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Checking more than one box: A growing multiracial America

Published: Tuesday, May 14 2013 1:45 p.m. MDT

According to the 2000 Census, the first to allow people to check more than one box for race, 9 million people reported to identify with more than one race, which is about 3 percent of the population. The results were an increase of one-third from the decade before.

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There is a growing trend in the United States: identifying with more than one race.

According to the 2000 Census, the first to allow people to check more than one box for race, 9 million people reported to identify with more than one race, which is about 3 percent of the population. The results were an increase of one-third from the decade before.

Today, 15 percent of marriages are interracial and inter-ethnic. One couple, Larry Bright and Thien Kim Lam, recently spoke with NPR about their 3-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter who are multiracial, part of what has been called a multiracial baby boom. Bright is African-American and Lam is Vietnamese.

Lam and Bright believe that growing up in Louisiana, the couple was asked to identify with one race or another. However, they now believe their two children will have more choices with their identity.

"I think they'll go as multiracial; I'm trying to set a balance," Lam said. "Teaching them their Vietnamese culture, but then I also reiterate that they're American. That's what makes them American; that they have this great mix of cultures."

Multiracial celebrities are touting their heritage with pride more than ever, but sometimes without some backlash. In 2012, singer Beyoncé Knowles shot a makeup commercial for L'Oreal, stating her skin was a "mosaic of all the faces before it." The commercial listed under her face: "African-American. Native American. French." The commercial caused backlash from the African-American community who believed the singer was intentionally highlighting her other heritage in order to distance the star from African-Americans. This came after a 2008 incident where L'Oreal was accused of lightening the singer's skin tone in a Feria hair color advertisement.

According to Jeffrey Passel, a senior demographer at the Pew Hispanic Center, the youngest group identifying themselves as biracial or multiracial are kids under 5 years old.

"Seven-percent are identified as having more than one race group," Passel said. "If we look at the elderly, over 65, it's only 1 percent."

The rise in multiracial children, according to Passel, is attributed to more people choosing spouses outside their own race.

"More than two-thirds of people in our surveys, when asked how they'd feel about someone in their own family marrying someone of a different background, said they'd be fine with it," Passel said.

Eighty percent of those surveyed under age 40 said they would be OK with someone in their family marrying someone of a different background.

"Despite the trend, Dawkins says it is important to remember that it is still less than 3 percent of the population that identifies as multiracial," the NPR story said. "The overwhelming majority of Americans identify as having one race only."

To advance the discussion, Dawkins told NPR that the nation may not need new categories to identify race, but instead, a new way to talk about the subject altogether.

Editor's Note: The original version of this story posted on May 14, 2013, failed to properly attribute all source materials, which violates our editorial policies. The story was revised on Oct. 10, 2013, to link to original source material.

Email: crenouard@deseretnews.com

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