Due to the legacy of slavery, including Jim Crow segregation and laws prohibiting racial intermarriage, blacks were excluded from participating in society as equals with whites. Those proscriptions were officially dismantled beginning with Brown v. Board of Education (1954), which desegregated public schools and culminated in the Civil Rights Act (1964), the Voting Rights Act (1965), and the Fair Housing Act (1968), as well as Loving v. Virginia (1967), which eliminated the remaining statutes against racial intermarriage. The concomitant removal of legal restrictions on immigration through the Hart-Celler Act (1965) provided opportunities for a new wave of arrivals from Asia and Latin America. In The Diversity Paradox, sociologists Lee and Bean (along with Bachmeier and Gubernskaya in chapter 4) seek to ascertain whether the experience of these new immigrants follows a trajectory similar to that of blacks or something comparable to that of their European antecedents, including access to a white racial identification. Notwithstanding the failure to include several critical theoretical sources, as well as a more nuanced discussion of the initiative to make possible a multiracial identification in racial data collection, as in the census, The Diversity Paradox is a masterful examination of changing racial and ethnic demographics in the United States. Lee and Bean utilize extensive data from the 1990 and 2000 US censuses and the ongoing annual American Community Survey for the years 2007 and 2008. They also draw on impressive data derived from face-to-face interviews with interracial couples with children and multiracial adults in California. In their research, Lee and Bean discovered a “diversity paradox.” While the United States has become more diverse with increased immigration, Asian and Latin American origin populations also outmarry at higher rates. Multiracials of white/Asian or white/Latina/o backgrounds have greater flexibility institutionally or through social interaction to identify as Asian American or Latina/o, respectively, as well as white or multiracial. Conversely, racial boundaries persist in terms of African Americans. They have significantly lower outmarriage rates. Furthermore, part-black multiracials are more frequently designated as black and more often identify as such despite the fact that beginning with the 2000 census, individuals were permitted to check more than one box on the race question. Lee and Bean attribute these phenomena to the continuing stigma associated with blackness and the persistence of the “one-drop rule,” which has historically designated as black all individuals of African American descent. Originally implemented to discriminate against blacks, this social mechanism also forged collective black identity, and has paradoxically been considered a vehicle for mobilizing against racial inequality if not against the rule itself. The Diversity Paradox thus reaffirms what has been termed “black exceptionalism,” which emphasizes the unique experience of African-descent Americans. This research also corroborates previous arguments that racial boundaries are softening more rapidly for Latinas/os and Asian Americans than for blacks. Lee and Bean conclude that the United States is thus moving toward a black/nonblack racial divide in which African-descent Americans remain perpetual “others” (e.g., Hochschild 1996; Hochschild and Weaver 2007; Hollinger 2003; Yancey 2003). Although Lee and Bean provide persuasive data to support their argument, some questions remain. To what extent do multiracials consider themselves a collective subjectivity as compared to identifying with the white and/or traditional monoracial communities of color that compose their backgrounds? Certainly, based on 2010 census data multiracials increased from 7 to 9 million people—or 2.9 percent of the population. Although they are still only a fraction of the total population, this is a growth rate of about 32 percent since 2000, when multiracials composed 2.4 percent of the population. In addition, other research (Newman and Daniel 2015; Newman forthcoming 2018) found that in a cluster of counties in Northern California that contain some of the highest percentages of multiracials within an already notably multiracial state (Park, Meyers, and Wei 2002), a multiracial identity is a normative part of the region’s racial common sense, including those of partial African American descent. Additionally, research on black/white young adults indicates that those who phenotypically more closely approximate European Americans often have access to a white racial identity. This identity can result from the preponderance of whites in their social milieu and/or relative lack of contact with family members and other individuals of African American background. Moreover, their identity is validated through social interaction, particularly with white peers. This is a significant change given that the one-drop rule has historically precluded such identification (e.g., Korgen 1998; Khanna 2010, 2011; Renn 2004, 2008; Rockquemore and Brunsma 2002; Rockquemore and Laszloffy 2003). Finally, Lee and Bean’s supposition that a black/nonblack racial divide is superseding the historical black/white divide, which may be slower to dissolve, has considerable merit given the persistence of the one-drop rule and the continuing stigma attached to blackness. Yet, other data indicate that the actual color line shows signs of increased salience within the larger society and across racial groups, including African-descent Americans (Hall 2003; Hughes and Hertel 1990; Hunter 2007, 2016; Keith and Herring 1991; Livingston and Pearce 2009; Price and Gyimah-Brempong 2006; Rondilla and Spickard 2005; Russell, Wilson, and Hall 1992; Telles and Murguia 1990; Viglione, Hannon, and DeFina 2011; Wade, Romano, and Blue 2004). Skin color and other phenotypical features more closely approximating those of European Americans, working in combination with attitudinal, behavioral, and socioeconomic attributes, have gained in significance as a form of “racial capital,” which has long been the case in Latin America (e.g., Bonilla-Silva 2001, 2004, 2013, 2017; Daniel 1992, 2000, 2006; Skidmore 1993). This trend has therefore somewhat lessened the impact of the one-drop rule as the primary factor determining the social location of African-descent Americans. Consequently, although W. E. B. Du Bois predicted in 1903 that the color line would be “the problem of the twentieth century,” the color line as such may very well be a problem of the twenty-first century. © The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Social Forces – Oxford University Press
Published: Mar 1, 2018
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