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

Video Obama to Send 3,000 Troops to Liberia in Ebola Fight

At Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, President says US will take leadership role for a global response to deadly Ebola virus that is ravaging West Africa More

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

Muslims in Kunming say that they condemn the violence, it is not a reflection of the true beliefs of their faith More

Humanitarian Aid, Equipment Blocked in Cameroon

Move is seen as a developing supply crisis in West Africa 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.
NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Spacei
X
September 17, 2014 4:20 AM
The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Border Crossings

Graham Nash has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice – once for his work with The Hollies and once as part of Crosby, Stills & Nash. The legendary folk-rocker joins "Border Crossings" host Larry London to talk about his latest project, “CSN 2012,” which captured on video recent live performances by Crosby, Stills & Nash.