There were 784,764 U.S. residents who described their race as white and black in the last census. But that number didn’t include Laura Martin, whose father is black and mother is white.
“I’ve always just checked black on my form,” said Martin, a 29-year-old university employee in Las Vegas. She grew up surrounded by black family and friends, listening to black music and active in black causes — “So I’m black.”
Nor did it include Steve Bumbaugh, a 43-year-old foundation director in Los Angeles, who also has a black father and white mother. “It’s not as if I’d have been able to drink out of the white and colored water fountains during,” he said. “And I most assuredly would have been a slave. As far as I’m concerned, that makes me black.”
Friday was the deadline to mail 2010 census forms. Although the results are expected to show an increase in the number of multiracial people, some African-Americans with one white parent are deciding to simply “stay black.”
This is only the second census to allow people to identify themselves by more than one race. About 7 million people, or 2.4 percent of the U.S. population, chose that option in 2000.
It’s impossible to know how many of the 35 million people counted as “black alone” in 2000 have a white parent. But it’s clear that the decision to check one box — or more — on the census is often steeped in history, culture, pride and mentality.
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Exhibit A is President Barack Obama. He declined to check the box for “white” on his census form, despite his mother’s well-known whiteness.
Obama offered no explanation, but Leila McDowell has an idea.