The racial reckoning the U.S. has been experiencing for years is having an impact on how people look at themselves. More people than ever before are now identifying as multiracial.
According to the 2020 census, released in August 2021, 33 million Americans identified as more than one race. That's an increase of 25 million from the 2010 census.
“This increase is astounding,” said Reginald Daniel, a University of California at Santa Barbara sociology professor who identifies as multiracial. “What will happen if we have large numbers of people no longer saying they’re monoracial but multiracial?”
It is a question that experts like Daniel have been trying to explore. He says there is no anticipation for what this increase could mean, but there are areas of thought; one of which is theorizing whether the increase could lead to more racial harmony in the United States.
“There’s a tendency to think that,” said Daniel. “But it comes with its own challenges. We may have an increase in interracial marriages but that won’t change the larger-scale issues like systemic racism.”
On a more personal level, however, people who identify as mixed-race see the increase as moving in the right direction.
“I remember being in a predominantly Black high school freshman year and everyone knew me as Justin Timberlake,” said Demetrius Nelson, a 30-year-old music artist who identifies as Black and white. “Not even a year later I moved from inner-city Buffalo to Syracuse, New York, and everyone called me Lil’ Bow Wow. It was intense but funny.”
Growing up, Nelson said he was able to fit in with groups of children of both races seamlessly, but that is not the experience for everyone as some multiracial individuals feel excluded from both groups because they are not perceived as “Black enough” or “white enough.”
“I definitely get asked, ‘What are you?’ a lot,” said Dani Joseph, Nelson’s girlfriend of three years who is both Black and Chinese.
Daniel postulates that the dramatic rise in multiracial Americans could come from ‘white guilt,’ brought on by the national discussion surrounding race in America.
“One of the arguments is that people identified as multiracial because they don’t want to be associated with a white agency,” he said.
Daniel, agrees, however, the rise in multiracial Americans could increase equity in certain areas of society.
“There are significant implications in terms of earning capacity, educational outcomes for people of lighter skin within communities of color as well as in the larger society,” he said.
For those who are living the experience, they look forward to what the future holds.
“Mixed people are beautiful people," said Nelson. "America 2050 is going to be beautiful."
The Census Bureau projects sometime between 2040 and 2050 the U.S. will be a majority-minority country.