Multiracial Places to Live
April 29, 2004 6:09 PM   Subscribe

AskMefi, what would you say are the best places to live, for those of multiracial descent? NYC, Los Angeles, and the Bay Area are all good, but where else have people found acceptance and feel comfortable?
posted by jare2003 to Travel & Transportation (47 answers total)
Seattle is extremely liberal in this respect, and many others. (caveat: I'm white)
posted by bingo at 7:07 PM on April 29, 2004

I note with dismay the U.S.-centrism implicit in your question, but nonetheless, I trudge onward: Toronto and Vancouver.
posted by stonerose at 7:16 PM on April 29, 2004

London and Amsterdam too, if international counts. I would think any big racially diverse and integrated city (not a Cincinnati, for instance) would be ok.
posted by amberglow at 7:48 PM on April 29, 2004

Montreal, just about anywhere in Holland, London...

In the US? New York, Boston, Seattle, and of course Omaha.

Kidding about Omaha.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:05 PM on April 29, 2004

Any major city/metro area. Just about any small town, but you'd want to check before moving there.

To some extent it might depend on what ethnic mix you're talking about. If you were predominantly Anglo-and-black and moved to, say, Birmingham or Atlanta, the worst that would realistically happen would be that people would take you for plain-old-black instead of mixed-race, if that's important to you (you might also get whatever ill treatment a black man might fear in that case).

If you mean you yourself as a half-Amish half-Chinese person, I'd be hard pressed to think of anywhere where anyone would take particular notice (except possibly for wee eensy towns where a kid might never have seen a non-Anglo before). Anyplace with even the beginnings of a chinatown should be enough to make people with Asian features boringly unremarkable and have Asian markets worth going to, if that's your bag.

Philly? They have Chinese people and PA-Dutch there, both at the same time. Back to State College?

Any city near a large military installation will probably have a significant number of mixed-race couples and kids from the base, especially Anglo/Asian and black/Asian; you see more people with Vietnamese, Korean, or Filipino heritage than Chinese though.

stonerose, amberglow: as another question notes, getting permanent residency in another country is exceedingly difficult and expensive unless you have family/spouse there. You can't just move to Toronto, or into the EU.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:05 PM on April 29, 2004

San Diego. My parents lived there when I was born.

However, I have never really been made to feel uncomfortable about being mixed anywhere. Everywhere, even in New York, I get the stupid "What are you?"--but that is so clueless it obviates any offense. Other than that (and the homeless guy who called me a nigger when I didn't give him any money), I have never had a problem anywhere in the Northeast, Midwest, or West. Have you? Or is this just an anticipatory thing?
posted by dame at 8:08 PM on April 29, 2004

And by West, I mean the coast.
posted by dame at 8:11 PM on April 29, 2004

jare2003: I went to your site, admittedly out of a curiosity to see what ethnic mix you are. I read your geographical bio, and it's like a laundry list of places that will not be mentioned in answer to this question. Just stay farther north and in bigger cities in general, and I think you'll be a lot happier in this regard.
posted by bingo at 8:15 PM on April 29, 2004

i'm one of those people dame, and really am interested, especially when it's not obvious. We all ask each other that anyway--it's not so much a racial thing as it is a nosy buttinsky thing--people have always asked me the same question--they can't tell which (white) ethnicity i am, i guess.

I know it's hard, ROU--i'd be living in Madrid if it was easy. : >
posted by amberglow at 8:17 PM on April 29, 2004

I second checking the small town thing. Throughout high school I had people asking me if I was a foreign exchange student (since, ya know, none of those funny-looking people actually live in America), asking me if I could speak English, and asking me if I was adopted because my last name isn't Chiense. For the record, I'm half Philipino.. but in rural Ohio, if you're not black or white, you must be Chinese. Most of it was not said with any kind of mean intent, but it got old fast.

I'm in Providence now and I haven't had any problems here. I also never had problems in the Florida panhandle - I lived very close to Eglin AFB, which probably helped.

And dame: I totally feel for you with the "What are you?" remarks. They're second only to "Where are you from?" [America..?] "No, where are you REALLY from?" exchanges for annoyance factor.
posted by Hypharse at 8:19 PM on April 29, 2004

Well, Amberglow, the thing is, it's kind of offensive because it usually comes out of the mouths of strangers who haven't even spent a second talking to you. It is as if they have a right to demand you present your ethnicity card, since they can't just figure it out from looking.

The funny thing is, if you spend about a half-hour talking to me, I'll volunteer my half-black half-Italian background. I like it. I'm proud of it. I think being mixed is neat and I'll talk about it till kingdom come. But you don't have a *right* to know.

Also, believe me, if you're plain old white, you have no idea how often this question can be asked. It gets real old real fast.

Hypharse: I find that asking people why they want to know can do wonders. All of a sudden, they're hit with the clue stick. (What are you doing in PVD? I used to live there, too.) (And no, I don't know how to make my text smaller.)
posted by dame at 8:30 PM on April 29, 2004

I'll apologize for all of us, but i really do get asked it an awful lot too.

for small do < small> bla, bla bla... < / small> and take away the spaces.
posted by amberglow at 8:38 PM on April 29, 2004

posted by crunchburger at 10:16 PM on April 29, 2004

Half chinese isn't uncommon or remarkable in houston really, i think any big city that isn't all white (and which big cities are) would be ok.
posted by rhyax at 11:06 PM on April 29, 2004

I'm going to recommend against Boston. I'm white myself, but my girlfriend is mixed asian/white and whenever we went out together, we got all kinds of stares and nasty looks. No one ever said anything to us, if that is all you're worried about, but there was a pervasive sense of disapproval towards mixed-race couples. Oddly enough, outside the city we didn't get as many looks.

Another city I would stay away from, again speaking from personal experience, is Denver. I love the city dearly, my parents live there, but their are a lot of racially non-progressive types that live there.

I live in Washington DC now, and no one has ever stared at my girlfriend here like they did in Boston.

One other thing: My girlfriend thought Houston (of all places) was very a nice city in this regard.
posted by thewittyname at 11:13 PM on April 29, 2004


He hates the south and especially texas, so maybe not.
posted by justgary at 12:49 AM on April 30, 2004

What the wittyname said about Boston. Lived there for ten years. There is a great divide between the large university-related student/staff/faculty community (which provides a great cultural life) and the average Boston "Townie." I would rate it as the least tolerant city in the US. It's absolutely tribal. Lots of random racial slurs and occasional violence.

A lot of folks have been suggesting Canada or Europe. Why? Because the racism in the US is all about social segregation of the races, and if you are mixed you are a slap in the face to that. Read "One Drop of Blood" by Scott L. Malcomson for a unique take on this.
posted by zaelic at 1:23 AM on April 30, 2004

The only place I know where the colour of one's skin is simply not noticed and not secretly thought about either and there's not even one pathetically small minority "proud to be white", whether skinheads or more traditional Nazis, is my country: Portugal. Brazil, I'm sad to say, though on the right track, still harbours stupid, old-fashioned, unspoken prejudices in its so-called upper classes. Here in Portugal they simply don't exist. Each and every one of us is of a different race, thanks to our history, and we learnt to forget about it.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 4:31 AM on April 30, 2004

New Orleans, Houston, Miami! Southern port cities definately are much more cosmopolitan and diverse than Yanks think.

Plus - No snow.
posted by pomegranate at 6:01 AM on April 30, 2004

i wouldn't recommend chile, for what it's worth. not even santiago. the only minority here in any volume are gringos, and that's enough to be stared at. a black (anglo-carribean, i think) astronomer came to visit and, as he left our house, a passing car nearly crashed as everyone inside started waving and shouting.

the attitude isn't agressive, just astoundingly intolerant of anything moderately different from the norm - a huge shock for an englishman used to people ignoring anything unusual. just last week i was running down la serena beach-front at 6am on a sunday morning and someone came out onto an apartment balcony (party continuing from saturday night, by the sounds of things) to shout at me - nothing agressive, just the equivalent of "hey you're doing something unusual. ha ha ha." sigh.

having said that, it's accepted wisdom here that koreans smell bad - which is amazing, because i doubt anyone here knows anyone from korea (i found this out when i had a friend staying and said to a colleague, "oh, this korean guy is staying in the house and he..." and, before i could finish, he burst out "stinks?!"). i've also sat through a discussion where people discussed how the japanese are superior to the chinese because they have more western noses. my partner almost exploded, and i inadvertently silenced the conversation, by trying to placate her with "who gives a damn, these are just uneducated rich idiots in the middle of nowhere", which didn't go down well and shows i'm no better than them, i guess (presumably the japanese are more acceptable because they are one of chile's major trading partners).

also, i found edinburgh and glasgow less than friendly, as an englishman, but i've been told many times that "doesn't count".

small town england's no better, of course. i remember walking round a housing estate in knaresborough with a catonese girlfriend, being followed by a line of kids making "slitty eyes"...

leicester is the best place i've lived in and has quite a wide range of different colours of skin, but i'm sure there are tensions there too (in that case i was probably in the majority, so it's easy not to notice).
posted by andrew cooke at 6:05 AM on April 30, 2004

dame - absolutely agree with you on that. and, unfortunately, it's not at all obvious how fing annoying it is until you're asked yourself, again and again, by complete strangers...
posted by andrew cooke at 6:10 AM on April 30, 2004

Sorry I didn't read before - you've already done New Orleans, and now I hear you hate Texas. I'm not sure Coppell truly represents the rest of the state, but you're entitled to your opinion. So the only suggestion I've made that still stands, for you at least, would be Miami.
posted by pomegranate at 6:17 AM on April 30, 2004

I have to disagree with the comments Boston has been getting. To say there's a big difference between the college crowd and the "townies" is disingenious, considering that 1/3rd the population of the city is college students. As for "townies" -- what townies? Anyone living in the city that's not a student probably was a student 10 years back. I've never seen any racial antagonism of any sort in the city itself, but keep in mind I'm not including the surrounding area, which does seem particularly Balkanized (Irish Southie, Hispanic Easty, Black Roxbury, Gay South Endie, etc.)

The thing is, a lot of this has changed in the past decade as real estate has gone through the roof. The major distinctions may very well have been racial in the 80's and before, but now it's completely economic. East Boston's all yuppified, JP is getting there, W. Roxbury as well. Gentrification has completely changed the landscape.

Open disclaimer: I'm a white male, and thus not exactly the best person to tell you about racial problems in the city. But I honestly believe Boston is better integrated than some other cities mentioned in the U.S.; New York for one.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:31 AM on April 30, 2004

I'm going to have to agree with pomegranate and say Miami! I'm originally from miami, and the city has a fantastic mix of ethnicities. Regular ol' white people are a minority there and, as a result, you will see a fantastic blending of ethnicites in many people.
posted by necessitas at 6:34 AM on April 30, 2004

if you're plain old white, you have no idea how often this question can be asked. It gets real old real fast.

Wrong. I'm as white as they come (there is probably some Cherokee back there, and maybe "black Indian," meaning part African, but I've found no records of it, just a few weak clues, and I look as white as fresh-bleached bed sheets drying in the winter sun), and where I am from--hell, where anyone is from--is a constant question.

Maybe non-white folks get asked more, but in New York City, everyone talks about it, because more than half the city is from somewhere else. It's one of my stock questions. I don't consider it rude. It comes along with 1) where do you live? 2) what do you do? 3) how much do you pay in rent? and 4) will you sleep with me?

Kidding on the last one.

The best thing asking someone's origins it is that it often leads to discussions of language, travel, history, hometowns, childhood, and fond memories, all of which make for good conversation and strong bonding. Even among strangers.
posted by Mo Nickels at 6:52 AM on April 30, 2004

As part of an interracial couple myself, I can't say that Boston is strictly the best place in terms of acceptance. I've found San Francisco (which I've lived in) and Seattle (which I've admittedly only visted) a bit better in this regard. However, Boston is certainly not the racially charged nightmare that it was even ten years ago. We've lived in and around Cambridge mostly, so we get the cultural benefits of Boston without actually having to live in the city which suits us just fine.
posted by Jugwine at 7:39 AM on April 30, 2004

posted by agregoli at 7:58 AM on April 30, 2004

mo, there's a difference between polite conversation and, as happened to me recently, paying in a shop and having someone call out from behind me "where are you from?", without having previously made any other contact (not a hello, not nothin').

also, i find starting a reply with "wrong" rather in-your-face. especially when you later mumble about "maybe non-white folks being asked more" and add that new york may be a special case. if you don't know what you're talking about, and it's an exception anyway, maybe you shouldn't be quite so assertive?
posted by andrew cooke at 7:59 AM on April 30, 2004

Mo Nickels, I think dame was talking about a totally different situation than the one you're describing. I agree that asking someone where they're from in the context of a conversation in which you're getting to know someone is totally normal. But repeatedly having complete or near strangers come up to me and ask where I'm from (often followed by "No, I mean where are you REALLY from?" or "Oh, but where are your PARENTS from?" when they aren't satisfied with my reply of 'upstate New York') -- or even better, "What ARE you?" -- is annoying as hell. I'd be surprised to hear that a white person in the US has experienced it. (In preview, I see that andrew cooke addressed this as well.)

As far as actually, y'know, answering the question, I've lived in Rochester NY, Ithaca NY (best town EVER), northern Virginia, and Durham NC. I haven't experienced anything beyond garden-variety racism in any of those places (that is to say, I was never targeted specifically for being mixed-race, but rather for being black or Puerto-Rican or whatever it is people decide I am when they look at me). Sure, I got called 'zebra' a couple of times in elementary school but kids will always find something to pick on.

Interracial relationships, on the other hand, are a different story. In both Virginia and North Carolina I have experienced a fair amount of unspoken nastiness -- nothing physical, just stares, dirty looks, unfriendliness, and the like -- when I'm with my white boyfriend. This happens mostly in non-urban areas. I don't know if this is an issue for you, but it's something to keep in mind.
posted by purplemonkie at 8:18 AM on April 30, 2004

DC. My wife is multiracial, and, hence, I'm in a multiracial relationship myself. I don't notice that anyone gives us a second look. My daughter, from a previous marriage, has never even mentioned it. Her best friend is multiracial, and many of my friends are, as well. It's not a topic of conversation, just the way things are here.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:20 AM on April 30, 2004

As the lilly-white half of an interracial (gay) couple, I can honestly say that we have never experienced any issues in nyc.
As far as the "Where are you from" question -- I've asked it before after talking to people and I've found that many find it offensive. Personally, I find that if I phrase my question as "Where did you grow up" I get the information I was searching for (ie what part of the (typically) states did they come from). Since I'm not asking about race, I find that this question is more appropriate and direct, and therefore less offensive.
Can someone with a different viewpoint tell me if I'm completely offbase?
posted by hummus at 8:30 AM on April 30, 2004

Off-topic: Yeah, Mo, as people above have explained, I mean the "Where are you from" that isn't considered answered when I say "California."

On thread: And unlike others, I have never had problems in Glasgow or Boston. But I might be oblivious.

On preview: Hummus, you are on base as far as I am concerned.
posted by dame at 8:44 AM on April 30, 2004

Hummus, I also think you're on base. When someone asks me where I'm from, it's not always easy to tell whether that's what they really mean or whether they're asking me about my racial background in a roundabout way. Your solution avoids confusion.

(BTW, I don't think it's never appropriate to ask someone about their race. When a person I'm at least familiar with asks directly and respectfully, I have no problems. It's not the mere question that bothers me, it's the assumptions and rudeness that sometimes go along with it.)

Back on topic sort of, jare2003, I wish I'd visited your site before answering because now I see that most of my response was totally not helpful. But I did learn that you've lived in the same dorm as I did during my freshman year, so there's that.
posted by purplemonkie at 9:11 AM on April 30, 2004

Give Canada some consideration. Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, and Ottawa are all ridiculously multicultural places. In fact Toronto was determined to have the highest ethnic diversity of any city in the world.
posted by Succa at 9:30 AM on April 30, 2004

Regarding Miami (and Florida in general): I'm part Castillian & Cuban, but since I don't speak Spanish very fluently, I'm often made to feel that my hispanic heritage isn't valid.

This might be true for other places where an ethnic population's identity strongly revolves around its native language. Though I can't say if it's as much an issue for those who are Chinese.
posted by Sangre Azul at 9:35 AM on April 30, 2004

I'm surprised no one has mentioned L. A. yet. It's a total non-issue here.

I'm the white half of an interracial couple (the SO is Chinese). We've been exploring the idea of other cities as well, simply for the fact that real estate is cheaper elsewhere.

We'd like our (future) kids to grow up in an area where there are others like them, so the inevitable confidence issues they will face will be mitigated. It would be great if we could stay in L. A. for that reason, but we don't have room for them in the house we're in, and we're debating as to how much we want to mortgage our future.

Anyone have any input about Raleigh or Charlotte?
posted by vignettist at 9:45 AM on April 30, 2004

or even better, "What ARE you?" -- is annoying as hell. I'd be surprised to hear that a white person in the US has experienced it. (In preview, I see that andrew cooke addressed this as well.)
As I mentioned earlier, I get asked that very question all the time, and i'm white. I think everyone that isn't immediately peggable as this or that gets asked it, especially here.
posted by amberglow at 9:47 AM on April 30, 2004

To expand on agregoli's emphatic "Chicago!" ...

I see from your site that you spent a year here. Depending on where you were in the city, you might not have gotten the impression that this is a tolerant place. There's plenty of racial tension around here, but I've seen very little of that aimed at multiracial people and it's mostly from the older generations anyway (at least on the North Side). We're thoroughly blended ethnicity- and race-wise around here, so just about everyone fits in somewhere.
posted by me3dia at 10:00 AM on April 30, 2004

Man, I didn't get to get back to this as early as I wanted to. I mainly asked because I wanted to see what other people' experiences were---i've lived a number of places around the country, but I never lived in the upper northwest or in much of the east coast. i also asked b/c my dating relationships have been and will be more multraical than I am.

someplace that's racially 'diverse' does not necessarily equal someplace that has a lot of multiracial people.

the Chinese/Amish thing - my dad grew up in a Amish Mennonite community (i'm 11th generation german, but still half german b/c of no outmarriage) where he was a dairy farmer -- he left the community for good when he was in his late teens. my mother's from Hong Kong, and they had met later in life.

dame: did I have a lot of trouble growing up multiracial?
It's improtant to remember that a lot of these places were significantly less diverse in the 1980s (and many still aren't)
Yes, I grew up in York, PA (white/black), went to an urban elementary school in Lousiville, KY where i was the only "asian" kid in the white/black school, grew up State College where I also was one of very few. A lot of 'chink', 'slanty eyes', general comments like that. I also lived in Virginia. Texas wasn't great either, but it was more tolerant than the previous places. And then after I went out, I lived in Chicago (city) and DC (city), and I found those to be wonderful places, where interracial dating wouldn't cause doubletakes or unnecessary questions.

me3dia: Chicago was great. I found Chicago to be pretty tolefant place, and i'd definetly live there again. Again though, I wanted to hear about other people's experiences.

Another poster mentioned Texas -- Texas is getting better, and is pretty diverse now. I still felt like there was a lot of the Southern good ol' boy thing going on when I was there, as well as a lot of racial segregation --- i always felt a lot more comfortable in the east/west coastal cities.

as far as small towns go? negative on that one --- they're often really undiverse, and just because there's a "Chinese restaurant" in town, does not mean that people are going to be cool with interracial dating. Trust me on this -- i've had people find it offensive at worse, an oddity at best. I'd prefer to be neither and not have to worry about it. I also really prefer urban areas just for lifestyle reasons.
posted by jare2003 at 10:48 AM on April 30, 2004

Just to elaborate on my Boston comment a little bit (if you still care) - I lived there for two years, starting in '01. I'll agree that there is a difference between the college student crowd and basically everyone else. The students are, obviously, a pretty liberal progressive bunch, and my girlfriend and I never had any problems with them.

However, the real residents of the city are a different matter. I think the yuppies were the worst. I hated going to the Back Bay area or Copley Square with my girlfriend, because we would ALWAYS get looks. I think some of it came from an ingrained sense of disdain and arrogance towards anyone not like themselves. However, even in areas that were not as rich, we still felt it.

I never really ran into groups of "townies" (of the Good Will Hunting variety) so I can't speak about them. (They do exist though - I used to work by Fenway Park and I saw them every day in the summer and fall).

Anyway, I also think that Boston is one of the most segregated towns in the US. Multi-racial neighborhoods are few and far between. Whatever integration that does exist tends to be different sorts of European cultures. (Where I lived it was Armenians and Greeks).
posted by thewittyname at 12:19 PM on April 30, 2004

I find that really interesting, Jare, having grown up in incredibly undiverse towns in Orange County, Calif., and experiencing rather little trouble. Maybe it's just because there are way better things to mock me for.

Anyway, good luck. I think big cities combined with an understanding that sometimes really well intentioned people are rude for not knowing any better tends to work out just fine. Besides, if someone has yet to come to terms with the glories of miscegenation, so much their loss, huh?
posted by dame at 1:34 PM on April 30, 2004

To elaborate on Miami, there are a lot of people who come to miami from places that have a lot of multi-racial people. A lot of people come from Jamaica, a country with many multi-racial (Jamaican/chinese) people. Peruvians also flock to miami, a lot of them Chinese/Peruvian. Because Miami is so diverse, there are many multi-racial couples where both people are multi-racial themselves.
posted by necessitas at 2:17 PM on April 30, 2004

I'm also the white half of an interracial couple. I think about half of the people that we socialize with in Tucson are either in multiracial relationships or are of multiracial descent. The numbers might be skewed by the church we go to though. Maybe once every few years, I notice someone in their late 70s staring at us, but they never say anything.

We visit family from time to time in DC and Virginia, and we have never had any problems. I think that the only time we were ever hassled was on the upper west side of New York. Of course, my wife would have a much better eye for the more subtle signals that people give.

Oh, I guess you could call folks at one of these organizations to get more information about their cities:

Association of MultiEthnic Americans: Affiliate Members

We went to some meetings for the local group back when the census issue was being discussed.
posted by eckeric at 3:07 PM on April 30, 2004

You could try Sacramento, California the most ethnically diverse major city in the United States. However, just because it's diverse doesn't mean its integrated, so once you get here it might be hard to find the right neighborhood to fit into. There are a number of mixed-race families in my neighborhood (including my own), but certainly not a plurality.

However, I think the urban part of Sacramento is certainly less ethnically stratified than the East Bay, the only other urban area I've lived in for any length of time.
posted by luriete at 3:33 PM on April 30, 2004

Surprisingly, one big city to avoid is Portland, OR. Yes, they're liberal and all that, but (as someone who isn't white) I felt uncomfortable living there for two summers.
posted by calwatch at 3:43 PM on April 30, 2004


I hear what you're saying. I still say though, that growing up somewhere like Kentucky (particularly in the 1980s) is a lot different than growing up somewhere like Orange County --- OC may be undiverse, but it's part of the very diverse Los Angeles area-- no matter how homogenous it is, people are still aware of the existence of other people.

For example, my elementary has barely shifted numbers. It was 0.2% Asian when I was there (me, though i'm really only half---though i look full), now there's six asian kids (1%). People there just weren't used to people that weren't white or black.

It's not that i can't deal with discrimination or the odd comment, i'd just really like to be somewhere where I can not be an oddity.
posted by jare2003 at 6:13 PM on April 30, 2004

also, i find starting a reply with "wrong" rather in-your-face. especially when you later mumble about "maybe non-white folks being asked more" and add that new york may be a special case. if you don't know what you're talking about, and it's an exception anyway, maybe you shouldn't be quite so assertive?

But I do know what I'm talking about: his bold statement about white people was clearly, completely, and unequivocally wrong, so I said so. Blanket statments almost always are wrong. My "wrong" was appropriate, accurate, and called for.
posted by Mo Nickels at 7:57 AM on May 1, 2004

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