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 and marriages.

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 racial categories.

"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,

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