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The terms multiracial and mixed-race describe people whose ancestries come from multiple races.

Definitions of multiraciality

While defining race is controversial and rejected by some specialists in human genetics,"race" remains deeply seated in popular belief. Insofar as race is defined differently in different cultures, perceptions of multiraciality will naturally be subjective.

According to U.S. sociologist Troy Duster and ethicist Pilar Ossorio:
Some percentage of people who look white will possess genetic markers indicating that a significant majority of their recent ancestors were African.
Some percentage of people who look black will possess genetic markers indicating the majority of their recent ancestors were European.

In the United States:
"Many state and local agencies comply with the U.S.
Office of Management and Budget (OMB) 1997 revised standards for the collection, tabulation, and presentation of federal data on race and ethnicity.
The revised OMB standards identify a minimum of five racial categories: White; Black or African American; American Indian and Alaska Native;Hispanic ; Asian; and Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander.
Perhaps, the most significant change for Census 2000 was that respondents were given the option to mark one or more races on the questionnaire to indicate their racial identity.
Census 2000 race data are shown for people who reported a race either alone or in combination with one or more other races."


In the English-speaking world, many terms for people of various multiracial backgrounds exist, some of which are pejorative or are no longer used. Mulato and mestizo are used in Spanish, mulato and mestiço in Portuguese and mulâtre and métis in French for people of multiracial descent. These terms are also in certain contexts used in the English-speaking world. In Canadamarker, the Métis are a people of mixed white and First Nation descent.

Terms like "mulatto" for people of partly African descent and "mestizo" for people of partly Native American descent are still used in English, but mostly when referring to the past or to the demography of Latin-America. "Half-breed" is a now old-fashioned and pejorative term used for people of partial Native American ancestry. Mestee, once widely used, is now used mostly for members of old mixed-race groups, such as Melungeons, Redbones, Brass Ankles and Mayles. In South Africa, and much of English-speaking southern Africa, the term "Coloured" was used to describe a mixed-race person but also Asians not of African descent. While the term is socially accepted, it is becoming an outdated term owing to its apartheid historical significance.

In English, the terms "miscegenation and "amalgamation" have been used for "race-mixing". These terms are now often considered offensive and are becoming obsolete. The term "mixed-race" is becoming generally accepted.

Different societies

Latin America

Mestizo is the common word used to describe multiracial people in Latin America, especially people with Amerindian and Spanish or other European ancestry. Mestizos make up a large portion of Latin Americans including a majority in some countries.

In Latin America, racial mixture was officially acknowledged from colonial times. There was official nomenclature for every conceivable mixture present in the various countries. Initially, this classification was used as a type of caste system, where rights and privileges were accorded depending on one's official racial classification. Official caste distinctions were abolished in many countries of the Spanish-speaking Americas as they became independent of Spainmarker. Several terms have remained in common usage.

Race and racial mixture have played a significant role in the politics of many Latin American countries. In some countries, notably Mexicomarker, Dominican Republicmarker, El Salvadormarker, and Belizemarker, a majority of the population can be described as biracial or multiracial (depending on the country).

The Mexican philosopher and educator José Vasconcelos authored an essay on the subject, La Raza Cósmica, celebrating racial mixture. Venezuelanmarker president Hugo Chávez, who is himself of Spanish, indigenous and African ancestry, has made positive references to the mixed-race ancestry of most Latin Americans from time to time.


According to the 2000 official census, 38.5% of Brazilians identified themselves as pardo skin color. That option is normally marked by people that consider themselves multiracial (mestiço). The term pardo is formally used in the official census but is not used by the population. In Brazilian society, most people who are multiracial call themselves moreno: light-moreno or dark-moreno. These terms are not considered offensive and focus more on skin color than on ethnicity (it is considered more like other human characteristics such as being short or tall.).

The most common multiracial groups are between African and European (mulato), and Amerindian and European (caboclo or mameluco). But there are also African and Amerindian (cafuzo), and East-Asian (mostly Japanese) and European (ainocô). All groups are more or less found throughout the whole country. A majority of Brazilian multiracials, however, have all three origins: Amerindian, European and African. It is said today that nearly 89% of the "Pardo" population in Brazil, has at least one Amerindian ancestor from their maternal genes. In Brazil, it is very common for Mulattoes to admit that they do not have any Amerindian ancestry, though studies have found that if a Brazilian multiracial can trace their ancestry to nearly 8 to 9 generations back, they will have at least one Amerindian ancestor from their maternal side of the family, which will explain many of their physical features and characteristics.

Since multiracial relations in Brazilian society have occurred for many generations, today, some people find it difficult to trace their own ethnic ancestry. Today a majority of mixed-race Brazilians do not really know their ethnic ancestry. Due to their unique features that makes them Brazilian like color of their skin, their lips, or eye color, they are only aware that their ancestors were definitely Portuguese, Sub-Saharan African, or Amerindian. There is a high level of integration between all groups. There is, however, a great social and economic difference between European descendants (found more among the upper and middle classes) and African, Amerindian and multiracial descendants (found more among the middle and lower classes).

South Africa

In South Africa, the Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act prohibited marriage between whites and non-whites (which were classified as Black, Asian and Coloured). Multiracial South Africans are commonly referred to as coloureds. According to the 2001 South African Census, they are the second largest minority (8.9%) after white South Africans (9.2%).


Anglo-Indians are the mixed race, which originated in Indiamarker during the British Raj, or the Colonial period in India. The British went to India as Traders in 1616, ruled much of its East for centuries, and left India after ruling all of it for over 130 years, in 1947. British soldiers married or had affairs with Indian women and their offspring were called Anglo-Indians. The estimated population of Anglo-Indians is 600,000 worldwide with the majority living in India and the UK.

Sri Lanka

Due to its strategic location in the Indian Ocean, the island of Sri Lankamarker has been a confluence for settlers from various parts of the world, which has resulted in the formation of several mixed-race ethnicities in the Island. The most notable mixed race group are the Sri Lankan Moors, who trace their ancestry from Arab traders who settled on the island and intermarried with local women. Today, The Sri Lankan Moors live primarily in urban communities, preserving their Arab-Islamic cultural heritage while adopting many Southern Asian customs.

The Burghers are an Eurasian ethnic group, onsisting for the most part of male-line descendants of European colonists from the 16th to 20th centuries (mostly Portuguese, Dutch, German and British) and local women, with some minorities of Swedish, Norwegian, French and Irish.

The Kaffirs are an ethnic group who are partially descended from 16th century Portuguese traders and the African slaves who were brought by them.The Kaffirs spoke a distinctive creole based on Portuguese, the Sri Lanka Kaffir language, now extinct. Their cultural heritage includes the dance styles Kaffringna and Manja.

Singapore and Malaysia

According to government statistics, the population of Singaporemarker as of September 2007 was 4.68 million, of whom multiracial people, including Chindians and Eurasians, formed 2.4%.

In Singapore and Malaysiamarker, the majority of inter-ethnic marriages are between Chinese and Indians. The offspring of such marriages are informally known as "Chindian", though the Malaysian government only classifies them by their father's ethnicity. As the majority of these intermarriages usually involve an Indian groom and Chinese bride, the majority of Chindians in Malaysia are usually classified as "Indian" by the Malaysian government. As for the Malays, who are predominantly Muslim, legal restrictions in Malaysia make it uncommon for them to intermarry with either the Indians, who are predominantly Hindu, or the Chinese, who are predominantly Buddhist and Taoist. It is, however, common for Muslims and Arabs in Singapore and Malaysia to take local Malay wives, due to a common Islamic faith.

The Chitty people, in Singapore and the Malaccamarker state of Malaysia, are a Tamil people with considerable Malay descent. This was due to the first Tamil settlers taking local wives, since they did not bring along any of their own women with them.


Under terms of the Geneva Accords of 1954, departing French troops took thousands of Vietnamese wives and children with them after the First Indochina War. Some 100,000 Eurasians stayed in Vietnam, though after independence from French rule.



Historically, admixture has been an ever present and pervading phenomenon in the Philippines. The Philippines was originally settled by Australoid peoples called Negritos which now form the country's aboriginal community. Admixture occurred between this earlier group and the mainstream Malayo-Polynesian population.

There has been Indian migration to and influence in the Philippines since the precolonial era. The impact of Indian civilization on the Philippines profoundly affected the culture of the Filipinos. The Brahmanistic elements in ancient Filipino religions and the names of their gods and mythological heroes were of Indian origin. The term Bathala (supreme god of the ancient Tagalog) originated from the Sanskrit Bhattara Guru, meaning "the highest of the gods". About 25% of the words in the Tagalog language are Sanskrit terms and about 5% of the country's population possess Indianmarker ancestry from antiquity.

There has been a Chinese presence in the Philippinesmarker since the ninth century. However, large-scale migrations of Chinese to the Philippines only started during the Spanish colonial era, when the world market was opened to the Philippines. It is estimated that among Filipinos, 10%-20% have some Chinese ancestry and 1.5% are "full-blooded" Chinese.

Major Arab migration to the Philippines coincided with the spread of Islam in the archipelago. Filipino-Muslim royal families from the Sultanate of Sulu and the Sultanate of Maguindanao claim Arab descent even going as far as claiming direct lineage from the Prophet Muhammad. According to the American anthropologist Dr. H. Otley Beyer, the ancestry of Filipinos is 2% Arab. This dates back to when Arab traders intermarried with the local Malay and Filipina female populations during the pre-Spanish history of the Philippines.

Hispanic Influence

The Philippines has also received migration from Mexico and other Spanish colonies in Latin America during the Spanish colonial era . The Viceroyalty of New Spain; now Mexico, colonized the Philippines from 1565 until Mexico gained independence in 1821 after which the Philippines was directly administered under Spain. The Galleon trade, connected and cross pollinated the cultures of Mexico, the Philippines and Spain. This historical connection is evident in the presence of several Aztec and Spanish words in common use within the various Philippine Languages.

During the Spanish era of the Philippinesmarker, the term "Mestizo" referred to those of mixed indigenous Austronesian and Spanish ancestry, being borrowed from Latin America; however, the term soon became generic and synonymous for "mixed race.", referring to all Filipinos of mixed indigenous Malayo-Polynesian and other ancestry.

American Colonisation

After the defeat of Spain during the Spanish-American War in 1898, the Philippine Islandsmarker and other remaining Spanish colonies were ceded to the United States in the Treaty of Paris. The Philippines was under U.S. sovereignty until 1946, though occupied by Japan during World War II. In 1946, in the Treaty of Manila, the U.S. Recognized the Republic of the Philippines as an independent nation. Even after 1946, the U.S. maintained a heavy military presence in the Philippines, with as many as 21 U.S. military bases and 100,000 U.S. military personnel stationed there. The bases closed in 1992, leaving behind thousands of Amerasian children.Pearl S. Buck International foundation estimates there are 52,000 Amerasians scattered throughout the Philippines with 5,000 in the Clark area of Angeles."The majority of the children have been abandoned by their American fathers," said Jocelyn Bonilla, the manager of the Pearl S. Buck center in Angeles Citymarker.

Japanese Occupation

However, large numbers of these people and the rest of the Philippines were ruined, raped and or slaughtered by the Japanese during the occupation of the archipelago resulting in further admixture resulting in the emergence of Japinos. When the United States granted the Philippines independence on July 4 1946 the country was economically devastated by the Second World War and many surviving Filipino-American Mestizos with the financial capacity to travel to the United States did so but the majority were too impoverished and thus remained in the country.

Modern Period

Now, modern day Filipino mestizos include Filipinos of Chinese, Spanish, Japanese, American, European, Hispanic, Arab, African, Indian and Mesoamerican ancestries. This is due to the historical and contemporary immigrations and colonizations of the Philippines and also as the product of the global Philippine Diaspora.

A recent genetic study by Stanford Universitymarker indicates that at least 3.6% of the population are European or of part European descent from both Spanish and American colonization. Currently however, there are no official statistics on the number of mestizos living in the Philippines, or Filipinos of mestizo descent living abroad, or Filipinos with Chinese and or Arab admixture, there are only guesstimates. This is due to the lack of documentation of racial backgrounds in government censuses. However, many Filipino mestizos also hide their ancestry in order to avoid a social negative stereotype stigma which alienates them from the population with predominantly indigenous appearance.

In the United States, intermarriage among Filipinos with other races is common. They have the largest number of interracial marriages among Asian immigrant groups, as documented in California. It is also noted that 21.8% of Filipino Americans are of mixed lineage, second among Asian Americans after the Japanese, and is the fastest growing.


In terms of ethnic origins, the population of Australia is diverse. A significant percentage of the population has multiple ethnic backgrounds, as Australia has one of the highest incidences of interethnic marriages and relationships in the world. A significant number of the Aboriginal Australian population has European ancestry.

New Zealand

Large scale European colonisation and settlement of New Zealand since the 1840s has led to a large racial mixing of them and the local Maori and Pacific populations. There are also smaller poulations of mixed European and Pacific Island people, as well as mixing between European and Asian populations. All of New Zealand's half million Maori can claim some Pakeha parentage. Especially common mixtures are Irish Maori, Scottish Maori and Anglo Maori. Less common are Jewish Maori (Nathan and Benjamin are common Maori surnames) and Dutch Maori (Both mostly since 1950s). Because ones' race and culture in New Zealand is often a form of self identification, actual numbers are hard to gauge. (Statistics New Zealand, Census of Population and Dwellings 2006). In the last census (2006) many New Zealanders refused to state their ethnicity, or claimed multiple ethncities and 19% chose New Zealander (Source New Zealand Herald 2006). Examples of these people include Dame Kiri Te Kanawa (opera singer) actress Rena Owen and ex Governor General Sir Paul Reeves.

United Kingdom

In 2000, The Sunday Times reported that "Britainmarker has the highest rate of interracial relationships in the world" and certainly the UK has the highest rate in the European Union. The 2001 census showed the population of Englandmarker (a sub-section of the UKmarker) to be 1.4% mixed-race, compared with U.S. estimates of 1.4% in 2002 (see below), although this U.S. figure did not include mixed-race people who had a black parent. By 2020 the mixed race population is expected to become Britain's largest ethnic minority group with the highest growth rate.

In Britainmarker, many multi-racial people have Caribbean, African or Asian heritage. Some, like Formula One driver, Lewis Hamilton, are referred to or describe themselves as 'mixed'.

The 2001 UK Census included a section entitled 'Mixed' to which 1.4% (1.6% by 2005 estimates) of people responded, which was split further into White and Black Caribbean, White and Asian, White and Black African and Other Mixed. Despite this, 2005 birth records for the country state at least 3.5% of new born babies as mixed race.

Cities/ Regions with notable Multiracial/ Mixed Race populations (England and Wales)


Multiracial Canadians in 2006 totaled 1.5% of the population, up from 1.2% in 2001. The mixed-race population grew by 25% since the previous census. Of these, the most frequent combinations were multiple visible minorities (for example, both black and South Asian multiracial people form the majority specifically in Torontomarker), followed closely by white-black, white-Latin American, white-Chinese, white-Arab, and many other smaller mixes.

Another 1.2% of Canadians are Métis (descendants of a historical population who were partially Aboriginal and European, particularly French, English, Scottish, and Irish ethnic groups).

This brings a total mixed population of 2.7%, greater by percentage than that of the United Kingdommarker and the United Statesmarker.

United States

Multiracial US Americans numbered 6.1 million in 2006, or 2.0% of the population. They can be listed in the U.S Census by any combination of races White or Caucasian, Black or African American, Asian, Native American or Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, "Some other race") and ethnicities. The U.S. has a growing multiracial identity movement. Miscegenation or interracial marriage, most notably between whites and blacks, was deemed immoral and illegal in most states in the 18th, 19th and first half of the 20th century. Californiamarker and the western US had similar laws to prohibit White-Asian American marriages until 1967 (Loving v. Virginia decision by the US Supreme Court) which overturned all remaining anti-miscegenation laws in the US.

However, demographers state that the American people are mostly multi-ethnic descendants of various immigrant nationalities culturally distinct until assimilation and integration took place in the mid-20th century. The "Americanization" of foreign ethnic groups and the inter-racial diversity of millions of Americans is not a new phenomenon but has been a fundamental part of its history, especially on frontiers where different groups of people came together.

The President of the United States, Barack Obama, is a multiracial American, as he is the son of a Luo father and a Euro-American mother.

Types of mixed-race people




Other types

See also


  1. "Not surprisingly, biomedical scientists are divided in their opinions about race. Some characterize it as 'biologically meaningless' ", citing .
  2. Carolyn Abraham, Molecular Eyewitness: DNA Gets a Human Face (quoted from Globe and Mail, June 25, 2005),
  3. SOUTH VIET NAM: The Girls Left Behind. Time. September 10, 1956.
  9. Women and children, militarism, and human rights: International Women's Working Conference | Off Our Backs | Find Articles at
  10. Tuesday, June 19, 2001
  13. Stanford Publications
  16. John Harlow, The Sunday Times (London), 9 April 2000, quoting Professor Richard Berthoud of the Institute for Social and Economic Research
  17. Changing Face of Britain, BBC, 2002.
  18. 3.5% of newborns in the UK are mixed race

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