Friday, March 25, 2011

Generation Swirl


A while ago, I had some fun with the concept of a "swirled-world", a world of multiracial folks as the new normal and an embodiment of the Baha'i principle of unity in diversity. The recent census suggest the emergence of what could be aptly described as "Generation Swirl". The New York Times has the 411 on the phenomenon:

"WASHINGTON — Among American children, the multiracial population has increased almost 50 percent, to 4.2 million, since 2000, making it the fastest growing youth group in the country. The number of people of all ages who identified themselves as both white and black soared by 134 percent since 2000 to 1.8 million people, according to census data released Thursday.

Census 2010 is the first comprehensive accounting of how the multiracial population has changed over 10 years, since statistics were first collected about it in 2000. It has allowed demographers, for the first time, to make comparisons using the mixed-race group — a segment of society whose precise contours and nuances were largely unknown for generations. The data shows that the multiracial population is overwhelmingly young, and that, among the races, American Indians and Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders are the most likely to report being of more than one race. Blacks and whites are the least likely.

In what experts view as a significant change from 2000, the most common racial combination is black and white. Ten years ago, it was white and “some other race” — a designation overwhelmingly used by people of Hispanic origin, which is considered by the government to be an ethnicity not a race." (Read the whole thing here)

As the proud papa of one of these kids, it's encouraging to think that he will grow up in a world where lots of other kids will be just like him. However, as I've said before demography is not destiny. What this generation means for America and the world will not be determined simply by their existence. It's significance will be largely a matter of who these kids grow up to be; it will be a question of parenting. 'Abdu'l-Baha put it this way:

"Every child is potentially the light of the world -- and at the same time its darkness; wherefore must the question of education be accounted as of primary importance. From his infancy, the child must be nursed at the breast of God's love, and nurtured in the embrace of His knowledge, that he may radiate light, grow in spirituality, be filled with wisdom and learning, and take on the characteristics of the angelic host."
(Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 130)

Being "mixed" or having parents from different races in and of themselves will not inoculate children from unhealthy attitudes or racial superiority or inferiority. As some have said "love isn't enough". Raising kids who live the reality of the oneness of humanity takes conscious and informed effort. Websites like Mixed and Happy and InCulture Parent are leading the way in supporting a culture of learning in this regard. I particularly enjoyed reading the "Bill of Rights for Mixed-Race People" from the Mixed and Happy site:

I HAVE THE RIGHT …
Not to justify my existence in this world.
Not to keep the races separate within me.
Not to justify my ethnic legitimacy.
Not to be responsible for people's discomfort with
my physical or ethnic ambiguity.


I HAVE THE RIGHT …
To identify myself differently than strangers
expect me to identify.
To identify myself differently than how my parents
identify me.
To identify myself differently than my brothers and
sisters.
To identify myself differently in different
situations.


I HAVE THE RIGHT …
To create a vocabulary to communicate about
being multi-racial or multi-ethnic.
To change my identity over my lifetime – and more
than once.
To have loyalties and identification with more
than one group of people.
To freely choose whom I befriend and love.

© Maria P. P. Root, PhD, 1993, 1994

As much as I like this concept of a Bill of Rights, as a parent I need to emphasize my son's responsibilities as well. What are the spiritual and moral implications of his heritage? What is the creative wisdom and divine purpose his particular "mix"?

"This variety in forms and colorings which is manifest in all the kingdoms is according to creative wisdom and has a divine purpose." (Abdu'l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 113)



4 comments:

  1. Very thought provoking, however I have a slight disagreement over considering multiracialism to be the "new normal", because it would imply that people who are *not* multiracial are "abnormal" and "different", and thus become the reverse side of prejudice that multiracial people face. I think the concept of "race unity" is the only concept that doesn't feed into any racial "power struggle."

    I know it is just a catch phrase, but I think the term "race unity" is more profound than "race equality", because race equality implies an inherent separation of humanness whereas race unity implies that we are literally one race of people, even though we come from different backgrounds and have differences in our skin colors.

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  2. Matt, it depends up the meaning of multiracial. In this case I'm not just talking about it in a genetic sense. It's a question of one's worldview, about actively embracing an alternative future for humanity which is more than skin deep. It has nothing to do with the superiority or inferiority of anyone. That it would be interpreted that way by some is itself an artifact of racism which encourages false dichotomies based on skin color. Such dichotomies assume that celebrating one group must somehow involve denigrating another.

    As for racial unity vs. racial equity, I would again question the notion that these are distinct and opposing realities with one being superior to the other. I don't see it that way.

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  3. Rebecca4:30 AM

    Very very interesting post. And you are right about responsibilities! We could add a list of "I have the duty of" helping others develop a world embracing vision, challenging them to think out of the box, easing their uncomfort, helping them see what is over the hill!

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