A new report from the Boston Foundation highlights the growing multiracial population in Greater Boston, where the multiracial population has more than doubled in the last decade. Across Massachusetts, one in five babies born in 2019 were of mixed race or ethnicity, according to the report.
The report, called “Multiracial in Greater Boston: The Leading Edge of Demographic Change,” focuses on how Boston’s demographics are growing increasingly diverse. In the city, this is evident in the elections of some of Boston’s leaders, including Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins who is half white and Black.
“I hope that people will just begin to think about race as much more nuanced than they realize, and I hope people will think of our increasingly multi-racial society as something to be proud of—it’s uniquely American,” said Trevor Mattos, senior research manager at Boston Indicators and one of the authors on the report.
Although the report didn’t focus on Dorchester and Mattapan as a whole, Mattos said that he expects the neighborhoods to have a growing population of people who are of mixed race or ethnicity.
Throughout history, the United States has gone through periods of being more welcoming to or against immigration—a trend that has a direct impact on the way mixed-race people are treated.
The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which knocked down some immigration barriers, led to an uptick in US immigration, according to the report. In 1967, when the Supreme Court case Loving v. Virginia overturned any existing bans on interracial marriages, including a 1913 law in Massachusetts that prevented interracial marriages in the state.
Since then, there’s been a large increase in the number of families migrating to the US from Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean. The percentage of interracial marriages has risen to 18 percent in 2019 from 3.4 percent in 1967. For same-sex couples, interracial marriage is more than double the rate of heterosexual couples.
But within the last couple years, new conversations about immigration and Black Lives Matter protests reflect another trend underlying racial tensions in the country.
“We walked away from this work feeling that multiracial and multiethnic families are really posing a challenge to the notions we have about race, and I think at a certain point, thinking about race as a binary, white and non-white, no longer makes sense,” Mattos said.
The Boston Indicators report stated that 55 percent of multiracial individuals said they had experienced some form of racial discrimination, according to data from a Pew Research Center survey. For people with some Black ethnicity, they were more likely to report that their race was tied to negative experiences they faced, including poor service at restaurants, hotels, or other businesses.
Zebulon Miletsky, an associate professor of Africana studies at Stony Brook University and who is from Boston, was set to speak on a Tuesday panel put together by the Boston Foundation. A 2016 article he wrote on interracial marriage in Massachusetts, previously published in the Historical Journal of Massachusetts, was referenced in the Boston Indicators report.
“I think it’s true to its name,” Miletsky said about the Indicators report. “It’s an indicator of what’s happening now and what’s been happening that might have been hidden in plain sight, and [it] gives an indicator of where Boston’s going.”
Miletsky said he believes the report helps to tell a more complete story of Boston’s history and current state. Although Miletsky has been studying the multiracial population for years, he said he hopes the new report will help to acknowledge the struggles faced by people who are mixed race, like Miletsky,
“It’s not an experience without pain and without some struggle,” Miletsky said.
Although the report reflects the growing trend in multiracial backgrounds, Mattos said these findings can bring up a sense of fear or xenophobia for some, but for others it should be a reminder to continue to work toward equity for all races within their communities.
“It’s up to us to work toward greater equity and racial inclusion,” Mattos said. “The mere fact that we’re seeing this trend does not imply we are an equitably racial society.”