How Do Multiracial People Identify Their Children and What Does This Tell Us?

SEP 14, 2017 | 4:30 PM TO 6:30 PM



The Graduate Center
365 Fifth Avenue




September 14, 2017: 4:30 PM-6:30 PM





Advanced Research Collaborative (ARC)


ARC Seminar: Miri Song: How Do Multiracial People Identify Their Children -- and What Does This Tell Us?

While there has been significant growth in studies about ‘multiracial’ (or ‘mixed race’) individuals – that is, the children of so-called interracial unions’ – very few studies have investigated the experiences of people who are the descendants of multiracial individuals (such as the children or grandchildren of multiracial people). In Britain, the majority of mixed people are known to partner with White Britons, therefore, their children, whose minority ancestries are at a generational remove, can be called ‘multigeneration’ (2nd or 3rd generation) multiracials. As ‘mixing’ continues in many societies, and down the generations, what are the social, political and theoretical implications of this? Generational (and genealogical) distance from a minority ancestry means that some people may possess little awareness of or interest in a minority or multiracial heritage. I argue that increasingly, we must specify the generational locus of ‘mixing’ in studies of multiracial people, so that we clearly differentiate between 1st and 2nd (and even conceivably 3rd) generation mixed people, and explore the differential ways in which multigeneration multiracials do or do not value the generational transmission of minority ancestries. In doing so, in the case of individuals whose ancestries are predominantly White over successive generations, we can investigate whether there is a generational ‘tipping point’ at which one’s multiracial ancestry is no longer meaningful; thus, individual choices are inextricably linked with societal understandings of ‘who we are’, and of what constitutes minority status. And how does Britain compare with the USA, where some analysts point to an ineluctable trend toward ‘whitening’, in the case of many (non-Black) mixed people.

Miri Song is Professor of Sociology at the University of Kent, in Canterbury, England. She received her BA in History & Literature from Harvard University and her Ph.D. in social policy from the London School of Economics. She is the author of several books: Helping Out: Children’s Labor in Ethnic Businesses (Temple University Press 1999), Choosing Ethnic Identity (Polity Press 2003), and Mixed Race Identities (with Peter Aspinall) (Palgrave Macmillan 2013). She has just completed her latest book: Multiracial Parents: Mixed Families, Generational Change, and the Future of Race (NYU Press 2017). Her research interests include ethnicity and race, migration, racisms, multiracial people and families.