How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

'They have a language I don’t know but I understand': On growing up mixed-race

Photo by Jeff Latimer/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Just as the last three decades have brought more mixed-race and mixed-ethnicity marriages, they’ve also brought a growing number of multiracial, multiethnic Americans. Between 2000 and 2010, the number of multiracial children in the U.S. grew by almost 50 percent. In a country where the president was himself born to an interracial couple, being a child of mixed race longer makes one as "different" as it once did, at least not as a general rule.

Still, adults who grew up in multiracial families have unique stories, some more difficult to tell than others. Some of these stories will be shared this coming weekend in Los Angeles at the fifth annual Mixed Roots Film & Literary Festival, held at the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo. The festival, which highlights the work of mixed-race writers, filmmakers and others, was founded in 2008 by author Heidi Durrow and actor Fanshen Cox, both of whom grew up in multiracial families.


Posts of the week: Hockey madness with Russian roots, bicultural marriages, Startup Act 2.0, detention reforms under attack, more

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This week has brought the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs, the California Primary election and an interesting measure in Compton tied to changing demographics, and deliberations in Congress over what Homeland Security should be spending, including on immigrant detainees. That, and an ongoing conversation on interracial and interethnic marriages, which has continued online after a popular public event last week at KPCC in Pasadena.

Without further ado, a few highlighted posts from the week.


Website combines hockey madness and Russian roots, with (g)love The National Hockey League's website has content in eight languages, a testament to its international makeup and fan base. Russian players are well-represented, and in the U.S. they draw Russian American fans. Enter, a unique English-language site for fans of Russian players edited Sergei Miledin, a 1.5 generation Russian American and New Jersey Devils fan.


Scenes from a (bicultural) marriage: Communication and identity

Photo by steena/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Love has become increasingly color-blind, this we know, as the percentage of interracial and interethnic marriages in the United States continues to grow. And it may conquer much. But even in one of the world's most diverse cities, that doesn't necessarily make love across color or ethnic lines any easier.

This was the takeaway last Thursday night, when three bicultural couples shared the stage with me at KPCC's Crawford Family Forum to share their personal stories. The couples: Aris and and InSun Janigian, an Armenian American novelist and his Korean American wife; KPCC's Off-Ramp host John Rabe and Julian Bermudez, a producer of art exhibits; and Terry Dennis and Gabriela Lopez de Dennis, both artists, a black Texan and a Latina from Los Angeles.

All three long-term couples talked about a series of struggles and triumphs and, while they've by now made it mostly to happily-ever-after, bridges they've crossed along the way. These have included standing up to disapproving parents ("I'm marrying her, I'm not marrying you," Janigian said he once told his mother); for Bermudez, the attitudes of his conservative Mexican Catholic mother, who struggles with his same-sex marriage, continue to be a challenge.


Racial, political lines divide Americans on whether immigrants threaten 'traditional values'

Source: Pew Research Center

There's a comprehensive new Pew Research Center report on American values, a far-reaching one based on surveys that takes in trends since the late 1980s. It charts the rise in partisan polarization, as well as where Americans lie in terms of their values regarding everything from business to religion.

And of course, their values regarding immigration and race.

A section of the report that focuses on immigration and race suggests that while a majority of Americans still prefer tighter immigration restrictions, the percentage of people sharing this view is declining. But people remain divided over whether newcomers threaten what they perceive as "traditional American customs and values."

And interestingly, there's a racial line drawn. In spite of a bump in optimism in 2009, shortly after the election of Barack Obama to the presidency, nearly two-thirds of black respondents said they believed there has been little if any improvement in the position of black Americans in recent years, a situation worsened by the economic downtown.


Love, L.A. style: Mom, Dad, I'm dating an odar

Photo by qthomasbowe/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A great word came up last night during a lively public talk at KPCC's Crawford Family Forum, where I moderated a panel on interracial and interethnic relationships. And while its origin is Armenian, it wound up a part of the conversation among all the couples there.

One of the panelists, novelist Aris Janigian, brought it up first. He's Armenian American; his wife, InSun, is the daughter of Korean immigrants. When it was time to tell his mother about her, he had to break the news that his beloved was an odar, an Armenian term that sounds curiously like "other," which is more or less what it means. And after he told his story, other panelists began applying it to their own stories with their partners: the non-black odar wife, the non-Latino odar husband, and so forth.

Many cultures have terms to describe outsiders, but since odar is the word of the moment, Multi-American contributor Lory Tatoulian has kindly provided us with an extended definition: