Monday, June 4, 2012

The M Word and Multiracial Advocacy

The M Word and Multiracial Advocacy

Many changes happen all around us all through our lifetimes, so why doesn’t the government think sticks and stones will break our bones, but words will never hurt us? Multiracial, mixed, multiracial, half-breed, multiracial, multiethnic, mixie, multicultural, other, multiracial, multiracial, multiracial! So many words to choose from, but which is the right one?

The worlds of psychiatry and psychology are not ones I know much about, but I am going to try to explain why words are always important. Try to stick with me.

President Barack Obama signed “Rosa’s Law,” which mandates that the term “mental retardation” be replaced by “intellectual disability” in federal education, health, and labor laws.

Now the American Psychiatric Association is considering making the same change. The International Classification of Diseases, which is published by the World Health Organization, has already made the change.

So what does this have to do with the multiracial population? Plenty. We’re talking about nine million people and what they are called. Does this sound familiar? The government calls the multiracial community “people who check more than one race,” “the combination population” and more silly terms. Some people refer to themselves or other multiracial people as “mixies, half-breeds, mutts, etc.”

This is what Rosa’s 14-year-old brother said in state testimony about the term “mental retardation” and why it needed to be changed:

“What you call people is how you treat them. What you call my sister is how you will treat her. If you believe she’s ‘retarded’, it invites taunting, stigma. It invites bullying and it also invites the slammed doors of being treated with respect and dignity.”

What Rosa advocated for was a more positive change in wording. It has to do with what society labels a person. It has to do with respectful terminology. This seems to be an ongoing debate because of many other factors in the psychiatric community, but they are headed in the right direction. The term “multiracial” is also a respectful term. Advocate for “multiracial.” You and our kids deserve that same respect.

Susan Graham
Project RACE


  1. Over the years, I have watched the debate over how to refer to this particular group of people. One term--the ONLY term in my mind--stands out as appropriate and that is "multiracial."

    Ms. Graham's justifiable bonding of "respectful" and "multiracial" in her thoughts absolutely puts everything in its proper perspective. I would add another. Dignity. All groups of people deserve this.

    The well-thought out term "mutiracial" allows all those other ill-conceived and foolish terms to be relegated to the trash heap of minor and insensitive thinkers.

  2. Rosa's brother hits the nail on the head! This issue provides a powerful, easy to understand, example to help people understand the importance of the term multiracial.