While defining race is controversial, race remains a commonly used term for categorization. Insofar as race is defined differently in different cultures, perceptions of multiraciality will naturally be subjective.
According to U.S. sociologist Troy Duster and ethicist Pilar Ossorio:
Some percentage of people who look white will possess genetic markers indicating that a significant majority of their recent ancestors were African. Some percentage of people who look black will possess genetic markers indicating the majority of their recent ancestors were European.
In the United States:
Many state and local agencies comply with the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) 1997 revised standards for the collection, tabulation, and presentation of federal data on race and ethnicity. The revised OMB standards identify a minimum of five racial categories: White; Black or African American; American Indian and Alaska Native; Asian; and Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander. Perhaps, the most significant change for Census 2000 was that respondents were given the option to mark one or more races on the questionnaire to indicate their racial identity. Census 2000 race data are shown for people who reported a race either alone or in combination with one or more other races.
In the English-speaking world, many terms for people of various multiracial backgrounds exist, some of which are pejorative or are no longer used. Mulato, zambo and mestizo are used in Spanish, mulato, caboclo, cafuzo, ainoko (from Japanese) and mestiço in Portuguese and mulâtre and métis in French for people of multiracial descent. These terms are also in certain contexts used in the English-speaking world. In Canada, the Métis are a recognized ethnic group of mixed European and First Nation descent, who have status in the law similar to that of First Nations.
Terms such as mulatto for people of partly African descent and mestizo for people of partly Native American descent are still used by English-speaking people of the western hemisphere, but mostly when referring to the past or to the demography of Latin America and its diasporic population. Half-breed is a historic term that referred to people of partial Native American ancestry; it is now considered pejorative and discouraged from use. Mestee, once widely used, is now used mostly for members of historically mixed-race groups, such as Louisiana Creoles, Melungeons, Redbones, Brass Ankles and Mayles. In South Africa, and much of English-speaking southern Africa, the term Coloured was used to describe a mixed-race person and also Asians not of African descent. While the term is socially accepted, it is becoming an outdated due to its association with the apartheid era.
In Latin America, where mixtures became tri-racial after the introduction of African slavery, a panoply of terms developed during the colonial period, including terms such as zambo for persons of Amerindian and African descent. Charts and diagrams intended to explain the classifications were common. The well-known Casta paintings in Mexico and, to some extent, Peru, were illustrations of the different classifications.
At one time, Latin American census categories have used such classifications but, in Brazilian censuses since the Imperial times, for example, most persons of multiracial heritage, except the Asian Brazilians of some European descent (or any other to the extent it is not clearly perceptible) and vice versa, tend to be thrown into the single category of "pardo", although race lines in Brazil do not denote ancestry but phenotype, and as such a westernized Amerindian of copper-colored skin is also a "pardo", a caboclo in this case, despite being not multiracial, but a European-looking person with one or more African and/or Indigenous American ancestor is not a "pardo" but a "branco", or a White Brazilian, the same applies to "negros" or Afro-Brazilians and European and/or Amerindian ancestors. Most Brazilians of all racial groups (except Asian Brazilians and Natives) are to some extent mixed-race according to genetic research.
In English, the terms miscegenation and amalgamation were used for unions between the races. These terms are now often considered offensive and are becoming obsolete. The terms mixed-race, biracial or multiracial are becoming generally accepted. In other languages, translations of miscegenation did not become politically incorrect.
In the United States, the 2000 census was the first in the history of the country to offer respondents the option of identifying themselves as belonging to more than one race. This multiracial option was considered a necessary adaptation to the demographic and cultural changes that the United States has been experiencing.
Multiracial Americans officially numbered 6.1 million in 2006, or 2.0% of the population. There is considerable evidence that an accurate number would be much higher. Prior to the mid-20th century, many people hid their multiracial heritage. The development of binary thinking about race meant that African Americans, a high proportion of whom have also had European ancestry, were classified as black. Some are now reclaiming additional ancestries. Many Americans today are multi-racial without knowing it. According to the Census Bureau, as of 2002, over 75% of all African Americans had multiracial ancestries.
In 2010, the number of Americans who checked both "black" and "white" on their census forms was 134 percent higher than it had been a decade earlier.
The stigma of a mixed-race heritage, associated with racial discrimination among numerous racial groups, has decreased significantly in the United States. The election of President Barack Obama, who had a European-American mother and an African father, was taken by many as a sign of progress. People of mixed-race heritage can identify themselves now in the U.S Census by any combination of races, whereas before Americans were required to select from only one category. For example they may choose more than one race from the following list:
"White" (or "Caucasian"), "Black" (or African American), "Asian", "Native American" or "Alaska Native", "Native Hawaiian", other "Pacific Islander" or "Some other race".
Many mixed-raced Americans use the term biracial. The U.S. has a growing multiracial identity movement, reflective of a desire by people to claim their full identities. Interracial marriage, most notably between whites and blacks, was historically deemed immoral and illegal in most states in the 18th, 19th and first half of the 20th century, due to its long association of blacks with the slave caste. California and the western US had similar laws to prohibit European-Asian marriages, which was associated with discrimination against Chinese and Japanese on the West Coast. Many states eventually repealed such laws, and a 1967 decision by the US Supreme Court (Loving v. Virginia) overturned all remaining anti-miscegenation laws in the US.
The United States is one of the most racially diverse countries in the world. The American people are mostly multi-ethnic descendants of various immigrant nationalities culturally distinct in their former countries. Assimilation and integration took place, unevenly at different periods of history, depending on the American region. The "Americanization" of foreign ethnic groups and the inter-racial diversity of millions of Americans has been a fundamental part of its history, especially on frontiers where different groups of people came together.
The current[update] President of the United States, Barack Obama, is a multiracial American, as he is the son of a Luo father from Kenya and a European American mother. He acknowledges both parents. His official White House biography describes him as African-American. In Hawai'i, the US state in which he was born, he would be called "hapa", which is the Hawaiian word for "mixed ethnic heritage".
Multiracial Canadians in 2006 officially totaled 1.5% of the population, up from 1.2% in 2001, although, this number may actually be far higher. The official mixed-race population grew by 25% since the previous census. Of these, the most frequent combinations were multiple visible minorities (for example, people of mixed black and south Asian heritage form the majority, specifically in Toronto), followed closely by white-black, white-Chinese, white-Arab, and many other smaller mixes.
During the time of slavery in the United States, a very large but unknown number of African American slaves escaped to Canada, where slavery was made illegal in 1834, via the Underground Railroad. Many of these people married in with European-Canadian and Native-Canadian populations, although their precise numbers, and the numbers of their descendants, are not known.
Another 1.2% of Canadians officially are Métis (descendants of a historical population who were partially Aboriginal — also called "Indian" or "Native American" — and European, particularly French, English, Scottish, and Irish ethnic groups). Although listed as a single "race" in Canada, the Métis are therefore multi-racial. In particular the Métis population may be far higher than the official numbers state, due to earlier racism causing people to historically hide their mixed heritage. This however is changing, although many Canadians may now be unaware of their mixed-race heritage, especially those of Métis descent.
This brings Canada to a total "recognized" mixed population of 2.7%, greater by percentage than that of the United Kingdom and the United States.
Mestizo is the common word used to describe multiracial people in Latin America, especially people with Native American and Spanish or other European ancestry. Mestizos make up a large portion of Latin Americans comprising a majority in most countries.
In Latin America, racial mixture was officially acknowledged from colonial times. There was official nomenclature for every conceivable mixture present in the various countries. Initially, this classification was used as a type of caste system, where rights and privileges were accorded depending on one's official racial classification. Official caste distinctions were abolished in many countries of the Spanish-speaking Americas as they became independent of Spain. Several terms have remained in common usage.
Race and racial mixture have played a significant role in the politics of many Latin American countries. In most countries, for example Mexico, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Honduras, and a majority of the population can be described as biracial or multiracial (depending on the country). In Mexico, over 80% of the population is mestizo in some degree or another.
The Mexican philosopher and educator José Vasconcelos authored an essay on the subject, La Raza Cósmica, celebrating racial mixture. Venezuelan ex-president Hugo Chávez, himself of Spanish, indigenous and African ancestry, made positive references to the mixed-race ancestry of most Latin Americans from time to time.
Colonialism throughout the West Indies has created diverse populations on many islands, including people of multiracial identities. Of note is the mixture of West African communities, most brought to the region as slaves, and East Indian settlers most of whom came as indentured labor after the abolition of slavery. Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and Suriname claim the highest populations of such mixtures, known locally as douglas. In addition to mixed West African and East Indian heritage, inhabitants of Trinidad and Tobago can also have any combination of Chinese, Arab, Venezuelan, Indigenous and European heritage.
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According to the 2000 official census, 38.5% of Brazilians identified themselves as pardo skin color. That option is normally marked by people that consider themselves multiracial (mestiço). The term pardo is formally used in the official census but is not used by the population. In Brazilian society, most people who are multiracial call themselves moreno: light-moreno or dark-moreno. These terms are not considered offensive and focus more on skin color than on ethnicity (it is considered more like other human characteristics such as being short or tall).
The most common multiracial groups are between African and European (mulato), and Amerindian and European (caboclo or mameluco). But there are also African and Amerindian (cafuzo), and East-Asian (mostly Japanese) and European/other (ainoko, or more recently, hafu). All groups are more or less found throughout the whole country. Brazilian multiracials with the following three origins, Amerindian, European and African, make up the majority. It is said today that 89% or even more of the "Pardo" population in Brazil has at least one Amerindian ancestor (most of brancos or White Brazilian population have some Amerindian and/or African ancestry too despite nearly half of the country's population self-labeling as "Caucasian" in the censuses. In Brazil, it is very common for Mulattoes to claim that they don't have any Amerindian ancestry, though studies have found that if a Brazilian multiracial can trace their ancestry to nearly 8 to 9 generations back, they will have at least one Amerindian ancestor from their maternal side of the family, which will explain many of their physical features and characteristics.
Since multiracial relations in Brazilian society have occurred for many generations, some people find it difficult to trace their own ethnic ancestry. Today a majority of mixed-race Brazilians do not really know their ethnic ancestry. Due to their unique features that makes them Brazilian-looking like skin color, lips and nose shape or hair texture, they are only aware that their ancestors were probably Portuguese, African and/or Amerindian. Also there was a very large number of other Europeans (counted in the millions) who contributed to the Brazilian racial make up, including Italians (today, the city of São Paulo has the largest population of Italian descendants besides Rome), Japanese (the largest Japanese population outside Japan), Lebanese (the largest population of Lebanese outside Lebanon), Germans, Poles and Russians. There is also a high percentage of Brazilians of Jewish descent, perhaps hundreds of thousands, mostly found in the northeast of the country who cannot be sure of their ancestry as they descend from the so-called "Crypto-Jews" (Jews who practiced Judaism in secret while outwardly pretending to be Catholics, also called Marranos or New-Christians, often considered Portuguese); according to some sources, 1 out of every 3 families to arrive there from Portugal during the colonization was of Jewish origin. There is a high level of integration between all groups. However, there exists a great social and economic difference between European descendants (found more among the upper and middle classes) and African, Amerindian and multiracial descendants (found more among the lower classes), what is called Brazilian apartheid.
In 2000, The Sunday Times reported that "Britain has the highest rate of interracial relationships in the world" and certainly the UK has the highest rate in the European Union. The 2001 census showed the population of England to be 1.4% mixed-race, compared with 2.7% in Canada and 1.4% in the U.S. estimates of 1.4% in 2002, although this U.S. figure did not include mixed-race people who had a black parent. Both the US and UK have fewer people identifying as mixed race, however, than Canada. By 2020 the mixed-race population is expected to become Britain's largest ethnic minority group with the highest growth rate.
In Britain, many multi-racial people have Caribbean, African or Asian heritage. For example supermodel Naomi Campbell, who has African, Jamaican, and Asian roots. Some, like 2008 Formula One World Champion, Lewis Hamilton, are referred to or describe themselves as 'mixed'.
The 2001 UK Census included a section entitled 'Mixed' to which 1.4% (1.6% by 2005 estimates) of people responded, which was split further into White and Black Caribbean, White and Asian, White and Black African and Other Mixed. Despite this, 2005 birth records for the country state at least 3.5% of newborn babies as mixed race.
In North Africa, some multiracial communities can also be found. Among these are the Haratin oasis-dwellers of Saharan southern Morocco and Mauritania. They are believed to be a mixture of Black Africans and Berbers, and constitute a socially and ethnically distinct group. Also the case of Tunisia in which you can find many mixed races from the Mediterranean Sea. The Fula people are a race of mixture between North and Sub-Saharan Africans.
Countries like Iran, Iraq, Yemen and Saudi Arabia have Black African communities as a result of the slave trade, and as such, large populations in these countries are of mixed race origin. Eastern and northern Iran also possess people of some European and Mongolian descent.
Almost the entire population of Madagascar is an about equal admixture of South East Asian (Indonesian) and Bantu-speaking settlers primarily from Borneo and Mozambique, respectively. Years of intermarriages created the Malagasy people, who primarily speak Malagasy, an Austronesian language with Bantu influences.
In South Africa, the Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act prohibited marriage between whites and non-whites (which were classified as Black, Asian and Coloured). Multiracial South Africans are commonly referred to as coloureds. According to the 2001 South African Census, they are the second largest minority (8.9%) after white South Africans (9.2%).
Today Central Asians are a mixed race of various peoples such as Mongols, Turkics, and Iranians. The Mongol invasion of Central Asia in 13th century resulted in the massacre of the population of Iranians and other Indo-European peoples as well as a large degree of intermarriage and assimilation. Genetic studies shows that Central Asian Turkic people and Hazara are a mixture of Northeast Asians and Indo-European people. Caucasian ancestry is prevalent in almost all central Asian Turkic people. Kazakhs, Hazara, Karakalpaks, Crimean Tatars have more European mtdna than European y-dna. Kyrgyz have mostly European y-dna with substantial European mtdna. Other Turkic people like Uyghurs and Uzbeks have mostly European y-dna but also a significantly higher percentage of European mtdna. Turkmen have predominately European y-dna and mtdna.
Anglo-Indians are a mixed which originated in India during the British Raj, or the Colonial period in India. The estimated population of Anglo-Indians is 600,000 worldwide with the majority living in India and the UK .
As with India, Burma was ruled by the British, from 1826 until 1948. Many European groups vied for control of the country prior to the arrival of the British. Intermarriage and mixed-relationships between these settlers and merchants with the local Burmese population, and subsequently between British colonists and the Burmese created a local Eurasian population, known as the Anglo-Burmese. This group dominated colonial society and through the early years of independence. Most Anglo-Burmese now reside primarily in Australia, New Zealand and the UK since Burma received her independence in 1948 with an estimated 52,000 left behind in Burma.
Due to its strategic location in the Indian Ocean, the island of Sri Lanka has been a confluence for settlers from various parts of the world, which has resulted in the formation of several mixed-race ethnicities in the Island. The most notable mixed-race group are the Sri Lankan Moors, who trace their ancestry from Arab traders who settled on the island and intermarried with local women. Today, The Sri Lankan Moors live primarily in urban communities, preserving their Arab-Islamic cultural heritage while adopting many Southern Asian customs.
The Burghers are a Eurasian ethnic group, consisting for the most part of male-line descendants of European colonists from the 16th to 20th centuries (mostly Portuguese, Dutch, German and British) and local women, with some minorities of Swedish, Norwegian, French and Irish.
The Kaffirs are an ethnic group who are partially descended from 16th-century Portuguese traders and the African slaves who were brought by them.The Kaffirs spoke a distinctive creole based on Portuguese, the Sri Lanka Kaffir language, now extinct. Their cultural heritage includes the dance styles Kaffringna and Manja, as well as the Portuguese Sinhalese, Creole, Afro-Sinhalese varieties.
In Singapore and Malaysia, the majority of inter-ethnic marriages are between Chinese and Indians. The offspring of such marriages are informally known as "Chindian", though the Malaysian government only classifies them by their father's ethnicity. As the majority of these intermarriages usually involve an Indian groom and Chinese bride, the majority of Chindians in Malaysia are usually classified as "Indian" by the Malaysian government. As for the Malays, who are predominantly Muslim, legal restrictions in Malaysia make it uncommon for them to intermarry with either the Indians, who are predominantly Hindu, or the Chinese, who are predominantly Buddhist and Taoist. It is, however, common for Muslims and Arabs in Singapore and Malaysia to take local Malay wives, due to a common Islamic faith.
The Chitty people, in Singapore and the Malacca state of Malaysia, are a Tamil people with considerable Malay descent. This was due to the first Tamil settlers taking local wives, since they did not bring along any of their own women with them.
In the East Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak, there have been many incidents of intermarriage between Chinese and native tribes such as the Murut and Dusun in Sabah, and the Iban and Bisaya in Sarawak. This phenomenon has resulted in a potpourri of cultures in both states where many people claiming to be of native descent have some Chinese blood in them, and many Chinese have native blood in them. The offspring of these mixed marriages are called "Sino-(name of tribe)", e.g. Sino-Dusun. Normally, if the father is Chinese, the offspring will adopt Chinese culture and if the father is native then native culture will be adopted, but this is not always the case. These Sino-natives are usually fluent in Malay and English. A smaller number are able to speak Chinese dialects and Mandarin, especially those who have received education in vernacular Chinese schools.
Philippines was a Spanish colony for about 300 years, and then by the Americans when the Spanish was defeated. This is the cause of many mixed-race Filipinos of Filipino-Spanish and Filipino-American descent.
After the defeat of Spain during the Spanish-American War in 1898, the Philippines and other remaining Spanish colonies were ceded to the United States in the Treaty of Paris. The Philippines was under U.S. sovereignty until 1946, though occupied by Japan during World War II. In 1946, in the Treaty of Manila, the U.S. Recognized the Republic of the Philippines as an independent nation. Even after 1946, the U.S. maintained a heavy military presence in the Philippines, with as many as 21 U.S. military bases and 100,000 U.S. military personnel stationed there. The bases closed in 1992, leaving behind thousands of Amerasian children. Pearl S. Buck International foundation estimates there are 52,000 Amerasians scattered throughout the Philippines with 5,000 in the Clark area of Angeles.
In the United States, intermarriage among Filipinos with other races is common. They have the largest number of interracial marriages among Asian immigrant groups, as documented in California. It is also noted that 21.8% of Filipino Americans are of mixed lineage, second among Asian Americans after the Japanese, and is the fastest growing.
Under terms of the Geneva Accords of 1954, departing French troops took thousands of Vietnamese wives and children with them after the First Indochina War. Some 100,000 Eurasians stayed in Vietnam, though after independence from French rule.
The local Māori were joined from the 1840s onward by large numbers of Europeans colonists, and successive waves of other immigrants. Racial mixing is common, including with later Pacific and Asian immigrants, so that the vast majority of New Zealand's half million Maori now also have some other ancestry, and many who identify as Pakeha may also have Māori forebears.
In the 2006 census many respondents identified with multiple ethnicities while 11% chose simply to identify as "New Zealander". Examples of mixed-race New Zealanders include opera singer Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, actress Rena Owen, sportsman Kees Meeuws and former Governor General Sir Paul Reeves.
Fiji has long been a multi-ethnic country, with a vast majority of people having multi-racial heritages even if they do not self-identify in that manner. The indigenous Fijians are of mixed Melanesian and Polynesian ancestry, resulting from years of migration of islanders from various places mixing with each other. Fiji Islanders from the Lau group have intermarried with Tongans and other Polynesians over the years. The overwhelming majority of the rest of the indigenous Fijians, though, can be genetically traced to having mixed Polynesian/Melanesian ancestry.
The Indo-Fijian population is also a hodge-podge of South Asian immigrants (called Girmits in Fiji), who came as indentured labourers beginning in 1879. While a few of these labourers managed to bring wives, many of them either took or were given wives once they arrived in Fiji. The Girmits, who are classified as simply "Indians" to this day, came from many parts of the Indian subcontinent of present day India, Pakistan, and to a lesser degree Bangladesh and Myanmar. It is easy to recognize the Indian mixtures present in Fiji and see obvious traces of Southern and Northern Indians and other groups who have been categorised together. To some degree, even more of this phenomenon would have likely happened if the religious groups represented (primarily Hindu, Muslim and Sikh) had not resisted to some degree marriage between religious groups, which tended to be from more similar parts of the Indian subcontinent.
Over the years, particularly in the sugar cane-growing regions of Western Viti Levu and parts of Vanua Levu, Indo-Fijians and Indigenous Fijians have mixed. Others have Chinese/Fijian ancestry, Indo-Fijian/Samoan or Rotuman ancestry, and European/Fijian ancestry (often called "part-Fijians"). The latter are often descendents of shipwrecked sailors and settlers who came during the colonial period. Migration from a dozen or more different Pacific countries (Tuvalu, Solomon Islands, Vanautu, Samoa, and Wallis and Futuna being the most prevalent) have added to the various ethnicities and intermarriages.
The following is a list of ethnic divisions that are a mixture of two or more racial groups.
Asian-European or Eurasian origin