When you hear the word Multicultural, what is the first thought that comes to your mind? Hispanic? Black? Ethnic? Non-white? Let’s go a step further…. how about Multiculturalism? A multicultural society or virtue? The philosophy of Multicultural existence?
Here’s what’s interesting… Dictionary defines multiculturalism by the view that the various cultures in a society merit equal respect and scholarly interest….the existence, recognition, or preservation of different cultures or cultural identities within a unified society. Sounds noble, doesn’t it? Yet this simple word can evoke so much fear and anger in some people, polarizing our society economically, geographically, and politically.
In my book, I defined “multicultural” as a mosaic of different cultures in one platform, intended to refer to a society that is ethnically and racially diverse, including Whites. Since then, I’ve come to realize that how we define race and ethnicity are very dynamic and confusing. Last year, I wrote about the New Multiracial Face of America, and how demographic tipping shifts are happening much sooner than expected. I explained that the US census bureau started collecting details on multiracial population since 2000 when it first allowed respondents to check off more than one box for race—and 6.8 million people did so (6.7%). Ten years later that number jumped to 8.4% or 9 million, making multiracials one of the fastest growing population in the US. Then, in 2013, we started seeing 1 in 10 babies living with two parents being multiracial. A big jump from only 1% in 1970, according to Pew. This is clearly fueled by mixed race marriages, which has almost quadrupled. William Frey in his New Republic article indicated that now more than one in seven newlywed couples are multiracial, not counting non-married multiracial couples who are adding to the growing multiracial babies. Interestingly, almost half of these mixed marriages include Whites. So, again, multicultural can not mean non-white.
Today, we’ve reached a point that we can no longer define race biologically, anthropologically or genetically. Racial identity is a highly nuanced concept, and a very personal one influenced by culture, politics, religion, history and geography. And census bureau knows that. Earlier this summer, Census started considering a new approach to asking about race in their 2020 census, by not using the term at all…and instead ask to check categories that best describe them, or definitions they identify with. Race, origin and ethnicity were confusing and interchangeable. US government, for example, identifies Hispanic as an ethnicity not a race. The confusion reflects a larger debate about how to define race, which used to be seen as a fixed physical characteristic and now more commonly is viewed as a complex mix of family and social environment, historical or socio-political constructs, lifestyle, etc. And multiracial marriages and births is a phenomenon that will redefine how race is actually lived in America.
This is certainly cause to redefine multicultural exclusive of race, don’t you think? I’m starting to think that the mosaic of different people and cultures coexisting in the same platform and georgraphical area will soon become the same mosaic in each individual being that is multiracial, multiethnic, or simply not of one race/ethnicity. Seemingly, most of us are multicultural, according to the research and marketing firm Ethnifacts by virtue of where we live and who we marry, among other things. So while the U.S. Census estimates America’s whites will become a minority in 2043 (this projection was 2050 a few years ago) a lot of us say that future is already here.
More importantly, let’s not forget that marriage of European immigrants led to today’s white population in the US. It would seem only natural to anticipate similar boom of multiracial population. So what should we call them? American?