The documentary How Jack Became Black focuses on the recent births of Jack and June, the third multiracial generation in filmmaker Eli Steele’s family, coincided with a startling projection: by the year 2050, at least 20% of all Americans will self-identify as two or more races. What will this fate mean to a nation that has been tormented by race throughout its history?
Born to a black father and a Jewish mother, Steele has long battled the forces of identity politics, from college campuses to places of employment. He believed that holding onto his individuality over being reduced to skin color was part of America’s promise to him.
However, Steele’s belief in this promise was shaken when his son was denied entrance to a public school for refusing to name his “primary race.” Why did race still matter so much? Had identity politics, with its promise of redeeming America from the old ethos of white supremacy, delivered us to a new racial order where skin color, once again, trumped character?
To answer these questions, Steele journeyed out into the America of today. He interviewed countless Americans of two or more races and explored racial controversies in the headlines from the George Zimmerman trial to a conference on white privilege. Steele used undercover cameras and blunt man–on–the–street interviews to achieve an unvarnished look at race in America from the perspective of a man with no allegiance to a single tribe.