Campus: CSU Northridge -- February 28, 2003
CSUN Professors' Book Explores Multiracial America
Who are you? What are you? Where are you from, really? For people with
multiracial backgrounds these questions are not uncommon.
In their new book, New Faces in a Changing America: Multiracial Identity
in the 21st Century, Cal State Northridge sociology professors Loretta
I. Winters and Herman L. DeBose explore what it is like to straddle
two, and sometimes more, cultures in a society that still prefers people
to claim only one racial identity.
"This (multiracial) population has always been here, but it wasn't
until the year 2000, during the census count, that the American government
gave them an opportunity to say they were here," said DeBose. "The
multiracial population in America is continuing to grow. The question
is, how will society continue to deal with them and how will they begin
to deal with society?
"People have made the statement that they (people with mixed heritage)
will be the ones to change the world," DeBose continued. "Are
we putting undue pressure on them? And how will they deal with that?"
Those are just some of the issues DeBose and Winters explore in their
book, which features essays from a variety of scholars who tackle several
aspects of being multiracial in America — from societal responses
and civil rights to racial identification itself and interracial dating
Winters, who is mixed race, said she hopes the book serves as a launching
point for discussion about America's obsession with putting people into
"I think (some people) see people like us as trying to challenge
reality," she said. "The world is black and white and there
is no in-between and you've got to make a choice. So when multiracial
people say, 'No, I am not one or the other, I am this combination,'
that makes people feel really uncomfortable.
"I think a book like this and more attention paid to the issue
by the media will breakdown these pre-existing notions about race,"
Winters said. "The acknowledgment of a multiracial reality will
do more to confront the fallacy of the biological notion of race and
expose it as the social construct it is."
Winters said that even today people are astounded when she identifies
herself as something other than white.
"They'll respond 'But you're really white, right?'" she said.
"They make the assumption that if you can pass for white, why would
you be anything else? Why would you want to deal with minority status
if you don't have to?" DeBose said one of their goals for the book
was to help people with mixed heritage realize they were not alone.
"Here in Southern California we're in a unique situation. With
our wealth of ethnic diversity, multiracial people are not unusual,
but it's not that way in the rest of the country," he said. "We
need to make sure that those individuals in other locations are not
ostracized and are allowed to be who they want to be and who they are."
New Faces in a Changing America: Multiracial Identity in the 21st Century
is published by Sage Publications.
Contact: Carmen Ramos Chandler (818) 677-2130, firstname.lastname@example.org