News / Arts & Entertainment

America's Mixed-Race Kids Examine Their Identity

Photographs celebrate richness and beauty of multiracial society

Multimedia

Audio
Faiza Elmasry

At least seven million Americans identify themselves as belonging to more than one race, and interest is rapidly growing in issues of multi-racial identity.

In his new book, "Mixed," writer and artist Kip Fulbeck presents a collection of portraits celebrating the faces of mixed-race children.

'Mixed' presents of collection of portraits of mixed race children.
'Mixed' presents of collection of portraits of mixed race children.

Personal experience

Kip Fulbeck grew up in a multi-racial family.

His father was English, Irish and Welsh. He had a Chinese mother and Chinese step-siblings. At home, he says, he was considered the white kid, but at school he was the Asian kid. Exploring the multi-racial identity has inspired Fulbeck's works, including his recent photography book.

"What I wanted to do here is try to capture the essence of kids 12 and under who are multiracial," Fulbeck says. "And the reason I started making it is, my wife and I had a baby boy last year. I want to make sure that I do my best to let him grow up in a world that's different and more accepting than the one I grew up in."

Artist and author Kip Fulbeck grew up in a multi-racial family.
Artist and author Kip Fulbeck grew up in a multi-racial family.

Seventy multi-racial children from across the United States are featured in "Mixed." To learn how they perceive themselves, Fulbeck asked each one, who you are?

Who are you?

"What's nice about the question, 'Who are you?' is that kids, especially younger kids, they don't default to certain answers the way we as adults do," he says. "We may say, 'I'm American,' 'I'm Chinese,' or you may say, 'I'm a banker,' 'I'm a teacher.' Kids have these unusual statements. They say things like, 'I'm 12, guitar, video games, period, that's all  I do.' I had one kid who wrote a statement that said, 'I'm Keyan. I'm brown like President Obama. One day I'll be a pro football player and the president.'"

It was exciting, he says, to discover the surprising mix of racial and cultural backgrounds.

"There is one kid who has very bright red hair and very fair skin," he says. "And you look at his background, and he is Vietnamese and Mexican and Peruvian and Swiss and Irish. You would look at that kid and never imagine that. The dad said, 'Oftentimes, people ask, where did I get him? - like he is not really my kid because he has red hair,' which is really funny."

Camryn and Dylan are a mix of Hawaiian, Chinese, Swedish, English, Irish,Scottish, French and Native American.
Camryn and Dylan are a mix of Hawaiian, Chinese, Swedish, English, Irish,Scottish, French and Native American.

Five-year old Kailani, a Japanese-Dutch American, explains how she felt when she was photographed.

"Happy, a little bit shy," Kailani says. "I closed my eyes."

'Mixed'

Youngsters who couldn't express themselves in writing were asked to draw. For others, their parents answered. That's what Kailani's mother, Youshie, did.

"She's interested in the Japanese culture and language," Youshi says."That's why when she was asked if she was half Japanese, she said, 'I'm lots of Japanese.'"

10-year-old Alison also appears in "Mixed." Her heritage is Japanese, black, Irish, English and French. "It's cool to take a picture for the book," Alison says. "My teachers were excited, too."

Alison's father Hank says his daughter perceives herself just as a 10-year-old girl. "She knows where she comes from, but it's not something that defines her," he explains."It's not something other people use to define her either, which I think is a great thing."

Marcellus is African-American, Japanese and Spanish.
Marcellus is African-American, Japanese and Spanish.

Hank is bi-racial himself; African American and white. Unlike his daughter, though, he says he did not grow up in a racially mixed society.

Changing attitudes

"When people asked me [what my race was], I thought they were trying to label me or trying to judge me, when I was a child growing up," he says."When people ask us about our children's background, they are more interested. There is no judgment attached to it, which I think is a great thing. Now, my daughter is growing up in a new world. She's growing up where she is not different, she is just a part of this truly global community that we finally have in the United States, or that we've always had, but that we're finally acknowledging and celebrating."

And that, says photographer Kip Fulbeck, is what he wanted the portraits in his book to show.

"We're moving very, very slowly in the right direction," Fulbeck says. "In the United States, we have the census going on right now, and 10 years ago in the year 2000, that was the first census that actually allowed people to check more than one box to define your race. Before that, you could only choose one. So for me, who has a Chinese mother and an English-Irish father, when they say 'pick one box,' that essentially was asking me to pick my mother or my father. It's not a very fair decision to have a kid have to do. I think we're changing in that way and becoming much more aware of this right now."

Fulbeck asked President Obama's sister, who is white and Indonesian, to write the foreword for "Mixed." Maya Soetoro-Ng did, explaining some of the advantages and disadvantages of being mixed. The book's afterword is written by singer-actress Cher, who is part Cherokee.

"That was very difficult to get, but I wanted Cher to write the afterword because when I was a kid, the first record I ever bought when I was about 7 or 8 years old, was a song called, 'Half Breed,' which was written by Cher in 1973 and went to number one (on the sales charts) in the U.S," he says. "I thought she was one of the first artists ever who talked about being mixed in pop culture. That's why I wanted her to do it and I'm grateful that those two amazing women wrote for the book."

Artist Kip Fulbeck says he wanted "Mixed" to give multi-racial kids a chance to define themselves. By showing that they see themselves as just ordinary kids, he hopes other people will see and accept them as perfectly ordinary, too.

You May Like

Multimedia Obama Defends Immigration Action

Obama says with his executive action on immigration, enforcement resources will be focused on 'felons, not families; criminals, not children' More

US-Led Airstrikes in Syria Kill Over 900: Monitoring Group

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the toll includes more than 50 civilians, five of them women and eight of them children More

Report: Obama Broadens US Combat Role in Afghanistan

The New York Times says resident Barack Obama has signed a classified order extending the role of US troops in Afghanistan for another year More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Soul Lounge

Avery Sunshine is known for her irresistible combination of soul, jazz and gospel influences. She’s traveled the world entertaining audiences with her powerful voice, inspiring lyrics and infectious spirit. She joins host Shawna Renee on "The Soul Lounge" to perform and share the stories behind her new album, "The Sun Room."