We’re not asking for a month or a day-but just a moment during this week. June 7 to 14 is National Multiracial Heritage Week. I know, I know, you’re getting tired of all these groups with all their months, weeks, and days. Does every group need a special time-slot? Probably not, but if they do, we want one too.
This special week now has the official sanction of the Governors and legislators of Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Missouri, Texas, New Jersey, North Carolina, Tennessee, Washington, and the Mayor of the District of Columbia. The multiracial population is the fastest growing racial group in the country. We’ll only get bigger.
Project RACE (Reclassify All Children Equally) is in its 25th year of “introducing” the multiracial community to the rest of the world.
The word “multiracial” has had a stormy ride. In the 1990s, when we were trying to convince the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) that people needed to be able to check more than one box, they advised us to give them a definitive word to use. We had the choice of multiracial, biracial, mixed-race, and others. We asked the community and the consensus was the term “multiracial.” It is more inclusive than biracial. It doesn’t grate as much as “mixed,” which lends itself too easily to “mixed nuts” or “mixed up,” not to mention the problem that “mixed” is the opposite of “pure,” and that’s not a place we want to go.
Yes, the nomenclature is a problem. I wish we could be as successful in changing terminology as the gay community. Remember when people used the term “homosexual”? Not anymore. I wish we could be as savvy as the community once known as colored, then Negro, then Black, and now African-American. But for reasons beyond our control, we remain more mixed than multiracial, more “other” than biracial, and more forgotten than other populations. But are we invisible? Didn’t you see that light tan baby being pushed down the street in the stroller yesterday? The dark woman pushing it was not the nanny-she was the mother. What about the family with the children who look part Asian? Yes, they take after their Asian mother and their white father.
When we were trying to reason with OMB, we also ran into the U.S. Census Bureau. But they still call us “MOOMs”-people who Mark One or More races, or the “combination” population. It’s hard to get bureaucrats to change once two or more of them make up their minds.
Then there is the United States Department of Education. They might allow schools to let students check more than one race, but then they redistribute us to other racial categories with some strange algorithms. If a student checks Hispanic as one of their ethnic parts, then they become 100 percent Hispanic.
Then we have the United States Department of Justice, and all of their concerns about discrimination. They depend on the data to ensure that minorities are not discriminated against in any way. How could a multiracial person prove discrimination based on the fact that they are multiracial if no such multiracial numbers exist? It’s a real quandary.
Choosing to be multiracial is just that: a choice. If you want to be monoracial based on your personal history or just because that’s how you feel today, that’s great. However, if you wish to celebrate your entire heritage, the choice should be yours and yours alone.
So, if you can, think about how you can contribute to Multiracial Heritage Week from June 7th to 14th. Give us a moment. Perhaps you can simply acknowledge a grandchild, teach about famous multiracial people, think about what you are going to call that multiracial person you know, or contribute to our cause. Join us. Google us. Befriend us. Follow us. Help us get the message out that this is the start of something big-something multiracial.