According to the latest census estimates, multiracial people are the fastest-growing demographic group in the U.S.
When Barack Obama got elected, and called himself a "mutt", I wrote a little bit about my experiences growing up black, yet mixed; spending every summer with a blue-eyed grandfather (on my mom's side) and having a black father and noticing — feeling — like my family was "different" from other families. Different from the ones I saw in school, or on TV, where all the black people went to McDonald's in the "black" commercial and all the white people went to McDonald's in the "white" commercial. (I was born in the early '70s, you see.) Once, my mom was supposed to pick me up from school, and a teacher pointed at some other girl's (dark-skinned) housekeeper, and said, "Is that your mom?" An honest mistake, but one that blew my mind — I'd only ever thought of my mom as she actually was; olive-skinned, half-Irish, half-Chicksaw. But I was also deeply aware that the teacher was trying to match me up with someone because of my skin color — just putting brown with brown. A "traditional" view of a family, but a narrow one, to me, even as a kid. (What if I'd been adopted?)
But the number one thing this multiracial person hears, over and over, is "What are you?" I cannot even count how many times this question has been asked of me and my brother and sister. "A human," I answer. Better yet is the question: "What nationality are you?" American. Or, wishing to avoid lengthy explanation: "Black." In New York, I get, "Black? But Dominican, right?" No. Black. From where? From the United States. What part? New York. And your parents? From the United States. But before they got to this country? They were both born here; one in Nebraska, the other in Georgia. I promise you that at least once a month, a cab driver thinks I am lying about this.
With interracial marriages increasing (this report claims that 1 in 13 marriages are mixed race, with the most prevalent being white-Hispanic, white-American Indian and white-Asian) there should be more and more "mixed" kids in the years to come; the census data claims that more than half of the multiracial population is younger than 20. And even though there weren't very many multiracial figures in the public eye when I was a kid, these days, in addition to our nation's president, there's Tiger Woods, Halle Berry, Vin Diesel and Rock — and people like Fo, the "blaxican" on Cycle 12 of America's Next Top Model. So hopefully the narrow view of families and questions like "what are you?" will subside, and people — both multiracial and not — can just go about the business of being human.