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Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Opinion | Racial identity is more fluid than you might think - The Washington Post

Opinion Racial identity is more fluid than you might think

Supporters of President Donald Trump wait for him to speak at a campaign rally at Tucson International Airport on Oct. 19, 2020, in Tucson. (Alex Brandon/AP) 

"Many Americans assume race is a constant. Something people are born into and that — like their birthdate or country of origin — simply doesn’t change.

But for a surprising number of us, race is a fluid concept. Polling data show that roughly 8 percent of adults jumped from one racial category to another in recent years. And that has important political implications for the Republican Party.

The best data on race-switching comes from panel surveys conducted by academics. These studies — such as the General Social Survey, the American National Election Studies and Cooperative Election Study — ask a representative sample of Americans about their views and identities and then contact them again four to eight years later to track how they have changed.

On the most basic question of race — “What racial or ethnic group best describes you?” — many who initially identified as Hispanic, multiracial or “other” changed their answers in the second round.

And, in most cases, these switchers moved into the “White” category.

This data is personal to me. My maternal grandfather was Southeast Asian, and my other three grandparents were White. My mother, who is half Indian, is adopted, so I don’t have much connection to Indian culture. But in my very White West Virginia hometown, my light brown skin stood out. People often asked, “Where are you really from?” I almost never detected any ill will in the question, but the implication was clear: I wasn’t White.

I haven’t been asked that question since moving to Los Angeles. My wife and son are White, and I’m sure we look like a White family when we’re out in public. I still mark “multiracial” on official forms, but each time, I pause and wonder: Would it be more honest to pick “White” now?

Stories like mine are common — and for some people, how their identity fits into their community is closely tied to politics. In recent elections, some voters changed their race and their vote at the same time.

For example, 59 percent of multiracial Trump converts — that is, mixed-race voters who passed on Mitt Romney in 2012 but voted for Donald Trump in 2016 — alsoswitched their race to White. Among multiracial voters who didn’t support Trump or Romney, only 4 percent moved into the White category.

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This data doesn’t tell us why so many multiracial Trump converts listed themselves as White. Maybe these voters first decided they were White and then joined the GOP. Maybe they liked Trump’s message, understood that White voters mostly backed him and then leaned into the White part of their identity.

Either way, the result is the same: Between 2012 and 2016, new White Americans emerged from the country’s growing mixed-race bloc to vote for Trump.

It’s important not to get too carried away with this data point. Only a small chunk of Americans change their race, and not all of them vote. Many don’t change their partisan identity and their racial identity at the same time.

Nevertheless, this data will come as good news for many in the GOP. Republicans lost every racial group except for White voters in the 2020 election. And, according to conventional wisdom, it’s only a matter of time before increased racial diversity renders the GOP unable to compete with Democrats in national elections.

But demographic and political trends are not so simple. Many once-loyal Hispanicand Asian American Democrats voted for Trump in 2020. Combined with the fact that some non-White Democrats simply left their racial groups altogether in recent years, these data points suggest demography is not destiny. In fact, they might show that claims of the GOP’s impending doom are greatly exaggerated."

Opinion | Racial identity is more fluid than you might think - The Washington Post

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