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About 6.8 million described themselves as multiracial — 2.4 percent of the population — adding statistical fuel to the ongoing debate over what race really means.Kerry Ann Rockquemore, professor of African-American studies at the University of Illinois-Chicago, is the daughter of a black father and white mother, and says she is asked almost daily how she identifies herself.Kenney is well aware that some blacks view interracial marriage as a potential threat to black identity, and she knows her two daughters, now 15 and 11, will face questions on how they identify themselves.“For older folks in the black community,” she said “it’s a feeling of not wanting people to forget where they came from.” Yet some black intellectuals embrace the surge in interracial marriages and multiracial families; among them is Harvard law professor Randall Kennedy, who addressed the topic in his latest book, “Interracial Intimacies: Sex, Marriage, Identity, and Adoption.” “Malignant racial biases can and do reside in interracial liaisons,” Kennedy wrote.Kim, a white woman raised on Cape Cod, met Al, who is black, in 1993 after she came to Jackson’s Tougaloo College to study history.Together, they run Cool Al’s — a popular hamburger restaurant — while raising a 12-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter in the state with the nation’s lowest percentage (0.7) of multiracial residents.

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Tough times for some multiracial families More often, though, the difficulties are more nuanced, such as those faced by Kim and Al Stamps during 13 years as an interracial couple in Jackson, Miss.

'Encouraging development' Kelley Kenney, a professor at Kutztown University in Pennsylvania, is among those who have bucked the black-white gender trend.

A black woman, she has been married since 1988 to a fellow academic of Irish-Italian descent, and they have jointly offered programs for the American Counseling Association about interracial couples.

Coupled with a steady flow of immigrants from all parts of the world, the surge of interracial marriages and multiracial children is producing a 21st century America more diverse than ever, with the potential to become less stratified by race. Many prominent blacks — including Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, civil rights leader Julian Bond and former U. Bob Jones University in South Carolina only dropped its ban on interracial dating in 2000; a year later 40 percent of the voters objected when Alabama became the last state to remove a no-longer-enforceable ban on interracial marriages from its constitution.

Taunts and threats, including cross burnings, still occur sporadically.

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