Glendale College's Student Magazine
Wednesday June 20th 2018

Racial Diversity: an increasing number of people identify with more than one culture

The multiracial population in the United States is growing at a swift rate, but what does it really mean to be multiethnic?            

 Melody  Shahsavarani Melody Shahsavarani

Melody  Shahsavarani,  20,  was  born  of  an  Iranian  father  and Armenian  mother.  Her parents were both from Iran. They met here in the United States where she was born and raised.  She recalls her parents’  persistence to raise her in their own languages. “They were determined to only speak Armenian and Farsi in the house,” she said. “They believed English would be learned at school and from my “Sesame Street”.”            

Shahsavarani  grew  up  learning  about  her  parents’   cultures  and  enjoying  the  different traditions. “In Iranian culture, there is the Persian New Year called Norooz,” she said. “Every year, since  I  could  remember,I  was  always  excited  to  set  up  our  haft-seen,  a  table  with  different elements representing the New Year. My family would tell  me stories about their times  and my grandmother would give us new dollar bills placed in the Koran.”            

James  Simonsson,  30,  was  born  in  the  Philippines  but  grew  up  in  Sweden.  He  has  a Swedish  father and a  Filipino  mother. He  moved here  in the United States  last  year  for college. Growing up, he remembers celebrating Swedish traditions, and, at the same time, learning about Filipino culture and values.

“I remember my mom telling me to answer her in that language she spoke to me, whether it was Swedish, Tagalog or English,” Simonsson related. “I remember her cooking Filipino food but also trying Swedish food and pastries. She was a good cook and enjoyed being in the kitchen, and having people over to enjoy it with us.”            

Juan  Armijos,  26,  was  born  in  Peru  and  grew  up  in  Ecuador.  He moved  to  the  United States  earlier  this  year  to  continue  his  education.  His father  was  from  Ecuador  and  his  mother was from Peru.

“My  father  has  taught  me  so  many  Peruvian  dishes,  even though  he’s  Ecuadorian,”  he said. “That has always made me feel like he completely immersed himself in his spouse’s culture. And my mother has always been passionate about education in Ecuador, even though she’s from Peru.”

The   most   recently   available   Pew Research   Center   data   showed   that   6.9 percent  of  Americans  over  the  age  of  18 come  from  a  mixed racial  background.  This percentage    may    look    small,    but    their research   shows   that   46   percent   of   all multiracial  Americans  are  younger  than  18 years  old.  These  numbers,  moreover,  are rising rapidly.           

But   despite   the   growth   in   racial diversity,  there  are  still  pressure  for  people with  mixed  racial  background  to  identify with just one race.  “About one-in-five multiracial adults say  they  have  felt  pressure  from  friends, family  or  from  society  in  general  to  choose one  of  the  races  in  their  background  over another,”  Pew  Research  Center  reported. “Multiracial adults feel the heat to identify as just one race  more  from ‘society  in general’ than from family members or friends.             

Growing  up,  children   from   mixed racial  backgrounds  still  struggle  with  their  multiracial  identities.  The  need  to  fit  in  and  identify with a certain group still plagues our society today. “In the first few years in elementary school it was weird,” Shahsavarani recalled. “In the third grade, during a show and tell presentation, I was so happy to go up and talk about the hijabs worn  in  Iran.  Some  kids  laughed  but  at  that  time  you  could  say  they  were  too  childish  to understand.”           

Shahsavarani also related how her parents had a hard time getting married. Her father is a Muslim Iranian and her mother is a Christian Armenian. Their families were initially against the marriage and gossip trailed her parents for years. “They  went  through  a  lot  of  struggles  to  get  married  to  the  extent  where  my  mother’s parents did not accept it,” she said. “My mother had to go to the local church in Glendale and get my dad converted to Christianity, which he did for my mother.”            

This is not only a problem here in the United States but around the world. “Around the early ‘90s in Sweden, it wasn’ t that common to see foreigners,” Simonsson said. “For some people  it was unusual to see a person that is not a ‘typical Swede’  with  blonde hair and  blue eyes. I often  felt that I wasn’t Swedish enough  because of  how I  looked like, and not Filipino enough because I couldn’ t speak Tagalog that well.”

He  lost  his  mother  at  the  age  of  10  and  he  felt  like  it  was  a huge  factor  in  why  he  felt different to other kids. “For many years, I felt ashamed of being Filipino and brown-skinned,” he said. “I think if my  mom  was  alive  when  I  was  growing  up,  I  would’ ve  felt  differently  about  myself –  more proud.”            

Armijos remembers being taunted by other children growing up in Ecuador. “Sometimes  I  felt  different  from  other  kids,”  he  said. “In  Ecuador,  there  are  certain people that see the fact that you weren’t technically born there as a defining factor, even though you were raised there your entire life.”            

But  even  though  they  experienced  difficulties  growing  up,  they  still  embraced  their parents’  heritage. They  felt that  it gave them a  better understanding of who they are  and where they came  from.  They all  agreed that the way they were raised  helped them to be  more open to other  people  and  cultures.  Being  raised  in  multiethnic  households  gave  them  a  different perspective of the world around them.             

The most recent report by the U.S. Census Bureau estimated a huge expansion in the number of multiracial Americans from 2014 to 2060. See chart on page 8. One contributing factor to this growth is the increase of mixed race couples, which will result in children with mixed racial background. “The ‘Two or More Races’ population is projected to be the fastest growing over the next 46 years, with its population expected to triple in size (an increase of 226 percent),” the U.S. Census Bureau found. “This group is projected to increase from 8 million to 26 million between 2014 and 2060. Its share of the total population is projected to increase from 2.5 percent in 2014 to 6.2 percent in 2060.”            

Furthermore, the Bureau projected an increase in diversity, in general, since the group of Non-Hispanic Whites has a negative percentage of population growth.  Table by U.S. Census Bureau

“The U.S. population is also projected to become more diverse, as seen in the projected increases in the percentage of the population that is a minority – groups other than non-Hispanic White alone,” U.S. Census Bureau reported. “By 2044, the United States is projected to become a plurality nation.  While the ‘non-Hispanic White alone’ population will still be the largest, no race or ethnic group is projected to have greater than a 50 percent share of the nation’s total.”            

As the United States heads in the direction of plurality, bridging cultural gaps is becoming more important than ever.  In just a few decades, the nation’s racial landscape will be more diverse than it has ever been and it is up to the people to come together.



About Diane Roxas
Diane Roxas is a graduating student of Mass Communications at Glendale Community College. She is transferring to Cal State Northridge as a Journalism major in the fall.

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