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As Racial Tensions Rise, Multicultural Americans Set Example

Multiracial Americans are fueling significant social and demographic change, in New Mexico and the United States as a whole. (epicstockmedia/ShutterStock)
Multiracial Americans are fueling significant social and demographic change, in New Mexico and the United States as a whole. (epicstockmedia/ShutterStock)
August 30, 2017

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - At a time of cultural and racial divide, multiracial New Mexicans find themselves caught in the middle - even as they offer a glimpse into the future of social and demographic changes in the United States.

The once-per-decade census shows America becoming more racially diverse, and the Pew Research Center estimates that multiracial people comprise 14 percent of the country today.

"A multiracial person has the benefit of having a lot of heritages - and they can celebrate all of their heritage, and that's extremely important," said Susan Graham, co-founder and president of Project RACE (Reclassify All Children Equally). "So, I think that they're kind of a spotlight for where we should be, where our country should be."

Graham said it took 10 years for Project RACE to pressure census-takers to change their practice, starting with the 2000 census, to allow people to identify as more than one race instead of having to choose between parents or different races. In the 2010 census, 3.7 percent of New Mexicans listed themselves as multiracial. Between the 2000 and 2010 censuses, the number of white and black biracial Americans more than doubled.

When it comes to filling out government forms and applications, Graham said, it's important that all people, including those who are multiracial, are able to self-identify.

"We're not out there screaming and yelling and saying, you know, 'You have to do this, that or the other thing.' It's just over the past 30 years, I mean, I have people who say, 'We've never even heard of this movement.' And it is a multiracial movement, but we've done it very quietly. I think we've done it very wisely," Graham said.

Federal officials are considering a change in how they ask Americans about their race for the 2020 census. One of those includes combining separate questions about race and Hispanic ethnicity, which could reduce confusion since the terms "Hispanic" and "Latino" don't refer to a race but to a multiracial ethnicity.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - NM