The ranks of multiracial Americans grew fastest in the states that most recently had laws on the books outlawing interracial marriage, the U.S. Census Bureau said yesterday.
Nine of the 10 states where the percentage of multiracial white Americans climbed the most were in the South, where interracial marriages were banned before a 1967 U.S. Supreme Court decision declared a Virginia prohibition unconstitutional.
Multiracial Americans who are partially white increased by at least 8 percent in every state in the nation from 2000 to 2010. The number of people who described themselves as white multiracial Americans climbed 112 percent in South Carolina, 111 percent in North Carolina, 93 percent in Georgia, and 81 percent in Mississippi, the bureau reported.
“A person’s approach to the census form is as much about how others see them as it is about how they see themselves,” said Zandria Robinson, a sociology and Southern studies professor at the University of Mississippi in Oxford. “Over the decade, there’s been an increasing acceptance of multiracial people.”
The largest percentage of multiracial Americans are white and black, the Census Bureau said. Americans who described themselves as a combination of white and black races made up almost a quarter of the nation’s 9 million multiracial residents. Multiracial Americans make up 2.9 percent of the population, up from 2.4 percent in 2000, the first time Americans were allowed to describe themselves to the government as members of more than one race.
Black and White
A separate analysis by William Frey, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington who has studied census data for more than three decades, looked at just those who considered themselves white and black. He found that number also grew fastest in South Carolina, increasing to 27,432 from 7,890, or 247.7 percent. Nationwide, the number of multiracial Americans who were a combination of white and black rose to 1.8 million, more than doubling from the 2000 tally of 784,764, Frey reported, calling it “a historic change.”
The increase in the white multiracial population was in contrast to the region’s white, non-Hispanic population, which grew 4 percent, less than half the nation’s 9.7 percent rate over the decade.
The growth in individuals identifying themselves as multiracial indicates the change in public acceptance since the 1967 Supreme Court decision.
All 11 states in the Deep South, plus Oklahoma, Delaware, Kentucky, Missouri and West Virginia had anti-miscegenation laws overturned by the ruling. The case was sparked by a white man and black woman who married in 1958 in the District of Columbia, then attempted to live in Virginia. Their sentence was suspended by a judge on the condition that Richard and Mildred Loving leave the state for 25 years. The couple moved to Washington, then sued.
“Almighty God created the races, white, black, yellow, Malay, and red and placed them on separate continents, and but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages,” the judge wrote.
Heidi Durrow, 42, a writer who used her interracial background as the inspiration for her bestselling book, “The Girl Who Fell to Earth,” said in a telephone interview that today more people know multiracial Americans.
‘I Was Nervous’
Durrow said her first book tour stop in 2010 was scheduled in Chester, Vermont, for an annual program focusing on newly published writers. More than 94 percent of Vermont residents and 98 percent of Chester’s 1,005 residents are non-Hispanic whites.
“I was nervous to begin with, and then I got up there on the stage,” she said. “My first thought was, oh my God, they’re all white people! They’re never going to get it!”
Durrow said after the reading, a half-dozen people talked to her about their own multiracial experience, including some with multiracial grandchildren or children who had married Hispanics.
“It was a profound moment,” she said. “I thought they were all white. They weren’t. People feel like they’re part of the discussion. There are more people who are now connected to the mixed race experience.”