of mixed-race partnerships in the US
(Wong, 1998; 1999; Liu, 2000). Today, racially mixed marriages are more than twice as
likely in California – the major immigration state – than in the nation as a whole. In this
state, the number of children born to parents whose racial identities differ ranks third
to those born to all-Hispanic and all-white couples, and therefore outnumber those born
to couples who are all-Asian or all-black (Tafoya, 2000). Over 75% of these mixed-race
couples include a non-Hispanic white parent, and most of these non-Hispanic white
mixed unions are with Hispanics. 7 Also in the West, Qian (1999: 588) found for a sample
of young married people that foreign-born white immigrants were more likely to out-
marry than native-born whites. In particular, white men who arrived in the US over 15
years ago as children were 136% more likely to marry blacks, 70% more likely to partner
with Hispanics and 43% more likely to have relations with Asian Americans than
native-born whites. Conversely, Suro (1999: 60) observed that both native-born
Hispanics and Asians were more likely than their foreign-born counterparts to
participate in mixed-race partnering.
466 Geographies of mixed-race partnering and multiraciality in the US
2 Fine-scale multiracial projects: the body
Gary Nash (1995) claimed that three-quarters of all African Americans are multiracial,
that virtually all Filipino Americans, American Indians and Hispanics have mixed
heritages, and that millions of whites have multiethnic/ multiracial backgrounds; yet,
less than 3% of the US population chose to identify as multiracial on the 2000 Census.
Brewer and Suchan’s (2001: 82) cartography of people claiming at least two races as a
percent of total population by county revealed primary concentrations of self-identified
multiracial people in central and eastern Oklahoma, Hawaii and Alaska, and secondary
concentrations in the West and Puerto Rico. This small numerical proportion and
related pattern indicate a collection of personal life stories and political choices about
racial identity (influenced by national narratives), rather than a count of multiracial
bodies. In other words, most Census respondents do not rely on their genealogy to
declare their race on the Census. Their decisions instead emerge from a world where
racism and racialization frame life choices and social constructions of race.
The power of being named and naming oneself and other ‘micro experiential levels’
of multiraciality (Williams-Leó n and Nakashima, 2001: 58) motivate much of the
literature on the multiracial body. Multiracial people blur conceptions of separate and
distinct racial categories and multiraciality assails assumptions that identities are
located and fixed within a singular racial designation. Multiracial bodies are complex
and malleable, encompassing many ‘axes of difference’ (not just race or gender) (Pratt,
1998). An intellectual focus on the multiracial body draws out particular facets of racial-
ization, but the scholars engaged in this type of work typically do not consider how
space might affect these identities.
Mahtani (2001a; 2001b) is one exception. She offered a new paradigm for spatializing
multiracial identities in an effort to depart from research that relies on singular and
compartmentalized identity theories. She focused on the multiple spaces and places
that women occupy as they negotiate gender, ethnic, racial and class identities. She
engaged with ‘the situated practices through which many “mixed race” women . . . not
only contest, but also produce, their own racialized and gendered locations, challenging
racialized readings of their bodies’ (Mahtani, 2002: 425). Conceiving of identity in this
way captured the contradictions that inform the experiential realities of mixed-race
women, particularly as ‘context and location play a key role in the ways . . . [people] are
perceived racially’ (Mahtani, 2001b: 300). Her application of the theory of mobile
paradoxical spaces, drawn from Rose (1993) and Probyn (1996), opened up possibilities
for self-identified multiracial women to locate themselves in several subject positions
simultaneously, thereby granting a subversive aspect to multiracial bodies (see Brah,
1996; Ifekwunigwe, 2001).
In other research that empirically connects with such ideas, Twine (1996) explored the
multiracial identities of ‘brown skinned white girls’. She linked racial identities with
gender, class, location and sexuality to examine the creation of white identities for a
group of young multiracial women of African and Asian or European descent. She
argued that middle-class contexts contributed to the construction of white identities. As
these girls matured and left their racially homogeneous (white) neighborhood (a
location that Twine chose not to problematize; Pratt, 1997) for a multiracial place –
Berkeley, California – they almost all shifted to a decidedly singular, black subjectivity.
Few claimed a multiracial, or even a multidimensional, heritage.
Richard Wright et al. 467
Asking similar questions, Tizard and Phoenix (2002) examined teenage multiracial
identities in London. In one of the few studies of multiracial childhood identity, they
investigated how young people living with their parents identified themselves, what
kinds of racist interactions they experienced, and what perceptions of mixed-race
families surfaced. Specifically, Tizard and Phoenix (2002) asked if interviewees
identified as black, whether they felt positive or negative about their parentage, if
racialized identities were central to their life, and to what extent they felt an affinity for
black culture and black and white people. Some respondents viewed themselves as a
bridge between cultures and recognized the positive nature of such an identity (30% felt
actively engaged in both black and white communities). Others wished that they were
a different color, particularly during childhood, but as they aged a majority noted that
they liked their unique color and few desired a difference. Those who chose a black
rather than a mixed identity often did so because of their experiences with racism and
because of the greater number of historical figures with whom to identify.
Studying multiraciality in one city allowed Tizard and Phoenix (2002) to examine the
impact that living in London’s suburbs and central city had on children’s identity
formation. Middle-class and working-class young adults experienced being mixed race
in different ways based on degrees of residential segregation. Youth living in racially
integrated neighborhoods, for instance, professed a positive multiracial identity. Those
living in hyper-segregated areas, on the other hand, were much more likely to presume
a monoracial (and often minority) racial identity. In related research, Harris and Sim
(2002) also studied the contexts within which three groups of multiracial children
(black-white, white-Asian and American Indian-white) claimed a singular or plural
multiracial identity. Instead of a central city-suburb dichotomy, they focused on the
home/school contexts. They found that approximately two-thirds of children with
multiracial ancestry chose that identity consistently but that significant differences in
identity expression occurred between home and school. They also found that these
articulations varied considerably by group, with white-American Indian child identity
being more unstable and subject to contextual influences than white-black and white-
Asian. Along similar lines, Herman (2002) analysed the racial identities of multiracial
children in California and Wisconsin. She discovered that children with Hispanic
ancestry residing in white and wealthy Census tracts were significantly more likely to
identify as white compared to other multiracial adolescents.
Other recent additions to the literature often ignore space and context. Xie and
Goyette (1997), for example, investigated whether biracial Asian children racially
identified with their A sian or non-Asian parent. Using the 5% Public Use Micro Sample
(PUMS) from the 1990 Census, the authors tested identity choices arising from
children’s characteristics, parents’ characteristics, time of arrival and the racial
composition of the residential neighborhood. They discovered that first- and third-
generation children were more likely to identify as Asian than second-generation
children and that education affected choices as well. Without including Latino as a race,
multiracial children of mixed Asian and white descent accounted for nearly half of the
one million multiracial children identified in the 1990 Census (Williams-Leó n and
Nakashima, 2001: 6). In connected research using the same Census, Waters (2000: 31)
determined that 27% of the children of black-white couples were given a white racial
identity. Not only does such designation speak to the power and influence of a
dominant racial paradigm, but Waters also commented that ‘no single rule governs
468 Geographies of mixed-race partnering and multiraciality in the US
[the] choices’ of a child’s racial identity. This might be the case but the research results
of Twine (1996), Harris and Sim (2002) and Herman (2002) provide sufficient evidence
on context and multiracial identity to suggest that geography most likely matters.
3 In between: the mixed-race household
Mixed-race partnerships confound conceptions of social (in)equality between groups
through reconfigurations of status and privilege. Accordingly, people outside of mixed-
race unions may feel threatened by these associations (Johnson and Warren, 1994; Root,
2001). Such fears customarily stem from discomfort with sexual relations between
different races (e.g., Tyner, 2002), from sexual stereotypes linked with racial groups
(e.g., ‘once you go black, you can never go back’), and from implied, real and perceived
challenges to existing notions of white privilege. Given this, mixed-race couples must
make decisions about family life that take into account public responses while also
upholding their own personal and private needs, desires and values. In particular,
mixed-race household residential decision-making takes on new importance as the
scale of the household makes explicit the implicit spatiality of the metaphor of crossing
boundaries (Delaney, 2002). Critical race theories center attention on the body and
personal experiences of race, as does most of the mixed-race literature, with the result
that the mixed-race household and its links to neighborhood-scale geographies
remains understudied and undertheorized. Thus we ask how characterizations of
living arrangements help us re-imagine collectivities we call neighborhoods.
We are not alone in developing these connections. In recent research, Allen and
Turner (1996) found that mixed-race couples in Los Angeles were more likely to live in
neighborhoods outside of either group’s geographical concentration than in them.
Similarly, White and Sassler (2000) measured neighborhood attainment with a
particular emphasis on mixed-race partnering using 1990 data. They found for some
Latino and black native-born and immigrant groups that marriage to white spouses had
a significant effect on neighborhood location, net of income or education. In an effort to
direct attention away from whiteness as a normative standard, Wright et al. (2003)
tested how partnering out (i.e., to someone of a different race or nativity) affected
neighborhood location. They discovered that residence outside of ethnic enclaves
(measured at the tract scale, spatial units of approximately 4000 residents) correlates
strongly with households comprised of a partnership made up of different nativities
and racialized groups. Thinking about the geographical placement of bodies in
households brings meaning to mixing at the scale of the neighborhood.
Mixed-race household residential location in neighborhoods reflects a combination of
choices and constraints. Constraints include financing, the activity of real estate agents
and neighborhood milieu. On the choice side, mixed-race households, much like
everybody else, view neighborhoods as sites for creating and enacting their identities.
As such, household choice of neighborhood combines an array of factors that include
racial identity, class, sex, family status and education (cf. Hanson and Pratt, 1995;
Merton, 2000). Therefore, high-income mixed-race households may be more likely than
low-income households to live in white-dominated areas. Mixed-race households and
their progeny, no matter their class, erode the construct of discrete and hierarchically
organized racial categories, forcing us to question discrete and hierarchically arranged
Richard Wright et al. 469
spatial categories such as neighborhoods. At the very least, depictions of neighborhoods
as monochrome, such as those found in many spatial assimilation narratives, render
mixed-race households and multiracial people invisible.
Our goal is thus to place the mixed-race household in view. Diana Fuss (1991: 4)
reminds us that to be ‘out’ in gay idiom is paradoxically also to be ‘in’, visible and
present. Gillian Rose (1993: 155) spatialized this idea and called for paradoxical
geographies that allow for the prospect of a new kind of space where difference is not
limiting. For us, then, including a consideration of the mixed-race household in
segregation measures leads to new perspectives on neighborhood social process. For
example, the very commonly used index of dissimilarity is calculated from a count of
bodies, usually by Census tracts. We ask: how should we index segregation if the
majority of people in a neighborhood live in a mixed-race household? What kinds of
racial identities emerge in such places? These questions provide important mechanisms
for understan ding neighborho od s egregation , identity construction and racial
hierarchies. All this leads to the conclusion that we need to better understand the
process of mixed-race household residential choice, the effects of these decisions on the
identity of multiracial children and the roles that these sorts of crossings play in
remaking urban racial geographies.
‘Ingenious hybrids and strange global grafts’ :8 conclusions
Critical studies of mixed-race partnerships and reflections on multiraciality participate
in a broader progressive agenda, one that roots out racialization processes and scratches
away at veneers of difference among groups (Sibley, 1995). From this standpoint, a re-
reading of Time magazine’ s ‘New Face’ issue unearths a deep irony. It turns out that the
face is, after all, not as ‘exotic’ as Time purports. Using current Census Bureau standards
and simply categorizing the proportions of this idealized female form – ‘15% Anglo-
Saxon, 17.5% Middle Eastern, 17.5% African, 7.5% Asian, 35% Southern European and
7.5% Hispanic’ – reveals that this multiracial body could be as much as 75% ‘white’
(Goldberg, 1997: 60). Even in light of this, The National Review thought the image of
Time’s ‘New Eve’ sufficiently threatening to national (white) interests that it saw fit to
reproduce Time’s cover in its entirety on the front of its own 21 February 1994 issue. The
cover was, however, reduced in size and placed on a brick wall like a wanted poster.
Fleeing off to the left was the assumed artist of the graffiti that defaced ‘Eve’ with a
black curly moustache, a pointed goatee and the words ‘demystifying multicultural-
ism’. Leo Chavez (2001: 180) observes that the ‘act of vandalism by the . . . youth
suggests that “The New Face of America” heralded by Time magazine is not a pleasing
sight to all who encounter it’.
Apparently beauty and race still remain in the eye of the beholder. The cover of The
National Review leaves us pondering the exact purpose of this reinscription. Does it
suggest that even the relatively white ‘new face of America’ is a threat because it is not
completely white and presages the ‘suicide’ of the white race? Or maybe the cover strives
to instill fear through distorting the beautiful Eve’s face into a male and foreign
countenance (Chavez, 2001: 188). Or perhaps this image symbolizes that America’s new
face has been defiled by recent waves of immigration. These tides bear a flotsam of mul-
ticultural politics that submerge the assimilative trope of the melting pot literally
470 Geographies of mixed-race partnering and multiraciality in the US
embodied in the ‘New Eve’. In such readings of mixing, no matter the spatial scale, race
remains a nexus of power and ideology.
We cannot fully appreciate the complexities of mixed-race partnering and multira-
ciality without accounting for the rhetorical and sociospatial meanings of race.
Language is implicated in this process; we should develop fresh language to identify
racial newness when and where it enters the world. New language stands up to the
taken-for-granted social and spatial aspects of everyday life. Thus, part of our agenda
in this essay is to deconstruct, and (we hope) move away from, ingrained linguistic and
theoretical habits surrounding race and space. Choosing to foreground partnering, for
example, opens doors to consider couples and households and helps undo the hetero-
normativity of previous research.
Our review of mixed-race partnering and multiraciality at a variety of scales, such as
the region, nation and body, opens up opportunities for new and different research. We
find particular insight at the scale of the mixed-race household because, like multiracial
bodies, such formations collectively construct, contest and perform paradoxical
racialized identities. When we better understand the intersection of mixed-race
household identities with other social dynamics, we will learn more about the nature of
identity development. In addition, we will recognize how neighborhood spaces are
racialized, potentially altering how we ‘see’ and understand broader patterns of
segregation, integration and diversity. Privileging the mixed-race household scale
produces both a new reading of ‘mixed race’ and a wedding of neighborhood
residential location with mixed-race research.
In light of our efforts to make visible the mixed-race household, we return to Salman
Rushdie’ s provocative questions and contemplate where mixed-race households
survive and flourish. How do mixed-race households come to be in place? Do mixed-
race households, when changing residence, choose to live in neighborhoods that are
more diverse than others in the same city? A related mobility question might ask about
migration between states and metropolitan areas. Previous research effectively counts
and maps partners by location; future research should investigate the migration
behaviors of mixed-race partners and mixed-race households and the impact of such
mobility on neighborhood creation. We might ask, for instance, do mixed-race partners
move from unwelcoming places, such as those perhaps with extensive anti-miscegena-
tion histories, to more comfortable places? In other words, paraphrasing Rushdie, what
compromises were struck and what deals were made for the household to move and
stave off the wrecking crew?
Thanks to Sheila Culbert, Melissa Herman, Alison Mountz and Rubén Rumbaut for
valuable comments on earlier drafts. The Russell Sage Foundation supported this
1. The Chicago School helped develop the idea of race as a social construct rather than a biological
given (Winant, 2000: 176).
Richard Wright et al. 471
2. Wu (2002: 20).
3. In the past, intermarriage often referred to marriage between people of different religions. We
recognize this history, but, in this essay, we choose to focus exclusively on the contemporary
connotation that ‘intermarriage’ conveys – marriage across racial lines.
4. Gilroy (1991: 3).
5. ‘Mixed-race projects’ plays on Omi and Winant’s (1994) idea of ‘racial projects’. Racial projects
are meant to discursively explain racialization while simultaneously being a means by which
racialized groups appropriate power or resources.
6. We strive to be inclusive in our analyses (thus the use of mixed-race partnering) while also
realizing that much of the literature, and many of the following examples in this section, represent a
heterosexual bias and a focus on marriage.
7. This observation derives from birth certificates that report the ‘race’ and Hispanic origin of the
mother and father, as well as that of the child.
8. Ozeki (1999: 57).
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