Reclaiming heritage in modern America

Columnist Jahred Nunes

Columnist Jahred Nunes

Virginia natives Mildred Loving, a black woman, and Richard Loving, a white man, were sentenced to a year in state prison after being married in the spring of 1958.

The couple was arrested in their bedroom, after police received an anonymous tip that the Lovings may be an interracial couple. Their marriage violated the state’s anti-miscegenation statute, the Racial Integrity Act of 1924, which prohibited marriage between people classified as “white” and people classified as “colored.”

After taking their case to the Supreme Court in 1967, Loving v. Virginia became a landmark civil rights decision invalidating all laws prohibiting interracial marriage.

Nearly 50 years later, the Pew Research Center found that multiracial Americans are one of the fastest growing communities in America, growing at three times the rate as the American population as a whole.

However, with the lines between race and culture being blurred in the modern era, where does multiculturalism fit in?

The controversy comes in the age of the internet paired with rising racial tensions in America. It has become increasingly common for multiracial Americans to find a w;ay to live in the grey area between one culture and the next; constantly being criticized for not being enough of one ethnicity or the other.

For example, pop sensation Christina Aguilera, who is of Irish and Ecuadorian background, spoke to the Huffington Post about the criticism she receives for not being a “true” Latina.

“I wouldn’t be questioned [about my heritage] if I looked more stereotypically Latina, whatever that is,” said Aguilera, “All I know is no one can tell me I’m not a proud Latina woman... I dove headfirst into a Spanish-language album for that reason and I’m planning another one even though I don’t speak the language. I’m sure that doesn’t sit well with some people.”

For many, the issue does not lie in heritage, but in appearance. It would be ignorant to deny the fact that race affects the everyday lives of Americans, however there is no true definition of what a specific ethnicity is supposed to look like.

Sensitivities around race and ethnicity often come from the misunderstandingthe two are necessarily linked, when in fact they are not. In an age where multiracial Americans are set to outnumber any other specific ethnic group in America, it’s extremely difficult to align any one racial experience to its multiracial counterpart.

Perhaps the most important issue at hand when discussing racial identity is that it’sfluid. In fact, Pew researchers found through surveys on Twitter that multiracial Americans define their identities in a plethora of different ways.

About 3 in 10 adults have said they have changed the way they describe their race over the years,  saying that they once thought of themselves as a single race but now see themselves as more than one, with other multiracial Americans saying just the opposite.

The unfortunate long-term effects of criticism of multiracial Americans is the erasure of culture and the emergence of unacceptance.

Often, multiracial people are made to choose between one specific part of their heritage and only claim that one.

However, saying that any one person isn’t ethnic enough to claim a part of their heritage is preposterous on top of stunting that specific culture’s growth.

Natasha Sim of the Huffington Post sums up the issue perfectly when she writes “[Claiming only one part of one’s heritage] in itself is anxiety-provoking, especially given that most mixed race individuals now prefer to identify as biracial or multiracial, but what further aggravates the situation is that we often don’t get to choose which box we fall into.”