W.E.B. Du Bois called "the color line" the core problem of the 20th century. In the 21st century, the focus will be on color lines, not just the traditional black-white divide, as the nation's Latino and Asian populations surge, whites become a numerical minority and African-Americans continue a two-steps-forward, one-step-back march toward equality.
In the midst of rapid racial change, one fact is unmistakable: A growing number of Americans are showing that we all can get along, quite intimately, forming relationships and families that cross and ultimately blur those color lines. Almost a quarter of marriages in California, for instance, are interracial (if one counts white-Latino pairings), and 15 percent of all babies born in the Golden State are of mixed race. The demagogues of every race may preach hatred, but most of us are tuning them out. We're incorrigible: Despite the best efforts of separatists, we can't keep our hands off one another.
In March, the U.S. Census Bureau will finally attempt to reflect this reality: After much controversy, the 2000 Census will allow the multiracial to check as many boxes, regarding race, as there are racially distinct branches in their family tree. To herald this welcome change, we prepared "All mixed up: A Salon special report on multiracial America." Over the week -- kicking off, appropriately, on Valentine's Day -- we'll roll out a series of features on the topic, and continue the examination throughout the coming year.
Charles Taylor looks at Hollywood's last taboo -- why movies don't reflect our mixed-race romantic reality -- and finds that the discomfort of nonwhites is a new element in a traditional tale of racial timidity. Gregory Rodriguez examines what will happen when the Census counts the multiracial. Daryl Lindsey explores why the civil rights establishment is worried about the Census plan. Two women -- a white mother of mixed-race daughters and a mixed-race young professional contemplating children in her future -- explore the intimate landscape of race mixing. And Joan Walsh looks at the need to get past the traditional black-white, victim-villain, innocent-guilty paradigm of race relations as we move into a truly mixed-up future.
You can join the discussion in Table Talk as the series unfolds. And look for more dispatches on race mixing in the weeks and months to come.