Archive for September 2013

Interracial Marriage in the United States of America* by Francis Wardle PhD

From the beginning, inter-group mixing and intermarriage have been important characteristics of U.S. society (Spickard, 1989). This article examines some of the historical, political, legal and social issues that have impacted interracial marriage in the U.S., focusing on Black-White relationships. The article discusses the unique way race has been, and continues to be, constructed in the United States, and how this affects interracial marriage. Specifically, White supremacy, the one-drop rule and the rule of hypodoscent, eugenics, and colorism will be examined, along with a brief review of the history of interracial marriage in the U.S. This discussion is embedded within an understanding of the U.S. political and legal structure, where many important laws, policies, and structures are created and maintained at the state rather than the federal level, but with the U.S. Supreme Court having final jurisdiction.

Interracial Marriage in Colonial America

One of the factors that leads people to marry outside of their group is an unbalanced ratio between men and women within a group. Also, when there are the large, homogeneous groups, people are less likely to marry outside of their own group. More interracial marriages occur when society becomes more heterogeneous – as it has in the U.S. since the 1960s (and especially since the 1990s). Finally, there is a steady increase of out-marriage in successive generations of immigrants – during the first generation few immigrants intermarry, while more second and third generations do (Spickard, 1989).

Other scholars have examined the barriers that have to be crossed in interracial marriage, and argue that religious barriers are easier to cross than racial ones, with national barriers the easiest, and Black/White barriers the most difficult to transcend. Further, many scholars view intermarriage as a major indicator of the degree of assimilation of one ethnic or racial group into another (Gordon, 1964).

A New Colonial America
Initially, European men traveled throughout the American colonies, coming into contact with and intermarrying free Blacks, poor Whites, Native Americans, and people from other parts of the world. People believed that the new colonial America was a melting pot where people from different backgrounds would come together, intermarry, and have children who would be the “new Americans (Spickard, 1989).

In the history of interracial marriage in the U.S., there are many forms of interracial marriage. The first large group was that of Japanese, who were brought to help in the gold mines and in building the railroads; another significant combination was Jews and Christians, and also Black and White, Native American and White, Native American and Spanish, and Latino and White. But to understand interracial marriage in the U.S., we must first begin with White supremacy and its impact on racial attitudes and categories.

White Supremacy

The concept of White supremacy is at the heart of the view of race in the U.S. Shortly after the inception of this country, European racial thought overcame the egalitarian view of “new Americans” (Spickard, 1989). Only White Europeans were welcomed, with Native Americans, Mexicans, Africans, and Asians not welcome. This view soon became institutionalized within the immigration laws and laws regarding who could become U.S. citizens (Spickard, 1989). To be American one had to be Anglo-Saxon. Thus the U.S. Declaration of Independence’s call for equality was initially only for Anglo-Saxon men with property (Grant, 1916). The new country was officially viewed as a White, Northern European, and Protestant society. The notion of distinct and separate racial groups developed from this view. Thus, anyone not considered White Anglo Saxon (and later Nordic) was considered inferior: Catholics, Jews, Africans, Native Americans, Mexicans, and people from S. and E. Europe (Wardle & Cruz-Janzen, 2004).

Because the White race was considered superior to all other groups (including Jews and Catholics), it became critical to make sure that this racial group’s genetic stock was not contaminated through intermarriage. Thus early in colonial history, colonies began to enact stringent rules to maintain racial boundaries. Laws were passed to ban interracial relationships, because these would contaminate the superior White race with inferior genes (Welch, 2002). Anti-miscegenation and anti-cohabitation laws were passed in many states (Knepper, 1995). At the same time, many states broadened the definition of who is not White. In 1894, California and South Carolina ruled that the term White excluded Black, yellow, and other colors, with Black being defined as anyone who is not of White blood (Knepper, 1995).

The One Drop Rule and the Rule of Hypodescent

After the Civil War and the emancipation proclamation freeing African Americans, Jim Crow laws were created, especially in the South. These laws were designed to keep Blacks as second-class citizens, through rules that kept them from voting, having equal educational opportunity, and accessing public and private facilities, etc. While targeted to Blacks, this law applied to most non-Whites. Violation of Jim Crow laws produced an increasing number of court cases by people who did not believe they were subject to these laws – because they did not view themselves as Black (Knepper, 1995). These cases – including several U.S. Supreme Court decisions (which supported states’ rights) – upheld the one-drop rule – any amount of African blood made a person Black. Thus a White person cannot have any trace of any other blood (genes) anywhere in their background to be considered White.

The rule of hypodescent derived from the one-drop rule. This rule describes the way Americans classify race according to blood (Fish, 2002). It places racial identity on a continuum, from most preferred (White), through intermediate forms (i.e. Asian, Native American) to least prestigious (Black), and assigns the status of a child from parents of two groups to the race of lowest status, regardless of their physical appearance (Fish, 2002). Thus all offspring – and subsequent generations – of one White and one Black person are considered Black (Fish, 2002).


Laws as early as 1790 limited U.S. citizenship to White Europeans. Whites were legally defined as pure Caucasians (Knepper, 1995). A court case also declared that Hindus were not White. Laws were passed to prevent the flow of inferior races into the country – Asians, Pacific Islanders, and inferior Whites from S. and E. Europe (Banks, 2001). In a 1983 court decision, the one-drop rule was upheld. According to Spickard (1989), the law also applied to Asians and Latinos.

The U.S. Declaration of Independence initially included a section on the “horrors of the slave trade”, but this was removed by the southern colonies (McCullough, 2001). Slavery, of course, did not exist in the northern colonies. Equality at that time in U.S. history did not include any person of color, or any non-Northern Europeans. Many early leaders of the new country were concerned about the contamination of the pure, White, Protestant blood with inferior White and non-White mixtures, including the original Native American inhabitants (Grant, 1916).

At this time in U.S. and European history, it was argued that non-Anglo Saxons were inferior forms of life (Grant, 1916), and many justified this view by arguing that non-Anglo Saxons had no soul. However, the Pope declared that all people are equal in God’s eyes (Smedley, 2002). Thus the justification for White supremacy shifted to scientific support of the superiority of Anglo Saxons and Nordics, and the innate inferiority of everyone else. Scientists developed a variety of ways to prove this superiority – the IQ test being the most recognizable (Fish, 2002). By the 19th century, the belief in the inherent superiority of the White race was well established within European and U.S. social and scientific doctrine.

Unique Aspects of the U.S. View of Race

The U.S. census defines interracial marriage as marriage between people from two of the racial or ethnic groups on the census. However, in the past interracial marriage was a term used to cover interfaith marriages and marriages of people from different national backgrounds (i.e. Italian and German)(Spickard, 1989). For non-Americans to understand interracial marriage, they must first understand how the U.S. categorizes people racially (and how this differs from the way their country categorizes people) (Fish, 2002). The one-drop rule is particularly significant. For example, throughout the history of this country, dark-skinned Blacks have married light-skinned Backs in order to lighten their offspring (Spickard, 1989). In many other countries, such as S. Africa and Brazil, these light-skinned Blacks would not be considered Black, and thus their marriage would, in fact, be viewed as interracial. But in the U.S. this is not the case.

Passing for White

One of the results of the one-drop rule is the concept of passing for White. During the Jim Crow era, many Blacks with light skin and European features passed for White: getting jobs and living in neighborhoods reserved for Whites. Today academics and Black leaders view passing for White as a deceptive, dishonest and disloyal behavior (Fish, 2002).


Over the history of Africans in N. America, beginning with slavery, a hierarchy of color developed and was maintained. In slavery often the lighter-skinned slaves were the progeny of a slave and the slave owner. They were often given preferential treatment, and became known as house slaves. Darker-skinned slaves were known as field slaves (Spickard, 1989). This system generated resentment and jealousy from the field slaves. After emancipation, this color hierarchy continued, with the lighter-skinned class becoming the social and political leaders, known as the mulatto elite. These groups maintained their own social clubs, churches, neighborhoods, and even colleges (i.e. Howard University in Washington, DC). They were often segregated from dark-skinned Blacks, and imitated many of the social graces and institutions of Whites. Thus, there developed within the African American community a complex hierarchy based on skin color, facial features, and hair texture. According to Spickard (1989), these gradations were more important to women than to men. Today this hierarchical social system within the Black community is called colorism. A similar hierarchy exists within other communities of color.


The racial hierarchy, with Europeans at the top and Africans at the bottom, was the dominant scientific view of race in the U.S. during the 19th century, and was used to justify economic exploitation of whole groups of people – the labor of Africans, the taking of the land of Native Americas, and so on. Social behavior and physical appearance were justifications for this hierarchy and social class inequalities, as was Darwin’s theory of evolution and Spencer’s social Darwinism (Fish, 2002). This view was used as scientific and political justification to prevent marriages of Jews, Irish, Chinese, Italians, Portuguese, Catholics, Africans, Naïve Americans and Mexicans to Anglo-Saxons and Nordic Whites.

Genetic Inequalities

Francis Galton believed that genetic inequality was based on innate abilities, and he deeply believed that society should be involved in increasing the genetic pool of good people, and reducing that of inferior people (Welch, 2002). He established the Eugenics Laboratory at the University of London in 1907; in 1908 the Eugenics Society was created, and produced the journal, The Eugenics Review (Welch, 2002). In 1901, the Journal Biometrika was created by Galton and Pearson to study the statistical distribution of the procreation of the elite and of the genetically unfit (Welch, 2002). Since half the subscribers of Biometrika were Americans, the view of English eugenics soon became popular among U.S. scientists and intellectuals.

Pearson, a disciple of Galton, wrote extensively about the problems of immigrants coming into Britain, particularly that of Jews. He used his publication to convince British politicians to limit immigrants, as did Herbert Goddard in lobbying for a 1927 Immigration Act in the U.S. According to Goddard, IQ tests proved that Jews, Catholics, and immigrants from S. and E. European who entered the U.S. through Ellis Island were inferior, and thus contaminating the U.S. genetic stock (Chase, 1977).


During the 1890s, campaigns for the castration of the mentally retarded and criminals gained support in the U.S. In the early 1900s, 44 boys and girls were castrated in Kansas; in the South there was strong support by scientists, health professionals, and social reformers for the compulsory sterilization of the feeble-minded, criminals, alcoholics, and African Americans. During the 1920s, hundreds of morally delinquent and mentally retarded boys were sterilized in Alabama (Welch, 2002). This continued through 1951.

Throughout the 1920-50s, southern states enforced compulsory sterilization programs of mental degenerates, poor whites, and African Americans. According to Barry (2002), in Virginia, 7, 450 people were sterilized from 1924 through 1974 under eugenics policies. And, during World War II, when Americans, including African Americans, were attempting to defeat Hitler and the Nazi racists policies, eugenicists spent months collecting genetic information about residents of Shutesbury, Massachusetts, to determine what would happen when good pioneer stock (White) is mixed with bad immigrant stock (Portuguese fishermen)(Barry, 2002).

Black/White Intermarriage

In the United States, the increase over time of Black out-marriage has been much slower than other minority groups (i.e. Japanese and Native Americans). One can look at Black out-marriage in 5 periods: 1865-1920, 1920-1945, 1945-1960, 1960-1990, and post 1990. Over this time out-marriage has increased; however, still today most American Blacks marry other Blacks.

1865 – 1920

Shortly after the Civil War, there was an increase in Black men/White women marriages and cohabitation, especially in the south. This was due to the scarcity of White men (many killed in the war). In the 1880 census, there were 209 mixed marriages in New Orleans – 29 Black men to White women (Spickard, 1989). The most common pattern of intermarriage at this time was White men and Black women. Even though slavery had ended, White men in the South still had power over Black women, especially because many Blacks were in deep financial dept to White landowners. Thus White men could still easily have their way with Black women. Many White men had Black concubines and mixed-race children on the side. However, not all of these relationships were forced, and not all were negative. In some cases the White father acknowledged and supported his Black mistress and his mixed-race children (Spickard, 1989).

From 1890 to 1910, the U.S. census showed a “lightening” of the Black race. This was due to two factors, 1) increased interracial relationships (official and unofficial), and 2) mating preferences of Blacks toward lighter-skinned partners. Prior to the great migration north, just before WWI, there were very few Blacks in the North and West of the country. There was 10% intermarriage of Blacks in the North, including famous people like Frederick Douglass and John Durham, who married White women. Of those blacks who immigrated north as part of the great migration, many were light-skinned. Scholars suggest that many light-skinned Blacks passed as Whites and married Whites, thus increasing the number of interracial marriages (Spickard, 1989).

1920 – 1945

As the number of Blacks increased in the North, communities formed, which brought about White restrictions and Black unity, restricting Black out-marriage. Overall, the percentage of Black out-marriage in the North declined greatly. Most of the marriages were Black men married to White women. Between the two wars, Black intermarriage in the North continued to drop. While interracial relationships in the South tended to be illegal and informal, the relationships in the North and West usually resulted in marriage. Most of those involved in these marriages were middle-class people.

1945 -1960

Many changes in race relations occurred in the U.S. after WWII – the integration of the armed forces; the Supreme Court decision, Brown v. Board of Education; Blacks returning from Europe, and the beginning of the Civil Rights movement. In Washington, DC, the number of out-marriages rose 10 times from 1945 -1960. Much of the modest rise in Black out-marriage was a result of American servicemen bringing home wives and girlfriends from Europe and Asia. Many war brides suffered from harassment, both from Whites and Blacks. The media – especially the Black media – delighted in highlighting interracial unions, especially of famous Black people – politicians, athletes, and entertainers. One of the more curious examples was the marriage of Walter White, a Black leader (head of the NAACP) with white skin, blond hair, and blue eyes, to Poppy Cannon, a White women with hair, eyes, and skin several shades darker than that of her husband, Walter White (Spickard, 1989).


The Civil Rights movement produced radical changes in race relations in the U.S. Blacks became more visible in American society, and more attractive to educated, liberal Whites. Blacks began to attend White universities and colleges, and slowly integrated much of the workplace. And, in 1967, the Supreme Court decision, Loving v. Virginia, declared the remaining states’ anti-miscegenation laws to be unconstitutional. From 1960 to 1970, the number of Blacks who chose to marry non-Blacks nearly doubled over the previous decade, and continued to rise. By 1980, intermarriage constituted 5% of all Black men in the 1970-1980 decade; however the percentage was small compared to other minority groups, and the relationships were still mostly Black men married to White women (Spickard, 1989). This was partly due to Black women, who stood strongly against integration, and who were much more concerned than Black men with keeping Black communities intact (Spickard, 1989).

Many Blacks and Whites interacted socially during the Civil Rights activities in the South. In the 1970s, many all-White communities began to be integrated, and Blacks who grew up in middle-class neighborhoods and attended middle-class schools had more in common with middle-class White people, than they did with poor Blacks.

After 1990

Today much of the U.S. workplace is fully integrated, especially professional settings such as schools and universities. Blacks run cities, universities, and major corporations. Further, particularly in the West and SW, but also in North and SE, neighborhoods are becoming much more integrated. Aggressive implementation of equal opportunity and non-discrimination laws have resulted in more workplace and housing equality. Further, there has been an increased acceptance of interracial marriage, especially by Whites. In 1968, 72% of Americans disapproved of interracial marriage; in 1991, 48% approved, and 42% disapproved – a marked change (Gallup Poll, 1991). Here is not the place to debate the level of racial equality in U.S. society. But what is clear is that White and Black Americans interact on a daily basis in schools, universities, neighborhoods, shopping centers, and the workplace.

However, a curious split has occurred, with many common people (both White and Black) leading the way to support the rights of Americans to marry across racial lines, and intellectuals (heads of university ethnic studies programs, multicultural experts and writers, etc) who believe that interracial marriage is a conspiracy by the mainstream society to destroy individual cultural and ethnic groups, and to make every American part of mainstream America (Wardle, 2009). This latter view is a logical result of a diversity movement in the U.S. which focuses on the notion of “a salad bowl” as opposed to the “melting pot”, and which deeply believes that diversity is about empowering and institutionalizing distinct cultural groups with very clear boarders (Banks 2001; Nieto, 2004), and in finding ways to increase solidarity to and loyalty within these groups. The diversity movement emphasizes differences between these groups and their conflict with White America. It is a also a result of intellectuals who fear that with the election of Barack Obama to the presidency of the U.S., many now view U.S. society as colorblind (Spencer, 2010).

There is a trend towards higher rates of interracial marriages for Whites, Blacks, and American Indians. By 2000, about one out of seven Black men married a White woman; Black women are also increasingly marrying White men (Farley, 2010). From 1950 through 2008, there has been an increase of Black husbands married to a woman of a different race, to over 20%; in 2008, 14% of Black husbands under 30-years-of-age were married to someone of another race; 7% of Black wives under 30-years-of-age were married to someone of another race (Farley, 2010). One result of this increase of mixed marriage is an increase in mixed-race children. In the 2010 census, 9 million Americans identified as ‘two or more races’, an increase of 34% from the 2000. In 2008, 9.3% of children under age 18 lived in homes where married partners were of different races (Farley, 2010).

Changing Views on Race

Over the last 20 years, there has been a change in the way many people it the U.S. view race. Many interracial parents are raising their children as proudly multiracial, thus rejecting the one-drop rule, and labeling them “two or more races” on school and other government forms. In 2000, 48% of black-white children were raised and categorized as multiracial (Farley, 2010). Further, since the completion of the Human Genome Project, the biological view of race has been replaced by a social view. Many multiracial people (and parents) now believe this social view allows them to be seen as multiracial, and to call their children multiracial (Farley, 2010). Further, some adults who accepted the single-race view of identity now view themselves as multiracial. Finally, an increase in the number of immigrants with racial backgrounds that do not conform to the U.S. Census categories is deconstructing the traditional view of race in the U.S. (Wardle, 2011).


It is critically important for intellectuals from outside the U.S. studying race and racial relationships in the U.S. to deeply understand the unique history, politics and current realities of race within the U.S. These unique elements include a history of White supremacy, the eugenics movement and the social policies it produced, the creation and maintenance of the one-drop rule and the rule of hypodescent, and historical and legal issues surrounding interracial marriage. Further, observers of race in U.S. society must understand the relationship of states’ rights to federal authority and control. For example, the one-drop rule, eugenics policies, and laws against interracial marriage were all state laws, and not federal mandates, as was the legal right to own slaves. Today the ridged boundaries between racial groups, adherence to the one-drop rule, and the rule of hypodescent are all under siege. While academics, diversity experts, multicultural writers, and those who profess to care for the equality of minority groups still religiously adhere to the old paradigms about race, much of U.S. society – particularly the young – are rejecting these ridged, limiting and outmoded constructs.


Banks, J. A. (2001). Cultural diversity and education: Foundations, curriculum, and teaching. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Barry, E. (2002, Nov. 29). Descendents learn of breeding study. Rocky Mountains News, p. 62
Chase, A. (1977). The legacy of Malthus: The social costs of the new scientific racism. New York: Knopf.
Farely, R. (2010). New challenges in measuring race in the United States. Washington, DC: Presentation given at the National Conference on Mental Health Statistics.
Fish, J. M. (Ed.).(2002). Race and intelligence. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Publishers.
Gallup Poll. (1991, August). For the first time, more Americans approve of interracial marriage than disapprove. Gallup Poll Monthly, 311, 60-64.
Gordon, M. M. (1964). Assimilation in American life: The role of race, religion, and national origin. New York: Oxford University Press.
Grant, M. (1916). The passing of the great race. New York: Charles Scribner and Sons.
Knepper, P. (1995). The prohibition of biracial legal identity in the United States and the Nation: An historical overview. State Constitutional Commentaries and Notes, 5(2), 14-20.
McCullough, D. (2001). James Adams. New York: Touchstone.
Nieto, S. (2004). Affirming diversity. The sociopolitical context of multicultural education (4th ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Smedley, A. (2002). Science and the idea of race: A brief history. In J. M. Fish (Ed.), Race and intelligence (145-176). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Publishers.
Spencer, R. (2010). Multiracial militancy: Rejecting race and rejecting the convenience of complicity. In J. O. Adekunle & H. V. Williams (Eds.), Color struck: Essays on race and ethnicity in global perspective (pp. 155-172). Lanham, MD: University Press of America.
Spickard, P. R. (1989). Mixed blood: Intermarriage and ethnic identify in twentieth-century America. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press.
Wardle, F. (2009). Academics are enemies of the multiracial movement. Retrieved from the Center for the Study of Biracial Children website,
Wardle, F. (2011). Responding to racial and ethnic diversity in early childhood programs. Child Care Information Exchange, 33(2) 68-71.
Wardle, F. & Cruz-Janzen, M. (2004). Meeting the needs of multiethnic and multiracial children in schools. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon
Welch, K. C. (2002). The bell curve and the politics of Negrophobia. In J. M. Fish (Ed.), Race and intelligence (pp. 177-2000). Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Publishers.

*This is the text of a presentation delivered at a conference at the Universidade Estadual Paulista, Araraquara. SP, Brazil, in June, 2011.

Review of Anti-Bias Education for Young Children and Ourselves, by Louise Derman-Sparks and Julie Olsen Edwards

In 1989, the Anti-Bias Curriculum: Tools for Empowering Young Children (NAEYC) was published. This is a seminal book that attempted to translate k-12 (and college) multicultural concepts to the early childhood (0-8) period. As such, Anti-Bias Education for Young Children and Ourselves (2010) is a revision of the first book. This second book has expanded the view of diversity beyond gender and race/ethnicity, embracing language (non English speaking), economic class, abilities and disabilities, family structures, and sexual orientation. It has also adopted some of the major contemporary trends in k-12 and college multicultural education, such as critical pedagogy and social justice, with less than universally positive results.

I am a huge supporter of multicultural education in early childhood programs and k-12 schools. All children deserve maximum opportunity to succeed and fulfill their unique potential. But I believe this books does little to help achieve this important goal.

It is difficult to know how to best critique this book. I have decided to begin with the four core goals of anti-bias education, then examine areas that I view as particularly problematic: immigrants and their families (Latino), the two pages devoted to multiracial children, and the simplistic formula that considers mainstream whites the only barrier to diversity. I then discuss the unique definitions of certain words and phrases that this book has coined.

Goal I

“Each child will demonstrate self-awareness, confidence, family pride, and positive social identities”. Further, this goal adds, “A basic goal of quality early childhood education work is to nurture each child’s individual, personal identity. Anti-bias education adds to that goal the important idea of nurturing social (or group) identities” (p. 4). The book defines social identity as, “compared with individual identities, this denotes membership in groups that are defined by society, are shared with many other people, and have societal advantages and disadvantages attached to them. These identities include, gender, economic class, racial identity, heritage, religion, age group, and so on” (xiii).

Clearly, reference group orientation is a significant part of each of our identities, and the identities of our children (Cross, 1987). However, there are many problems with this goal:

1) The perception that all of these social identities are homogeneous, clearly defined, unchanging, and unchangeable. They are not. We know a family can quickly drop from middle class to poverty after a divorce or the loss of a job; we know that a child’s racial/ethnic identity can change when they come to America (i.e. a Hmong becomes an Asian, a Columbian becomes a Latino), transracial and multiracial children do not belong to any clearly defined social group (and if the various tables used throughout this book are any indication, these children really don’t exist!)

2) Society does not do anything – people do! Not only does one’s group identity depend on historical, global, national, political and economic contexts, but the individual also has some say-so in their identity. It is illustrative to note that in the section of the book that describes the identities of the people who contributed to it, there is this statement: “as people chose to identify themselves” (p. viii). Parents of young children also have an impact on the identity of their children. This is particularly true of interracial children, transracially adopted children, and new immigrants, whose home country often defines them differently from the way we define them. For example, new immigrants from various African countries do not view themselves as African Americans. Further, advocates of anti-bias education insist, as they should, on challenging society’s concept of gender and to some extent, disabilities, but are wholly unwilling to challenge society’s social and political definition of race and ethnicity. This inconsistency is difficult to understand, and will be addressed later in this review.

3) Who decides the social identities of children? Who decides if a child, in fact, feels good about membership in his/her group? For example, there is considerable literature that argues multiracial children who embrace a social identity that includes their full, mixed heritage, are somehow ashamed of their black social identity (Rockquemore & Brunsma, 2010). Or what about a Mayan child from Guatemala whose social identity in her home country is the Maya, but who is expected to change her group belonging in this country to Latino/a (the group that has historically persecuted her people)?

4) Attaching societal advantages and disadvantages to children based on their group belonging is highly problematic. For example, while sociologists place men at the top of the status hierarchy, young boys as a group struggle in our early childhood programs. Further, men have very little status in the early childhood field. And, how do we evaluate the status of children from different backgrounds? For example, how do we evaluate the black daughter of a single mother who is a physician at the local university hospital, compared to a little white boy whose two parents are homeless? But the main problem with this approach is the judging of individuals by teachers based on group belonging (the kind of stereotyping we should be avoiding), and a generally paternalistic attitude.

Goal 2

“Each child will express comfort and joy with human diversity; accurate language for human differences; and deep, caring human connections” (p. 4). This goal is problematic from several perspectives. Let’s take each one of these three ideas separately.

Each Child Will Express Comfort and Joy with Human Diversity

Young children are learning a variety of concepts about humans. A central concept they struggle with is their own identity – gender, language, culture, abilities, etc. Thus they tend to be attracted to people – children and adults – who are like them, and who are important in their lives. For example, little girls look to their mothers as very important role models; children play with other children who enjoy the same kind of games and activities they enjoy. Thus at this age there is a natural and healthy tendency to feel comfortable around people – adults and children – who are similar to them. Only after developing a secure sense of identity can young children truly “express comfort with human diversity”.

A central dilemma with this goal is that both parents and society in general teach children the survival skills of human safety. This is represented by the “beware of strangers” campaigns. But clearly parents also want their children to be cautious and defensive around human diversity. Part of the problem here – a problem embedded throughout this book – is that a young child’s ability to discriminate anything is very immature, and thus highly stereotypical. If a parent cautions her young child to stay away from a specific homeless man with a beard, chances are the child will stay away from all men with beards.

Each Child Will Express Accurate Language for Human Differences

It is not clear to me the meaning of this goal. On a recent visit to Brazil I discovered that it is not acceptable in that country to use the term Black to describe Afro-Brazilians, yet it is appropriate to call them Negros (the accepted term). We know that the language used to describe various disabilities continues to change over time; and the language to describe children of mixed-racial heritage in this country is still up for debate. Many adults still call these children Black (or the label of the parent of color) even though the correct terms are multiracial or multiethnic. In fact, many multiracial children will tell you the most annoying part of being multiracial is the constant questioning (especially by adults), of, “well what are you, anyway”(signifying these adults really don’t know!)? Many adults still refuse to even use the terms multiracial and multiethnic.

A good example of the adult use of inaccurate language to describe human differences is using the label Latino to describe the vast diversity of the people from Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and South America (see the later section on immigrant families).

Each Child Will Express Deep, Caring Human Connections

This goal I can totally subscribe to!

Goal 3

“Each child will increasingly recognize unfairness, have language to describe unfairness, and understand that unfairness hurts” (p. 5). It is important that children learn about unfairness. However, this goal is totally inappropriate for young children, to whit:

1) For children up to about age 7-8, fairness generally means what is best for them. This is the egocentric stage. There was many a time with my own four children when they declared my behavior towards them to be unfair. All parents soon learn that children will respond to a parental wish, a denial of a request, or a demand to do a chore, with the word, “unfair”. And most parents soon learn to respond with, “the world is unfair”.

2) The world is an unfair place, and, while we should all be committed to make it less unfair, a young child is in no position to do so. To use the language of the book, they have no power. For example, a child may discover that his friend from class has been diagnosed with a special need, and is consequently being removed to another classroom by the school district. The child does not want to leave, but what can his friend do? Or a child has a favorite teacher who must stop teaching to take a different job, because she cannot make enough money teaching. There is nothing the child can do.

3) I always wonder whether this goal will set up a child to fail. My son was very concerned with fairness, and struggled intensely in middle and high school. In middle school he was bullied; at high school he could not tolerate the arbitrary and autocratic rules that permeate most American high schools. He was exceedingly aware of the unfair rules of the schools and the unfair behavior of people in positions of authority (as were his parents). For example, when he was bullied he fought back, but due to one of these unfair rules, he was suspended along with the bully. Then the Vice Principal accused him of provoking the bully.

Goal 4

“Each child will demonstrate empowerment and the skills to act, with others or alone, against prejudice and /or discriminatory actions” (p. 5). Bullying in our schools is a major problem (Olweus, 1992). Yet, in schools throughout the world, bullying continues unabated. But its not really about prejudice and discrimination, it’s about two kinds of children (of all different racial, ethnic and cultural backgrounds): bullies – aggressive children who enjoy power, and victims – timid individuals who are generally unpopular. And, according to the research, bullying continues because both the bully and the victim believe adults will not intervene. And they are often correct.

So it seems to me we need to do two things to address bullying, 1) develop a school-wide approach, and 2) seriously implement this approach. While children should be involved (i.e. in learning conflict resolution skills), it is clear that adults – teachers and administrators – must take the central roles. This should also be true with anti-bias education. Recently at a conference in Brazil a multiracial adult reported about the harassment she received in school from the teachers. My own children have also experienced harassment from teachers (“you can’t be Native American, you are Black”) and administrators (“your parents are uptight about the school’s racial categories”). Thus it is the adults who must spearhead anti-bias activities in our early childhood programs and schools.

Finally, as I have already pointed out, children do not have the power to create change. Many, many unfair situations occur in the early childhood center, classroom and school. If students protest, they get into trouble (as do their parents!). A high school student in Denver protested the fact that students were required to take meaningless, high-stakes standardized tests. He was punished with the same severity as if he had brought a gun to school.

Supporting New Immigrant Children and Families

In the essay, Supporting New Immigrant Families and Children, L. A, Hernandez writes, “misinformation about immigrants is everywhere” (73). However, he does little to clarify much of this misinformation, especially about immigrants from Mexico, Central and South America, and the Caribbean (what is commonly called Latin America). This is a particularly glaring example of how American (U.S.) diversity experts view global diversity from an America-centric perspective.

Hernandez perpetuates the myth that everyone from south of the U.S./Mexico boarder are Spanish-speaking people with cultural roots from Spain. The truth is much more complex, rich and diverse. The countries that comprise Central America, Mexico, the Caribbean, and S. America contain as much unique diversity as exists within the U.S., if not more. Three examples will illustrate this phenomenon. The three major cultural groups in Guatemala are Maya, Latino, and Black (on the Gulf of Mexico side of the country). The Maya are divided into several groups, each with their own language. In Guatemala, the Maya are also the majority population; however historically, politically, and economically, the Latino group dominate – they are the oppressors, if you will. While Spanish is Guatemala’s official language, among the Maya many do not speak any Spanish – especially the women.

In Belize, the majority of the population is Black, with small groups of whites (including Amish), Asians (many of the shop owners) and Indians. However, there are also several official mixed-race groups. These include Carib and Creole. The official language is English, but a variety of other languages are spoken.

In Brazil, the major racial groups are Afro Brazilians (there were five times as many slaves in Brazil compared to the U.S.), mixed-race (usually African, European and Amerindian), Amerindian (several tribes that speak various languages), European (Portuguese, Italian, Dutch, English, German, Spanish, Welsh, Scandinavian), Middle Eastern, and Japanese (the largest group of Japanese outside of Japan live in Sao Paulo). The major language is Portuguese, not Spanish, and the colonial history is Portuguese (and some French, Dutch and English) but not Spanish. Brazil comprises about 50% of the landmass of S. America, and over 50% of the population.

People in the countries south of the U.S. speak a variety of languages, including English, French, Dutch, Welsh, Japanese, German, Spanish and Portuguese, along with over 40 native languages.

As you can see, describing all immigrants who come from Latin America as Spanish-speaking people with a Spanish culture is not only a gross misunderstanding; but it is tantamount to an academic and statistical hoax.

Because people who enter the U.S. from Mexico, Central and Sought America, and the Caribbean come from countries with significant African populations (most of these counties had slaves), many Latinos have some African racial heritage. According to the one-drop rule, which is still used in the U.S. to categorize race, these Latinos would be considered racially Black (Fernandez, 1996).

Supporting Multiracial, Multiethnic, and Mixed-Heritage Children and Their Families

Maybe the biggest problem with the section, Supporting Multiracial, Multiethnic, and Mixed-Heritage Children and Their Families (p.88-89) is its size (2 out of 166 pages), and the fact that it is a separate section. Both of these facts make it a classic token approach to diversity! It should be noted here that the multicultural education body of knowledge to date has not embraced diversity that is multiracial. For example, of the 49 chapters in the Handbook of Multicultural Education (Banks & Banks, 2004), only one directly addresses this population, and most of the other 48 chapters strongly support a single-race view of race and ethnicity, including reinforcement of the one-drop-rule. And throughout Anti-Bias Education for Young People and Ourselves, there is constant reference to “groups of people” and “nurturing group identities.” All these terms and the general focus of the book reinforce a single race, essentialist view of identity and racial and ethnic diversity. If this book were truly about diversity, multiracial children and adults would be embraced and included throughout. They are not.

Beyond these two glaring issues, this piece, unlike other sections of the book that are very forthright and direct (even when they are wrong), is weak, tentative, and careful not to offend. For example, while it correctly reports that multiracial families experience racism, it never points out that this racism comes equally from people of all single-race groups (teachers, parents, and students), and not just from white people. Further, while the issue of filling out federal forms is addressed, it is not addressed with the clarity and urgency required. Many multiracial families first face official invisibility or downright hostility when officials with early childhood programs and schools insist they choose a racial category for their child that does not accurately reflect their own view. Early childhood programs and schools must address this issue head on: this book must tell them how to do so!

Another problem is that the author states, “having parents look very different from each other or very different from you makes the reality of difference very present in the family early on” (p. 88). This reality seems to be presented as a negative situation, it is not: these children grow up believing difference is normal and is their reality. To them, it is the other families that are strange! This same section also states that some families “feel confused about how to deal with their child’s racial/ethnic identity” (p. 89). While there is a sidebar that encourages parents to talk to the program if they want to discuss the identity of their child (because they are confused), early childhood programs must be much more proactive in helping parents understand the value (and the mounting research evidence) of challenging the role of hypodescent, and in raising and identifying their children as multiracial. Programs must empower parents of multiracial children (both biological and adoptive/foster parents) to have the courage to withstand societal orthodoxy and celebrate their child’s full racial and ethnic identity. This book is very clear in challenging other societal issues, such as non-English language learners and gender issues; so why is it not affirmative here?

As already suggested – and further explored later in this review – this section continues to perpetuate a myth woven throughout this book: only white people (teachers, parents and children) can be racist. Multiracial children receive outright harassment, along with “invisibility”, from people of all racial groups. In fact, one of the challenges that this book does not address is when race is presented in terms of power and privilege, how does a biracial (Black/White) child deal with this apparent conflict, and how should teachers help them deal with it? According to the matrix outlined on page 31, a child whose mother is Black (i.e. a minimum of a two-time target of institutional prejudice and discrimination) and whose father is an educated white, heterosexual, male (a four-time recipient of societal advantage) experiences a very unhealthy family due to their parents’ unequal status. If teachers, other parents, and “multicultural experts” believe this, as many do, then this child and her family will not be supported in the program.

Thank God my children were never taught this, because it simple makes no sense.

Finally, instead of providing direct advice to teachers regarding this greatly misunderstood area, particularly by people who claim to be “culturally competent”, much of these two pages presents scenarios for which the reader is asked to decide “what would you do?” (p. 89). Again it seems like the author/editors are unwilling to take the kinds of affirmative positions they do in many other areas throughout the book.

Mainstream Whites are the Problem

Like other early childhood multicultural texts, this book blames all prejudice and anti-diversity on mainstream (male) white people. In the book mainstream whites are the only examples of people engaged in insensitive behaviors and non-diverse and prejudicial activities. Never is a minority child or adult shown to exhibit any prejudicial or inappropriate language or behavior. While this is a nice, neat formula, it’s neither accurate or particularly helpful to teaches and child care providers.

Here are a few examples of a more realistic view.

The first incident of racism my eldest daughter experienced was from a boy who had just come from Mexico. His family lived below us in the apartment building. In the heat of a typical childhood argument, he said to my daughter, “and, besides, you are Black and I am not”. He obviously saw this as a putdown.

My youngest daughter had an ugly incident when her Hispanic friend invited her to play in her house. Her father met them at the door, and said to my daughter, “You cannot come into my house until you wash the dirt (dark skin) from your face”.

At a family picnic I recently attended, I observed a very active 9-year-old having a great time climbing a tree. Her mother called to her to “get down from the tree”.
“Why”? I asked the girl’s mother.
“Because girls don’t climb trees”, her mother responded.
The mother and her daughter were African American.

Some years ago I received a phone-call from a distraught white mother of a biracial child in Chicago. She was upset because Black children in her daughter’s kindergarten class kept telling her daughter that her mother was a whore. The mother complained to the Black administration and teachers, but both refused to intervene.

A good friend of mine, Marta Cruz-Janzen, recalls growing up in Puerto Rico (2004). She described how painful this childhood experience was, because she is biracial (Spanish/Black), and the local fairly tales, songs, and colloquial expressions used by the other children towards her were all extremely racist.

Any adult and child from any racial or ethnic background have the capacity to be racist, stereotypical, and prejudicial. Its not just white folks!

Word and Phrase Definitions

There are several words and phrases in this book that I wish to comment on: social identify, pre-prejudice, and race.

Social Identity. This term is defined as “compared with individual identities, this denotes membership in groups that are defined by society, are shared with many other people, and have societal advantages and disadvantages attached to them” (xiii). I have already addressed the phrase in another section of this review, so I will be very short here:

• Society does not do anything.
• We all exist within multiple social contexts (West, 2001).
• Advantage and disadvantaged often change as a result of time and context.
• Each person’s individual identity is comprised of multiple interacting social identities (West, 2001).
• This definition makes multiracial children and to some extent transracially adopted children invisible. They do not belong to one social identity group “defined by society”. In fact, for major components of society, these children are still invisible – as they are in much of this book.
• While it is important to help all children come to terms with the various words others use to identity them, it is absolutely critical we help children go beyond the limitations of these identities. A central dilemma for minority children is the insistence by peers that they must continually subscribe to their own groups’ narrow norms of behavior, taste and world-view. One result of this need to define what it means to belong to a social identity group is that minority students are often accused of “being white” (acting, behaving, speaking, doing well academically, etc) by their peers. Instead of reinforcing the limitations of children’s “social identities” we should be helping children not to be defined or limited by them.

Pre-Prejudice “Beginning ideas and feelings in very young children that may develop into real prejudice if reinforced by societal biases. It may be based on young children’s limited experience and developmental level, or it may consist of imitations of adult behavior (p. xiii)

According to Piaget, young children develop biased and limited schemas about the world and how it works. Through direct experiences with the social and physical environment, children continue to refine their schemas until they come close to reality. When it comes to ideas about people (race, ethnicity, gender, occupation, disability) young children’s views are highly stereotypical – and usually incorrect. Thus it is up to adults to help children progress to a place where they can see human diversity is all of its complexity (unfortunately many adults cannot do this). But it’s wrong and silly to call this pre-prejudice, because a young child’s view of the world is pre-everything.

Race: “A social construct that fraudulently categories and ranks groups of human beings on an arbitrary basis such as skin color and other physical features…..The scientific consensus is that race in this sense has no biological basis in the human species” (p. xiii).

First race as a construct is both social and political (as is ethnicity). Thus, as the direct result of powerful political pressure, we now have Latino/a as a census category. The rest of this definition I generally agree with. But what puzzles me is that, if race is a fraudulent system that categories and ranks groups of people on an arbitrary basis, which I believe it is, and, if this book is about anti-bias education, then why does it not strongly advocate – and include activities – to eliminate racial categories?

I can see wonderful anti-bias activities to protest the use of federal forms for the USDA food program; efforts by students to eliminate racial categories used by the school or early childhood program when they hire new staff, and activities by students to make sure their school district is in compliance with the federal law that allows people to check “more than one race”.

It seems to me the authors want it both ways, 1) to show the world that they understand the racist nature of racial categories (created by the dominant groups), but also to align themselves with single-race identity politics.

You cannot have it both ways!

This review highlights some specific areas where I think this book fails. However, as I have written elsewhere (i.e. chapter 11 in my 2009 book, Approaches to Early Childhood and Elementary Education), I think its time to change the entire focus of our diversity efforts. Essentially a simple, single-group approach (i.e. race, ethnicity, gender, disabilities, etc) to diversity is now obsolete, and we need to shift to viewing diversity in all of its wonderful complexity and interrelatedness. No one is just Black, just a woman, or just an immigrant. Thus we need to look at a child in his/her totality, using Bronfenbrenner’s (1979) ecological systems theory to understand how all the contexts of a child impact the child, those who interact with the child, along with how they interact with each other (West, 2001). And we must place the child in the center; not race, ethnicity, culture, gender and so forth.

Banks. J. A. & Banks, C. A. M. (2004). (Eds.). Multicultural education: Issues and perspectives (5th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons.

Bronfenbrenner, U. (1979). The ecology of human development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Cross, W. A two-factors theory of black identity formation: Implications for the study of identity development in minority children. In J. S. Phenney & M. J. Rotheram
(Eds.), Children’s ethnic socialization (pp 117-134). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.1987.

Derman-Sparks, L. & Edwards, J. O. (2010). Anti-bias education for young children and ourselves. Washington, DC: NAEYC

Fernandez, C A. (1996). Government classification of multiracial/multiethnic people. In M. M. P. Root (Ed.), The multiracial experiences: Racial borders as the new frontier (pp.15-36). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Olweus, D. 1992. Bullying among school children: Intervention and prevention. In R. D. Peters, R. J. McMahon, & V. L. Quinsey (Eds.), Aggression and violence throughout the lifespan (pp. 100-125). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Rockquemore, K. A. & Brunsma, D. L. (2010). Whiteness reconstructed: Multiracial identity as a category of new white. In J. O. Adekunle & H. V. Williams (Eds.), Color struck: Essays on race and ethnicity in global perspective (pp. 173-186). New York: University Press of America.

Wardle, F., & Cruz-Janzen, M. (2004). Meeting the needs of multiethnic and multiracial children in schools. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.

West, M. M. (2001). Teaching the third culture child. Young Children, 56(6) 27-32