LANSING, Mich. — New data from the census shows that not everything is Black or white. Across the country, the number of people who identify as more than one race nearly quadrupled.
"For a very long time because of white supremacy... it was called the 'one-drop rule.' If there was one drop of Black blood...you had to report that you were Black," said Kristen Renn, a MSU professor who studies mixed racial identity.
However, for some Black Americans, identifying as one race is not that simple.
The latest census data shows that the Black or African American in combination population grew 88.7 percent over the last decade.
Rina Risper, the publisher of The New Citizens Press, identifies as Caribbean American.
Risper, who grew up in New York and now lives in Lansing, sees herself as Black American, but when it comes down to specifics, she doesn't fit in one box on the census form.
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"Being Black is just more than being Caribbean-American, because that was all I knew in New York was Caribbean American. And growing up in an environment with Caribbean people, that's what you identify with," she said.
In 2000, the census allowed people to select more than one identity, and data from the 2010 census shows 9 million people identified as multiracial and that number increased to 33.8 million in 2020.
And it's not uncommon here. In the 2010 census, Lansing had the highest percentage of people identifying as black and some other race, compared to other parts of the country with populations over 100,000. This comparison isn't yet available for the 2020 census.
Renn has a few theories on why we’ve seen this increase.
"Interracial relationships are more accepted more common than they were in the 1970s and '80s, so there's just more people having mixed heritage families, so that's one thing," she said.
Another reason we’re seeing multiracial identities pop up is because DNA testing has become more popular, Renn said.
"I just got the 23andme DNA test. So to get like an accurate picture of, like, you know, the history of DNA, because my family is my mother's side is from the Caribbean islands, St. Maarten," said Risper's son, Gianni.
Gianni Risper identifies as Black, but he doesn’t want to leave out every aspect of his identity. He says, with the census, he doesn’t have to leave out a part of his identity.
"I don't have to think about this, and then I can choose exactly what I feel I am instead of being put into a box," he added.
The increase is also being reflected here in Ingham County. In 2010, 3.1 percent of the county's non-Hispanic residents identified as multi-racial. In 2020, that number increased to 5.5%.
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