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I contain multitudes

November 14, 2013

I came across this fascinating story in National Geographic via NPR about the “changing face” of America. The year 2000 was the first census that allowed people to check off more than one race; 6.8 million people did. And, in 2010 that number jumped by 32%.

Everyone I know of mixed race or ethnicity is incredibly beautiful; the people below give quite a dramatic illustration of the beauty that’s found in some very unique looks. If you click on the photo, it will take you to nationalgeographic.com where the graphic is interactive. You can click on each individual and read about their racial and ethnic background, and how they chose to self-identify on the census.

Changing Face

I found myself quite intrigued by the graphic. It was fascinating to learn what racial or ethnic backgrounds contributed to the unique individuals who participated in the story. And then I realized, my intrigue likely grew of out my very fixed understanding of what it means to look black or white or Hispanic or Asian. Maybe someday it won’t be so interesting; maybe someday racial and ethnic labels won’t matter as much as they do today. Unfortunately, that’s probably quite a long time from now. In the meantime, cheers to National Geographic for celebrating America’s “changing face” and giving some insight into the benefits and challenges for these individuals. I can’t put it any better than the last paragraph of the story

It’s also, for the rest of us, an opportunity. If we can’t slot people into familiar categories, perhaps we’ll be forced to reconsider existing definitions of race and identity, presumptions about who is us and who is them. Perhaps we’ll all end up less parsimonious about who we feel connected to as we increasingly come across people like Seda, whose faces seem to speak that resounding line from Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself”: “I am large, I contain multitudes.”

[Image via nationalgeographic.com]

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