Multiracial America

National Geographic online has an article titled, “The Changing Face of America”, which focuses on the growth of “multiracial” as a category on the U.S. census. Since 2000 when it was first collected, the category has grown by more than 30%.

The Census Bureau is aware that its racial categories are flawed instruments, disavowing any intention to define race biologically, anthropologically, or genetically. And indeed, for most multiple-race Americans, including the people pictured here, identity is a highly nuanced concept, influenced by politics, religion, history, and geography, as well as by how the person believes the answer will be used. I just say Im brown, McKenzi McPherson, 9, says. And I think, Why do you want to know?

The article brings attention to the portrait photography of Martin Schoeller, who is behind many of the famous “many-different-faces” collages you see online. It is an interesting artistic choice, considering the clear thematic connection to 19th-century “races of humanity” illustrations. I can’t help but see the resulting pieces as mugshots, however attractively photographed.