Monday, April 30, 2012

The "M" Word

The San  Francisco Chronicle had a front page article about Kamala Harris, the California Attorney General April 29, 2010 The title of the article is "Kamala Harris mixing idealism, political savvy." 

One of the things we realized in 1993 was that we had to have our terminology intact. The Census Bureau and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) said we had to narrow the category down to one word. In other words, they could not put "multiracial, biracial, mulatto, or mixed" on a form. Different people prefer different terms for themselves and for others. We polled the Project RACE membership and the overwhelming preferred word was "multiracial." 

"Multiracial" is a dignified, respectful term that can be used by people of any and many combinations of races. We adopted the term. But then when OMB said at least they would do "check all that apply" we knew we would have to start spreading the word about terminology. The Census Bureau still refers to multiracial people as "People of more than one race," or the "Two or more race population." Over the years, we have managed to get "multiracial" into popular usage and one way we do that is to teach journalists to use the word that is preferable to most of the multiracial community. Some journalists still can't bring themselves to use the "M" word. This is what appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle yesterday:

     Kamala Devi Harris was born in Oakland to UC Berkeley graduate students. Her mother,   Gopalan Shyamala, was an Indian immigrant who became aprominent breast cancer researcher. Her father, Donald Harris, was a Jamaican immigrant who later taught economics at Stanford. They divorced when she was 5, and she was raised by her mother."

We don't know how Attorney General Harris self-identifies, but it would be great to see it stated that she is multiracial. 

No comments:

Post a Comment