Wednesday, October 25, 2006

JCLC Conference Notes, Day One: Presentation on Lines of Color

Title of the presentation: "The Lines of Color Aren't Always Clear." Powerpoint available online here.

  • The speaker noted that the Census Bureau essentially skirted defining what constitutes a mulitracial/biracial person, leaving it up to the person being surveyed to self-identify.Could be because some civil rights groups were concerned about diluting their numbers if people chose to identify as mixed race versus one race. The Census basically does not have a "multiracial" or "biracial" definition. Also, the Census has never used the same race categories for more than three consecutive censuses.
  • It seems that younger people are more comfortable with identifying as multiracial.
  • Sample historical categories: Historical race categories:
    1. 1890: “White, Black, Mulatto, Quadroon, Octoroon, Chinese, Japanese, Indian (Quadroon=1/4 black ancestry; Octoroon=1/8 black ancestry)
      Could the concern over blood percentages be from eugenics which was in vogue at that time?
    2. 1960: “White, Negro, American Indian, Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, Hawaiian, Part Hawaiian, Aleut, Eskimo, Other.”
  • Compared to the general population, multiracials tend to be less educated and younger. In the 25+ age group, 22% have some college, when compared to 21% of the total U.S. population. 12.6% have a Bachelor's degree, compared to 15.5% of the total, and 26.7% have less than a high school degree, compared to 19.6% of the total.
  • Much of the research issues boil down to issues of racial identity. Most of the research topics, according to the presenter, center around the ambiguity of being biracial/multiracial and efforts to categorize/classify race from politics to fiction.
  • Unlike Black Studies or Asian Studies, at this point the research tools do not treat interracial studies as a distinct subject or area of research. Often find information subsumed under another topic (adoption under Social work or sociology; interracial relationships: counseling, psychology, etc.).
  • Key book on the topic: Karen Downing's Multiracial America: A Resource Guide on the History and Literature of Interracial Issues. The book includes bibliographies, a glossary, and curriculum guides.
  • It can be difficult to locate materials in this area with traditional tools. The terminology can be inconsistent. Results can often be muddied by off-topic retrievals. Then there is the issue of some materials that can be biased, inaccurate, and/or offensive.
  • At this moment, Dissertation Abstracts is probably the strongest source for research in this area. Though not as academic, EthnicNewswatch is also a resource to use. Consider also PsychInfo.
  • On the other hand, the Web has various sites dedicated to the topic. However, it tends to be less academic, and it requires a good measure of evaluation of the resources found. Some notable sites:
    1. Stanford University: Research Quick Start Guide: Ethnic Identity:
    2. Resources By and About Interracial & Multi-Cultural People:
    3. Interracial Voice:
    4. Multiracial Activist:
  • The presenter also has a list of resources here.

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