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Book Reviews   |    
New Faces in a Changing America: Multiracial Identity in the 21st Century
Reviewed by Brian Tsuzaki, M.D.
Psychiatric Services 2005; doi: 10.1176/appi.ps.56.5.619-a
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edited by Loretta I. Winters and Herman L. DeBose; Thousand Oaks, California, Sage Publications, 432 pages, $36.95 softcover

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New Faces in a Changing America: Multiracial Identity in the 21st Century examines multiracial identity largely from a sociological perspective. The editors, Loretta I. Winters and Herman L. DeBose, are both associate professors of sociology at California State University at Northridge. The book's 18 chapters, each written by a different author, are organized into five parts: "Race as a Social Construct," "The Multiracial Movement," "Racial/Ethnic Groups in America and Beyond," "Race, Gender, and Hierarchy," and "Special Topics." Concerning the intended audience, DeBose writes in the introduction, "The book is written primarily for an undergraduate college course, but may be used as a supplement text for graduate courses. It is written for classes on multiracial identity issues and may be used as a reference for professionals who serve large multiracial populations (e.g., school personnel, therapists, human resource specialists, government agents)."

One of the main topics of this book is the change in racial categorization in the 2000 U.S. Census. For the first time in the history of the census, people could check two or more racial categories, or "mark all that apply." This change was a huge issue to multiracial and minority peoples. Many multiracial organizations believed that this would give multiracial people an identity they had always been deprived of. On the other hand, many African-American organizations thought that a multiracial category in the census would "dilute the traditional minority count" and thus "undermine various state and federal programs aimed at minorities, such as minority business development programs and some affirmative action plans."

The book also addresses the larger issue of racism in America. One chapter shows how the categorization of multiracial peoples has changed in the census throughout the past 200 years. It argues that these categorizations not only reflected the prevailing attitudes toward race at the time but also were used as tools to benefit the dominant race. Even the concept of race itself is scrutinized in this book. The question is raised, Is there a valid biological basis for separating people into races, or is race merely a manmade construct, a tool that has been used to gain power and money?

As a last comment, I was struck by the regular use of provocative terms and ideas throughout the book. To give one example, Mary Thierry Texeira writes in chapter 2, "Moreover, we cannot understand the (multiracial) movement unless it is placed in the context of white supremacy. White supremacy informs us that divisions, including racial labels and categories among people of color in the United States, have always benefited a white power structure that has often endorsed attempts to disunite nonwhites." Although I didn't agree with everything in this book, it did help me better understand others' perspectives on race and multiracialism.

Dr. Tsuzaki is a staff geriatric psychiatrist at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Honolulu, Hawaii.

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