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The Daily Tar Heel

Tough question: What are you?

Take a moment and ask yourself the following: “What are you?”

Does that seem crazy? Now imagine that every form you fill out, every trip to the DMV and almost every person you meet asks you the same prying, intrusive question.

Worse yet, you may not have a straightforward answer. No, this isn’t metaphysics — this is part of the multiracial experience in the United States.

Kip Fulbeck, whose exhibit “kip fulbeck: part asian, 100% hapa” is currently on display at the FedEx Global Education Center, will be performing there tonight at 7 p.m.

Fulbeck has traveled across the country photographing people of mixed descent, most of whom have partial ancestry from Asia or the Pacific Rim. These people are often referred to as “Hapas,” from the Hawaiian word for “half.” His subjects are bare profiles from the shoulder up, shown not for “what” they are, but who.

“Hapas” and other multiracial people are part of a changing reality of race in the United States.

In 2000, the Census Bureau allowed people to “check all that apply” regarding their race for the first time, on the basis that the racial categories used “represent a sociopolitical construct …and are not anthropologically or scientifically based.”

Almost 7 million people jumped on the historic opportunity. Sounds like progress to me, considering where we have been.

In 1924, the Racial Integrity Act banned interracial marriages in Virginia. This was overturned in 1967 by a Supreme Court case with a name that lends new meaning to the term “poetic justice,” Loving v. Virginia.

Since this ruling, interracial marriages in the United States have been on a steady and profound rise. The inevitable offspring of those marriages, multiracial children, are one of the fastest growing demographics in the country.

Out of those almost 7 million respondents in 2000, a little less than half of them were under the age of 18.

Young adulthood is when people feel the most anxiety about their ethnic identity.

As a “mixed” person myself, how I talk, how I style my hair, who I am dating and many other silly things have changed what race people assume I am.

They have made me assume different things about myself, jockeying back and forth between identities. It was not until college that I became comfortable in my own skin and assertive about my “mixed” identity.

In 2004, a mind-blowing 25.8 percent of undergraduate students in the University of California system identified as “multiracial or multiethnic.”

But how many are there here? What issues do they need addressed? The time to find out is now.

When you go to the Global Center, take a look at the faces you see along the walls.

Think about what pasts lay behind them, what stories they have coded on their bodies.

Think about the fact that the definition of race, which can change as quickly as directions on forms, can have a real effect on people’s lives. But remember that as the taxonomy of race becomes more absurd, its impact is no less material or hazardous.

If you are multiracial, remember that no matter what people think you are, you are you, one-hundred percent.

Domenic R. A. Powell is a senior history and international studies major from Huntersville. Contact Domenic at

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