Is Mulitracialism Destabilizing “Traditional” Racial Categories? Not Quite…

“About six-in-ten adults who have a mixed racial background say they do not see themselves as ‘mixed race or multiracial.’ When asked why they don’t identify as multiracial, some say they were raised only as a single race, and others say they physically look like a certain race.” —Multiracial in America, Pew Research Center


What is White? The 2020 U.S. Census and Race


Take a look at the proposed U.S. Census question regarding race and ethnicity. The category for White is interesting. The nationalities listed as examples for White are historically rich. There was a time when Italians and Germans, among others, were not necessarily (or fully, genuinely) White and American; English nativism was widespread. So when and how did these nationalities/ethnicities become mainstream White? Will there ever be a time when the Census lists Chinese, Lebanese, or Ghanan as White? (The Lebanese were White at one point in U.S. history, but that’s a story for another day.) If that were to happen, then what social conditions would facilitate that? Would it even feel right if Whiteness expanded to include non-white persons? (Would non-white persons even want that?) This all begs the question: What exactly is White?

*Image of the proposed question for the 2020 Census is from a Pew Research Center report.

Originally posted on, June 2015