In 2013, National Geographic published an article on how the average person would look in 2050. The article was based on the increasingly relevant topic of mixed race people. Where do they fit in the world? What are the struggles they face, in being validated, in a society that still sees pure race as the norm?
A society that still classifies race into 5 categories, as defined in the 18th century by German scientist Johann Friedrich Blumenbach, (race being a concept that has since been disproved by science as having no biological basis).
What issues will we have to tackle as the human faces of the world become less and less easy to classify? If by 2050, the average person will be of mixed decent, the norm, then when will we begin addressing the challenges the average mixed race person faces? Let’s start now.
CAN WE STOP…
FORCING MIXED RACE PEOPLE TO CHOOSE..
The numbers are still out on the mixed race population of South Africa. We don’t have exact figures, let alone know what the most common mix is. That’s because when filling out forms from birth certificates and bank applications there is no option to choose more than one race. There is one race you look most like, therefore ‘are’. And there is ‘other’.
In America the option to choose more than one race was introduced by The U.S. Census Bureau in 2000 and “6.8 million people chose to do so.” According to National Geographic, “Ten years later that number jumped by 32 percent, making it one of the fastest growing categories.”
OR CHOOSING FOR THEM.
From a social stand-point, mixed people are told what they are on a daily basis. They are often forced to choose by complete strangers. Their identities are based on outside perspectives. Common statements are, ‘Which one are you? You can’t be both’, and the winner, ‘You are [this] because you look like [this]’.
Even worse is when the person is actually given the opportunity to answer any question pertaining to their race/nationality but is told ‘You are wrong.’
Let’s get one thing clear, a mixed person can choose which race they identify with. This decision, if made at all, is often based on a lifetime of societal norms, family ties and race- related issues that a pure race person will never be able to begin to understand, because they have never experienced life as a mixed race person.
You don’t need to understand why a half black, half Dutch person sees himself as white, you just need to accept that he does, if you ask the question.
PRETENDING HERITAGE IS THE SAME AS NATIONALITY
It is often misunderstood that the way a person looks, and their nationality must be one and the same. But in the modern world we inhabit, post-globalization, is it so hard still to wrap our minds around the fact that people travel, marry and grow up in countries outside of their race?
Through occupation/settlement/colonization (whichever word you prefer) the majority race of any given country from South Africa to the USA, is not the race that originally occupied the land of which they claim is their nationality. We have accepted this, so why is it so hard to understand that as a result of this, there are many people whose own family, and whose own identity has evolved to identify with the country that they grew up in?
Yet regularly, as a mixed race Asian and white South African I am told that because I look Asian, I am not South African. How can we begin to defend such a statement other than, put simply, “I was born here, I have a South African ID, my family lives here, I have never been to Asia, and I am not Asian to begin with”.
Can we stop pretending people who look Indian, but have grown up in the UK are meant to force some kind of bond with a country they have no connection to, other than physical characteristics?
Can we stop forcing mixed race people to defend their basic human right to belong to a country?
ACTING LIKE BEING MIXED RACE IS AN ODDITY
Although perhaps not every person in the world has mentally accustomed themselves to the widely accepted, mainstream belief that ‘interbreeding’ is no longer a taboo, one has to come to the acceptance that it is now normal. Why else would racist government systems have fought against the practice as hard as they did? Why did the Apartheid government take children from parents that didn’t ‘look like’ them, why did they sentence black and white people to 5 years in prison for ‘mixing’? Why did Germany condemn the pollution of the Aryan gene by confining non-Aryans into concentration camps?
Because these systems acknowledged that racial mixing, as a result of interaction, was inevitable.
On a scientific level, genetics shows that those who breed out of their race group (or population gene pool), produce stronger offspring. Populations that breed within themselves for a prolonged amount of time, only increase their chances of passing along hereditary diseases and mutations within their gene pool. It’s just science. It’s just natural.
It’s one step towards an integrated future, where race can no longer be validated as a classification or differing factor between humans.
And I think that’s swell.
Images via National Geographic, by Martin Schoeller.
Words by Zoya Pon.