American is the New Black and White

kim kardashian

Back in 2010, the United States Census Bureau released a report claiming that the “2010 Census Shows Multiple-Race Population Grew Faster Than Single-Race Population”. The report goes on to note that, “The first time in U.S history that people were presented with the option to self-identify with more than one race came on the 2000 Census questionnaire.” The question that can be proposed is where these people were categorized before “more than two races” was an option. On major applications for jobs or schools, it was “other.” With help from The Huffington Post, you can get a taste of what was inside the other box.

The Huffington Post did a story on Priscilla Yuki Wilson, who replicated an experiment done by Esther Honig; a journalist who used Photoshop as a means to explore what is considered “beautiful”. Wilson, just as Honig did, sent a picture of herself to photo editors in 25 different countries, asking them to Photoshop her image into what they consider to be beautiful. Wilson received photos back from 18 countries. The answer in her journey is a strong display of the old adage that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. Each image is a different expression of beauty and objective to what is standard in their perspective country. It is hard to give beauty an exact definition, yet some people want to try to find out. Being a biracial woman herself, Wilson and other mixed race individuals are often asked, “What are you?”

Via Priscilla Yuki Wilson
Via Priscilla Yuki Wilson

This question is hard to answer because so many factors come into play. If you take the question to mean “what is your nationality”, you may say American. But that may be wrong because it does not fill the mold of “society’s unattainable standards of beauty”. If it does not have to do with nationality, one might answer the question from an ethnic or cultural point of view—what countries are they mixed with? Wilson would say “half black and half Japanese”. Maybe people would understand and feel a sense of fulfillment from knowing. However, if this question was asked on the Census before 2000, would she have identified herself as black?

Honig’s and Wilson’s experiments to find out what makes someone “beautiful” begs the greater question of what the differences between ethnicity, nationality and race are. Because of the “two or more races” option or permission to select more than more race on the Census, a biracial or multi-ethnic American, can now be categorized. Perhaps, this is important because we can now see what is truly in the “melting pot” that America is known to be. However, is not being just American enough to be considered American?


Photo Via Flickr/Mike Mozart

About Stacy Narine

Originally from Paterson, NJ, I recently graduated from Seton Hall University with my B.A in English. I will be starting my M.A program in Literature at Seton Hall University in spring 2015. I love Pinterest, Photoshop, and writing fictional short stories about characters who are trying to establish a sense of individuality while in relationships. Ready to momentarily stray from fiction, I am motivated to write about topics that are important to women.

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