For National Geographic’s 125th anniversary issue, renowned photographer, Martin Schoeller, captured a glimpse into America’s multiracial future. These non-Photoshopped images of authentic multiracial individuals reveal a multitude of blends. By 2050, more and more Americans will look like this as an increasing number of them belong to more than one race.
Since 2000, the U.S Census Bureau has collected data on multiracial individuals. In that year, approximately 6.8 million people identified themselves as multiracial. In 2010, the figure increased to nearly 9 million, a 32 percent increase. By 2060, “the Census Bureau predicts that non-Hispanic whites will no longer be the majority in America,” writes Lise Funderburg in her National Geographic article, “The Changing Face of America,” that highlights Schoeller’s project.
For years, however, racial categories in censuses and surveys limited multiracial Americans.They confined them to only a few colours: “red,” “yellow,” “brown,” “black,” or “white,” based on anatomist and naturalist Johann Friedrich Blumenbach’s five races. Although categories have evolved to allow for more inclusivity, according to Funderburg, “the multiple-race option is still rooted in that taxonomy.” These categories merely define race by outward appearances such as skin complexion and facial features and not by biology, anthropology, or genetics.
Funderburg asks what about these faces we find so intriguing. “Is it simply that their features disrupt our expectations, that we’re not used to seeing those eyes with that hair, that nose above those lips?” she says. Because some races and ethnicities are difficult to distinguish by phenotypical facial features, skin, or hair, more people in our contemporary society “with complex cultural and racial origins become more fluid and playful with what they call themselves,” writes Funderburg.
Some people claim to belong to whichever category provides a situational advantage for them. Existing familiar categories of race and ethnicity are now being replaced with new identifiers and definitions. New terms are being created to reflect unique multiracial mixes such as Blackanese, Filatino, Chicanese, Korgentinian, Blaxican and Juskimo, demonstrating that race is more complex than Blumenbach’s five “natural varieties.” With progressively more mixing, the traditional taxonomy of race must be reconsidered and revised, especially since the trends show that these traditional categories will not sufficiently reflect the population in fifty years.