Team Pick: National Geographic Celebrates the Changing Face of America and its Multiracial People

Jamie’s Team Pick

The 125th anniversary issue of National Geographic, features a collection of portraits titled “The Changing Face of America.” This collection highlights the diversity of the multicultural population in America. Multiracial identity has gained attention following U.S. Census Bureau’s decision in 2000 to allow citizens to check more than one racial category. It is now reported that number of people choosing to identify as multiracial has jumped thirty-two percent in ten years to include over 1.5 million individuals. President Obama’s personal history has also brought attention to the rising multiracial community. While his presidency may have been heralded as the beginning of a post-racial society, it is clear that the United States continues its obsession with race. The experiences of multiracial Americans speaks to the persistence of racism and stereotypes in our society.

In the article that accompanies the photo galley, Lise Funderburg, (author of the ground-breaking anthology about the multiracial experience Black, White, Other), shares the stories of several multiracial people, highlighting how many people still feel the pressure to identify with one ethnic group, while others have found interesting and complex ways to express their mixed heritage. Funderburg argues that the existence multiracial and the growth of this community will continue to force our society to confront our racial biases:

If we can’t slot people into familiar categories, perhaps we’ll be forced to reconsider existing definitions of race and identity, presumptions about who is us and who is them.

Photo credit: National Geographic

Photo credit: National Geographic

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12 Comments

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    I always think it’s interesting when I see something like “the United States continues its obsession with race,” because the rest of the world is obsessed as well (at least, in my experience traveling and living in other countries). I think it’s less of a US obsession with race, and more of a human obsession with looking different.

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      well, ‘race’ is historically a colonial concept even if the cultural propensity to classify ‘difference’ based on appearance did not come only from colonization. but the NG article seems to be addressing something more specfic about facial physiognomy that has been used to categorize people, and the development of these ideas in an American context specifically?

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      As spindrift said defining “race” by how people look, rather than, for example, by what language they speak or what religious group they belong to is the legacy of colonialism (and slavery) and it’s in many ways an American specific phenomenon. This doesn’t mean that racism doesn’t exist in other countries, just that race isn’t a scientific or biological concept so it’s defined in a lot of different ways and the boundaries between different “races” are often quite blurry.

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          I definitely agree with the idea of race in Australia… not having been there, but having lived in Vanuatu for two years. Vanuatu is an example of a place where you see the racial obsession of a culture that has been the victim of “steamrolling” (I like that term!) juxtaposed the extremely wealthy “white men” in their vacation/retirement in the capital.

          I’m still having a hard time understanding the race issue as being an American specific phenomenon. Being the only person who’s NOT an indigenous Pacific Islander on a given island sort of changes your outlook I guess.

          I do agree with the idea of race being partially a colonial concept though.

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    I can’t be the only one who instead of seeing multiculturalism in America saw a bunch of people who had obviously been taken over by Souls and were not to be trusted. Right?……right? The Host. Anyone?

    I definitely just admitted to reading a Stephanie Meyer’s book.

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    I am glad this article exists. I am multiracial, and come from two multiracial parents, and I still face certain challenges because of it, and even well meaning social theory tends to treat race as a (pardon) black and white issue when for me it isn’t in the slightest. I still rarely see representation of of people with backgrounds more like mine, but it is really heartening to see it here.

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    This is really great. The images are really well done, too. I’m also pretty pleased to see that National Geographic does have a space for reader comments. It’s nice to just let things exist where they do, and discuss them elsewhere, sometimes.

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    When I read this article in NG, it made me feel uncomfortable. Multiracial identity is nothing new, so why do the media to continue to treat it as a novel phenomenon? The implication that we’re supposed to find multiracial faces unfamiliar, disturbing, confusing, or even pleasingly exotic bothered me. So did the rows of faces presented like so many puzzles for readers to make guesses about. Of course visibility is important. But I want my identity, not my physical characteristics, to be what people notice, inquire about, and respect.

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      i dunno, i kind of like it. i get what you’re talking about, definitely, but these kinds of articles make me feel … visible, i guess. remembered? i struggle a lot with my feelings on my cultural identity, what words i want to use, and who i fit. seeing things about other mixed for make it a little less lonely, somehow.

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