When Do We Count and Why?

Why do we have a census count every ten years and does it really matter? The question popped into my head while reading a fascinating article by Tanzina Vega of the New York Times: Census Considers How to Measure a More Diverse America – about the preparations for the 2020 census and the challenges on how best to measure diversity.

 Why do we have a census is an easy question to answer. As our readers may know, America counts its population every ten years because it is required by the U.S.A. Constitution per Article 1 Section 2:


Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined b adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons. The actual Enumeration shall be made…within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct.

Since the census is enumerated in the Constitution it is clearly a political activity and as you can see by the 3/5 clause and the exclusion of “Indians not taxed” it has its pitfalls and has continued so every ten years since then.

The second question does not have an easy answer: Does the census really matter? It does matter when determining representation in the House for each state, but all the other questions regarding ethnicity, “race” and gender begs the question: what political purpose does it serve? I know – as a person with a complexity of identity markers – that I felt underserved by the census i.e. not fully counted, so my voice was not expressed in that realm even with the changes. I do still have the political power to vote, but that is an occasional political expression, but census outcomes have a lasting, significant impact, such as the distribution of funds. However, can federal, state and local funds be fairly distributed without asking questions of gender, ethnicity and “race”.


I have ideas that I’m working on, but I’m curious as to what you all think out there, so please leave your comments on our Facebook page. And for resources on the topic I recommend reading the collection of articles on MixedRaceStudies website.

Why do humans perceive an Other and does it Matter?

A challenge of the human condition is overcoming bias from others and from within ourselves.  One very problematic bias is the Other-Race Effect. We categorize people based on assumed racial features as either Us or Other. Why does this happen? The oft political response is that people or societies are racist , but that answer does not satisfactorily answer the question.

For me, this kind of question demands that we focus on the evolutionary origin of the trait?” Finding the root is an effective means of understanding causation then working towards changing the effect (i.e. outcome).  That is why I found Ross Pomeroy’s, commentary in Big Think on the subject of “The Other Race Effect” intriguing.

Pomeroy clearly articulates why the issue should be studied, then highlights research that offer the most promising hypothesis for why we do it.  Finally, he closes with answers to the most important question, “Is there any way to prevent or minimize the Other-Race Effect?” Pomeroy’s response is, yes. As he reports:

If infants regularly see and interact with people of other races before nine months of age, the Other-Race Effect may never emerge. But for those who are already inept at distinguishing between people of other ethnicities, don’t fret, there’s still hope. According to University of London psychologist Gizelle Anzures, “the Other-Race Effect can be prevented, attenuated, and even reversed given experience with a novel race class.”

Storytelling is a fundamental to human interaction and can be an effective means of overcoming bias, but stories work best when shared in a safe space. Mixed Roots Stories provides an online platform for sharing and engaging with stories. What is your story?


PSA: ‘What are you?’ Is Not an Icebreaker

The “What are you?” question is a form of micro-aggression that is an all too common experience for blended/ Mixed (your word of choice) folks. Vocalist and Songwriter Andromeda Turre recently wrote a fascinating post in the Huffington Post about her – What are you experiences. As Andromeda states, “The problem with this question is, for lot of us blended people, that it doesn’t have a a simple answer.” The rest of the paragraph – for that matter the entire posting – is profound, succinct, and relatable. Read it then come back to mixedrootsstories for more sharing.

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Chat Post Format

Q: “Do you know how many records you’ve sold up to the present time?”

RINGO: “Uhh, well… The last count was, umm, six million, I think.

JOHN: (jokingly) “That’s just Ringo’s records.”

PAUL: (laughs)

RINGO: “Well, the others’ are on sale.”

On Mixed Privilege

GCC Spring 2014I’ve been thinking a lot lately about whether there is such a thing as ‘mixed privilege’. Today in my ESL class one of my students said he would let his daughter marry anyone…except for a Black person. I’ve shared with my students many times and in a number of ways that I am proud of being Black (& other things too). I also often use the exploration of ‘race as a social construct’ in order to teach English at the more advanced levels (as this class was). So what made this student feel comfortable enough to say this to me? Is it that I have a privilege that makes him feel like this kind of blatantly discriminatory statement is OK to say to me? A prolonged conversation ensued with historical context and personal anecdotes, but I was too fired up to ask directly why he felt this was OK.

Maybe when our privilege as mixed folks (that is, the times in which a person doesn’t immediately label us by how we appear) is indicated so clearly, we can take advantage of the opportunity. I’m thinking particularly of when we are asked the (in)famous ‘What are you?’ question. The person is implying that WE (unlike others) have the right/opportunity to label ourselves, and they have not yet judged our worth. What if we respond with a question like, ‘What information will you glean from the answer? or ‘What will you be more or less comfortable saying once you (think) you know the answer?’  Or…?

How would you have responded to my student?

The Mixed Reddit Experience – Is Obama ‘Black’?

Reddit is an online resource that allows its readers to ‘upvote’ posts. If enough people respond to and click the ‘up’ arrow on a post, it ends up on the ‘front page’ of Reddit – making it more accessible to thousands (if not millions) of people. About a month ago someone posed this question on Reddit: Why is Obama always referred to as black? Surely you would be equally as accurate in calling him white… or am i missing something?

The conversation that follows is fascinating, informative, and very well worth the read.



Loving v. Virginia Strikes Again

Please read Jonathan Capehart’s excellent article in the Washington Post on the recent decision by Mark Herring – the Commonwealth of Virginia’s State Attorney – to not defend the commonwealth’s ban on same-sex marriage.  The significance of the story to the Mixed community is the reference to the precedent setting 1967 Loving v Virginia decision that anti-miscegenation laws are unconstitutional.

Personal note: In 1962 my parents had to marry in Washington D.C. because their other options of Maryland and Virginia had anti-miscegenation laws. Fast forward to today, I get to see some of my dearest friends marry their same-sex partners. “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.


Is Race Colorblind?

Professor of Law, Osagie K. Obasogie recently (11/2013) published a book titled, “Blinded by Sight: Seeing Race Through the Eyes of the Blind”.  As stated by Professor Obasogie, “Given the assumptions behind this influential metaphor—that being blind to race will lead to racial equality—it’s curious that, until now, we have not considered if or how the blind ‘see’ race.

His research reveals that race is not colorblind. The blind do not “ see” color, but they do have a visual concept of race. Hence, they make choices on friends and relationships using the same construct as the sighted. (link to YouTube interview) 

It is an intriguing thought exercise to contrast Professor Obasogie’s findings with the ambitions of a colorblind society desired by Ward Connerly.

Ward Connerly

Ward Connerly

Ward Connerly led the charge on passage of Proposition 209 (1998) that eliminated affirmative actions in both state schools and in government in California. Again in 2003 he pushed for Proposition 54, which did not pass, to eliminate racial preference or acknowledge racial/ethnic categories at all levels of society in the State of California, believing it would put us on the path towards equality.
The jury is out on the impacts (pro or con) of Proposition 209 here in California and similar legislation in other states, nevertheless a simple truth remains, race is a social construct further evidenced by Professor Obasogie’s findings. The good news is we constructed it, so we can deconstruct it, but using a blunt political instrument like propositions is not the path.