For generations here in the deepest South, there had been a great taboo: publicly crossing the color line for love. Less than 45 years ago, marriage between blacks and whites was illegal, and it has been frowned upon for much of the time since. In the first comprehensive accounting of multiracial Americans since statistics were first collected about them in 2000, reporting from the 2010 census, made public in recent days, shows that the nation’s mixed-race population is growing far more quickly than many demographers had estimated, particularly in the South and parts of the Midwest. That conclusion is based on the bureau’s analysis of 42 states; the data from the remaining eight states will be released this week.
In North Carolina, the mixed-race population doubled. In Georgia, it expanded by more than 80 percent, and by nearly as much in Kentucky and Tennessee. In Indiana, Iowa and South Dakota, the multiracial population increased by about 70 percent.
“Anything over 50 percent is impressive,” said William H. Frey, a sociologist and demographer at the Brookings Institution. “The fact that even states like Mississippi were able to see a large explosion of residents identifying as both black and white tells us something that people would not have predicted 10 or 20 years ago.” Census officials were expecting a national multiracial growth rate of about 35 percent since 2000, when seven million people — 2.4 percent of the population — chose more than one race. Officials have not yet announced a national growth rate, but it seems sure to be closer to 50 percent.
“Racial attitudes are changing,” said Marvin King, a professor of political science at the University of Mississippi who is black, married to a white woman, and the father of a 2-year-old biracial daughter. “Day in, day out, there is certainly not the hostility there was years ago, and I think you see that in that there are more interracial relationships, and people don’t fear those relationships. They don’t have to hide those relationships anymore.”
“The reality is that there has been a long history of black and white relationships — they just weren’t public,” said Prof. Matthew Snipp, a demographer in the sociology department at Stanford University. Speaking about the mixed-race offspring of some of those relationships, he added: “People have had an entire decade to think about this since it was first a choice in 2000. Some of these figures are not so much changes as corrections. In a sense, they’re rendering a more accurate portrait of their racial heritage that in the past would have been suppressed.”
Experts say there are some elements, like military service or time spent on a college campus, that lay the groundwork for interracial relationships. With the Camp Shelby military base on its southern side and the University of Southern Mississippi as an anchor, perhaps it is not a surprise that Hattiesburg, a city of about 50,000 residents, and its surrounding counties would show rapid mixed-race growth.
They are also part of Mississippi’s coastal culture, which has historically been more liberal and outward looking — given the port towns — than the rest of the state. (Harrison County, south of Hattiesburg and home to the Gulf Coast cities of Gulfport and Biloxi, has the highest share of mixed-race residents in the state, according to the 2010 census.)
For Discussion: Mixed Race Couples In The Deep South On The Rise
Posted on March 21st, 2011 - By Bossip Staff