FALL 2001 http://www.eastern.edu/publications/emme Vol. 3, No. 2
Theme: Interracial and Mixed-racial Relationships and Families
Issue | Articles
Forum | Instructional
Ideas | Reviews
| Boylston | Flakes | Le | Matthews | Minges | Morris_Pomery_Murray | Wallace |
[ Juvenile literature| Professional Literature | Films and Videos | Websites ]
A Look at Panama and Implications for the United States
Florida State University
U. S. A.
|Abstract: This personal and reflective essay shares a multicultural insight that the author has gained from a trip to Filipinas, Panama. The trip awakened in her not only hopes of a multiethnic society but also the question as to why multiethnic heritage is not celebrated in the United States. In making an attempt to answer the question, the author explores the complexity of multiethnic relationships in the United States and articulates lessons we can learn from the citizens of Filipinas.|
trip to Panama during the summer of 2000 was a revelation in more ways than I
could have imagined. A group from
my university traveled to a village in Filipinas, Panama, to help build a
neighborhood school. The men in the
village were quite capable of building the school by themselves but our trip was
supposed to be a service opportunity and a cultural experience for participants.
It proved to be a lot more.
of the things I noticed and admired about the villagers was their emphasis on
family. A typical day involved the
family getting up early to see the children off to the school that was located
in the village. Afterwards we would
begin the work on the school with the village men, and the village women would
start cooking the meals for the day. At
first we, especially female participants, found ourselves standing around
watching the village men work. This
was a matter of respect for their guests on the part of the men.
It seemed inappropriate to have us work on their behalf, even though that
was what we were there for. We saw
this same consideration given to the village women.
For example, if one of the men saw a woman carrying a large container, he
would immediately stop working and would go to help her.
The men would also always volunteer to do the most dangerous parts of our
Every meal was eaten together, which meant that the children would take a break
from school and we would take a break from work to sit around talking and
eating. This served an important
purpose; it reconnected the entire village as one family.
The children were always served first, then us, then the village men and
women. The theme of unity penetrated through every aspect of the
villagers’ lives, especially their families. [paragraph 2]
from the United States where so much emphasis is placed on race, I was intrigued
by how well the interethnic families were accepted.
In fact, no one in the village considered them "interethnic."
If there was any classification at all, it was described as “being from
a different village.” Difference
was seen as just “being different,” not being less than.
It was wonderful to see dark-skinned Indian or African Panamanians with
light-skinned White Panamanians. Their
children were a beautiful blend of both of their ancestries.
I began to wonder why multiethnic heritage is
not celebrated in the United States.
believe that a part of the problem in the United States is the way that
interethnic marriages or relationships have been viewed.
First, let us take a look at the current facts.
According to the 2000 Census data, 6.8 million people in the United
States identified themselves as multiethnic (Kasindorf & Nasser, 2001).
The 2000 Census was the first time in the 210-year history of the U.S.
Census, when people could choose more than one race to describe themselves; 2.4%
of the United States' 281.4 million people chose this option.
USA Today, the Gallup Poll, and CNN polled 1, 015 adults Friday
through Saturday during the 2000 Census week.
percent of these adults said that it would be “good for the country” if more
Americans thought of themselves as multiethnic.
Twenty-four percent said it would be bad.
The margin of error was three percentage points (Kasindorf & Nasser).
societies promote marriage. Marriage
is often viewed as a stabilizing, positive influence on a person’s mental
well-being and societies’ moral foundation (Christensen & Johnson, 1989).
Unfortunately, this same respect is not often given to interethnic
relationships. Some researchers
have implied that those in interethnic relationships are psychologically
defective or that interethnic relationships corrupt society (Spickard, 1989).
In fact, some researchers have suggested that interethnic relationships
develop out of lust and are devoid of love (Spickard, 1989) even though most
interethnic couples refer to love as their main reason for marrying (Porterfield,
1978). These “educated”
opinions are no more than prejudices that perpetuate societal taboos against
interethnic relationships (Gaines & Reed, 1995).
This brings me back to my question, “Why is multiethnic heritage not
celebrated in the United States?” [paragraph 5]
are a variety of reasons. Some
groups are wary of the U.S. Census’ new option to choose more than one
ethnicity. In the United States,
ethnicity is often thought of in terms of “Black and White.”
In fact, many of the laws outlawing interethnic relationships have
historically targeted such pairings (Staples, 1994).
The ramifications of these laws are still in effect.
Some European-Americans fear a loss of power as a result of a decline in
the number of people identifying themselves as White (National Research Council,
1989). Some African-Americans have
similar fears but for slightly different reasons.
Some Blacks are concerned that race issues regarding Blacks and Whites
will not disappear as quickly as race issues concerning Whites and other
ethnicities (French, 1985; Kasindorf & Nasser, 2001).
If true, this could negatively impact political clout and
anti-discrimination efforts. Many
federal programs are based on data from the U.S. Census.
The amount of federal aid for college and other programs is based on the
percentage of people within each ethnicity.
This fosters an atmosphere of competition between multiple ethnicities
for limited dollars. Many minority
Americans have felt the recent pinch from affirmative action programs being
taken away and fear that if many who would normally classify themselves as
"Black" checked another box, their representation would be diluted (
Kasindorf & Nasser, p. 37).
then is the solution? Some may
suggest that the more multiethnic we become as a society the less we will focus
on ethnicity. However, I believe
those inclined towards bigotry would substitute race with another construct.
I guess the real answer to this question remains to be articulated.
We can, however, take some cues from Filipinas.
main focus of the village seemed to be ensuring the closeness of the family.
The “family” included everyone in the village regardless of
ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or gender.
It was really awesome to see so many blends of ethnicities (Indian,
Asian, White, Hispanic, and African) loving each other.
At the end of a day, everyone would come together to play games.
Parents would often play with their children; in fact, many fathers used
this time to give individual attention to each child.
Sometimes, we did not know which children belonged to which parents
because all of the villagers saw it as their role to love all of the children.
It was also normal to see children of various hues belonging to the same
set of parents.
H. T., & Johnson, K. P. (1989). The family as a changing institution. In J.
M. Henslin (Ed.), Marriage and family in a changing society (3rd
ed.) (pp. 15-26). New York: Free Press.
French, M. (1985). Beyond power: On women, men, and morals. New York: Ballantine.
S. O., Jr., & Reed, E. S. (1995). Prejudice: From Allport to DuBois. American
Psychologist, 50, 96-103.
Martin & Nasser, Haya. (2001, March 13). Impact of Census’ race data
debated. USA Today [Online]. http://www.usatoday.com/news/census/2001-03-13-census-impact.htm
Research Council. (1989). A common destiny: Blacks and American society.
Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.
E. (1978). Black and White mixed marriages. Chicago. IL: Nelson-Hall.
P.R. (1989). Mixed blood: Intermarriage and ethnic identity in
twentieth-century America. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press.
R. (1994). Interracial relationships: A convergence of desire and opportunity.
In R. Staples (Ed.), The Black family: Essays and studies (pp. 142-149).
Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Fredricka J. Flakes, is a research and training consultant at Florida State University where she pursues a doctoral degree in Instructional Systems Design. She has a long-term interest in tolerance initiatives. (She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org).
Recommended Citation in the APA Style:
Flakes, F. J. (2001). Interethnic marriages: A look at Panama and implications in the United States. [Online], 3 (2), 9 paragraphs <Available: http://www.eastern.edu/publications/emme/2001fall/flakes.html> [your access year, month date]
Chang, Ph. D.
© 2001 by EMME & Authors