This City Is A Multiracial Mecca
Hint: It’s not where you might expect
“Black. Ivory. Shadow.”
I repeat the words to make sure I heard them right.
“Black. Ivory… Shadow?”
“Yeah.” Jasmin Baker, 25, is cracking up.
“When I was younger I made it my thing.” She lowers her voice, making it seductive. “Like… yeah. I’m black ivory shadow.”
“Right.” Now her boyfriend, Grant Wyena, 28, is laughing too. “Real dark and mysterious.”
We’re at the Evergreen Café in downtown Tacoma, Washington early one July morning where they’ve agreed to talk to me about multiracial identity in Tacoma. Unlike many places in America, this is a city where Baker and Wyena can stroll along the Tacoma waterfront hand-in-hand and not be seen as the least bit unusual.
Baker identifies as African-American, although her great-grandmother was Irish, and Wyena’s family is enrolled in the Yakima band of nations. He comes from both Muckleshoot and Wanapum descent, as well as additional Native Canadian tribes on his mother’s side. His father is from Tijuana, Mexico. He identifies as both Native American and Hispanic.
“I only bring it up when people ask me, ‘What are you?’” says Baker. “I say, ‘I’m Black.’ Then when they’re not satisfied with that answer, I say, ‘Black and Irish.’ And they say, ‘Ohhhhh, okay.’ Like there has to be an explanation for why I’m light-skinned.”
According to the U.S. Census, people of multiracial descent in America are just 2.1 percent of the population but a groundbreaking 2015 report by the Pew Research Center found that the population was closer to 6.9 percent.
South of the Chinese Reconciliation Park, there is a sanctuary called Point Defiance where, rising above the rocky shoreline and the black-beaked ducks, you can climb a wooden staircase and walk past a 10-inch shell from the USS Maine used during the Spanish-American War. There is a Black Samoan family along the way. Then, past the weeping sequoia and a witch hazel tree trimmed to look like a bonsai, you settle in. A deer grazes by…