What does the landmark 1967 civil rights decision Loving v. Virginia mean for interracial couples and families today?
WGBH News in partnership with the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism present a "Loving Day" commemoration radio series along with online resources regarding interracial marriage and families
Kiernan and mother Stephanie Crayton. Courtesy Stephanie Crayton.
Part 3: Exploring Identity
“People know that I fight for black people, and I am on their side"
Reported by Sally Jacobs
Produced by Josh Swartz
Edited by Aaron Schachter and Ken Cooper
If you are a child of mixed race in America, the odds are good that someone is going get it wrong. Just ask 17-year-old Phoebe Einzig-Roth.
“Some of the girls in my dorm got together with me and the German girl said, 'Oh, but you're definitely German,'” said Einzig-Roth. “And the half African-American girl said, 'Oh, no. No. She's definitely half black.' And the Hispanic girl said, ‘No, absolutely. She is definitely Hispanic.’ And I am none of those things.”
And then there's 35-year-old Jeff Rogers.
“Hey Papa!” shouted Rogers, imitating those who hail him regularly in Spanish. “Oh, I don't speak Spanish. ‘You don't speak Spanish?’ No. ‘Oh, you look Spanish.’ Again and again, I'm talking like ten thousand times.”
It happens a lot to mixed kids. Some laugh it off, others take offense. Scholars say that in recent years their focus has shifted from how others look at them to how they look at themselves, thanks in part to President Obama, America's first biracial president. It's been 17 years since the census began allowing people to identify as more than one race, mixed has become a separate identity explored in memoirs, blogs, classrooms and affinity groups.
Jeff Rogers’ mother is white and his father is black. He says for most of his life, he’s been misidentified as Hispanic. Photo: Sally Jacobs.
Jeff Rogers identified as black growing up, and used to call himself “Halfrican.” Now, Jeff identifies as mixed, uses the term “mulatto,” and established a Mulatto History Month. Photo courtesy of Jeff Rogers.
Some people project their own identities onto Phoebe Einzig-Roth, 17, while trying to guess her heritage. “Some of the girls in my dorm got together with me and the German girl said, 'Oh, but you're definitely German,'” said Einzig-Roth. “And the half African-American girl said, 'Oh, no. No. She's definitely half black.' And the Hispanic girl said, ‘No, absolutely. She is definitely Hispanic.’ And I am none of those things.” Photo: Sally Jacobs.