The Greenwood family tree, emblematic of a growing number of American bloodlines, has roots on many continents. Its mix of races — by marriage, adoption and other close relationships — can be challenging to track, sometimes confusing even for the family itself.The parallels in the experiences of the Greenwoods and Heather Greenwood's white adoptive mom with three mixed-race kids are, indeed, reminders of continuing tensions about race. Shouldn't it be getting better faster?
For starters: Mrs. Greenwood, 37, is the daughter of a black father and a white mother. She was adopted into a white family as a child. Mrs. Greenwood married a white man with whom she has two daughters. Her son from a previous relationship is half Costa Rican. She also has a half brother who is white, and siblings in her adoptive family who are biracial, among a host of other close relatives — one from as far away as South Korea.
The population of mixed-race Americans like Mrs. Greenwood and her children is growing quickly, driven largely by immigration and intermarriage. One in seven new marriages is between spouses of different races or ethnicities, for example. And among American children, the multiracial population has increased almost 50 percent, to 4.2 million, since 2000.
But the experiences of mixed-race Americans can be vastly different. Many mixed-race youths say they feel wider acceptance than past generations, particularly on college campuses and in pop culture. Extensive interviews and days spent with the Greenwoods show that, when they are alone, the family strives to be colorblind. But what they face outside their home is another story. People seem to notice nothing but race. Strangers gawk. Make rude and racist comments. Tell offensive jokes. Ask impolite questions.
The Greenwoods’ experiences offer a telling glimpse into contemporary race relations, according to sociologists and members of other mixed-race familiesIt is a life of small but relentless reminders that old tensions about race remain, said Mrs. Greenwood, a homemaker with training in social work.
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