Identity Politics of Difference: The Mixed-Race American Indian Experience

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Campus Life, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Monographs, Native Americans/First Nation, Teaching Resources, United States on 2017-10-17 02:36Z by Steven

Identity Politics of Difference: The Mixed-Race American Indian Experience

University Press of Colorado
168 pages
1 table
Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-60732-543-7

Michelle R. Montgomery, Assistant Professor
School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences, American Indian Studies, and Ethnic, Gender & Labor Studies
University of Washington, Tacoma

In Identity Politics of Difference, author Michelle R. Montgomery uses a multidisciplinary approach to examine questions of identity construction and multiracialism through the experiences of mixed-race Native American students at a tribal school in New Mexico. She explores the multiple ways in which these students navigate, experience, and understand their racial status and how this status affects their educational success and social interactions.

Montgomery contextualizes students’ representations of their racial identity choices through the compounded race politics of blood quantum and stereotypes of physical features, showing how varying degrees of “Indianness” are determined by peer groups. Based on in-depth interviews with nine students who identify as mixed-race (Native American–White, Native American–Black, and Native American–Hispanic), Montgomery challenges us to scrutinize how the category of “mixed-race” bears different meanings for those who fall under it based on their outward perceptions, including their ability to “pass” as one race or another.

Identity Politics of Difference includes an arsenal of policy implications for advancing equity and social justice in tribal colleges and beyond and actively engages readers to reflect on how they have experienced the identity politics of race throughout their own lives. The book will be a valuable resource to scholars, policy makers, teachers, and school administrators, as well as to students and their families.

Tags: , , ,

Identity Politics: the Mixed-race American Indian Experience

Posted in Articles, Campus Life, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, United States on 2013-02-21 03:38Z by Steven

Identity Politics: the Mixed-race American Indian Experience

Journal of Critical Race Inquiry
Volume 2, Number 1 (2012)
25 pages

Michelle R. Montgomery
University of Washington

This paper builds a Critical Race Theory approach to consider how mixed-race American Indian college students conform to, or resist, dominant black/non-black ideology. Current research on multiracials in the U.S. lacks the perspectives of mixed-race American Indians on the heightened disputes of “Indianness,” tribal enrollment, and tribal self-determination. Also under-explored is how mixed-race American Indian persons perceive themselves in racial terms, how they wish to be perceived, and how economic and historical perspectives inform their choices about racial self-identification. This paper provides an overview of the identity politics of mixed-race American Indians at a tribal college and highlights the need for tribal colleges to embrace a growing mixed-race population through self-determination education policies.

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , ,

Being Raced, Acting Racially: Multiracial Tribal College Students’ Representations of Their Racial Identity Choices

Posted in Campus Life, Dissertations, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Social Science, United States on 2011-08-17 01:35Z by Steven

Being Raced, Acting Racially: Multiracial Tribal College Students’ Representations of Their Racial Identity Choices

University of New Mexico, Albuquerque
September 2010
208 pages

Michelle Rene Montgomery

DISSERTATION Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy Language, Literacy, and Sociocultural Studies

In recent years, many studies have clearly documented that mixed-race people are currently engaged in the process of self validation (DaCosta. 2007; Dalmage, 2003; McQueen, 2002; Root, 1996 & 2001; Spencer, J, M., 1997; Spencer, R., 2006a; Thorton, 1992). There is not a lot of empirical research that examines how schools influence the racial identity of multiracial students, in particular mixed-race students that identify as Native American. Even more troubling is the lack of literature on experiences of mixed-race students using racial identity choice as a social and political tool through race discourse and actions. The aim of this qualitative case study was to look at the relationship between the racial agency of multiracial students and the larger white supremacist social structure. The research questions addressed in this study are as follows: (1) How do the formal and informal schooling contexts shape the identity choices of multiracial students? (2) How do the identity choices of multiracial students conform to an/or resist the racialized social system of the United States?

This study was conducted at a tribal college in New Mexico with selected mixed-race participants who identified as Native American, or acknowledged Native American ancestry. At the time of data collection, the school enrollment was 513 students, representing 83 federally recognized tribes and 22 state recognized tribes. The presence of a multi-racial body of students created a unique contributing factor of multiracial participants for a broader understanding of mixed-race experiences in cultural and traditional learning environments. The study was conducted using qualitative case study methodology of mixed-race students interviewed in the last weeks of the fall semester (pre-interview) and once during the last few weeks of the spring semester (post interviews). Mixed-race students were asked to discuss nine group sessions during the spring semester their lived experiences that influenced their identity choices. The sample for this study represented mixed-race participants from various tribal communities. In an eight-month time period of the study, nine participants were interviewed and participated in-group sessions. Of the nine total in sample, two were male, seven were female; three were Native American/white, two were black/white/Native American, three were Hispanic/white/Native American, and one were Hispanic/Native American.

From my analysis of the nine participants’ mixed-race experience, three overarching themes emerged: (a) racial(ized) self-perceptions, (b) peer interactions and influences, and (c) impact on academic experiences. Of the nine participants, how a students’ race was asserted, assigned, and reassigned appears to be determined by being mixed-race with black versus white or non-black. According to the participants, this particular tribal college did not provide a supportive or welcoming environment. As a result, students were highly stratified based on experiences tied to their phenotype and racial mixture; the more “black” they appeared, the more alienated they were. In the classroom, there was often a divide between black/Native mixed-race students versus white/Native mixed-race students, similar to the differences between monoracial white and black student experiences. As a result of dissimilar experiences based on mixedness, there were group association conflicts during their schooling experiences that included feeling vicitimized when their whiteness did not prevail as an asset or being alienated due to blackness. The study also found a clear distinction between the mixed-race black experience versus the mixed-race with white experience based on phenotypic features. Overall, mixed-race with black schooling experiences indicated situations of racial conflict. The findings of this study have policy implications for tribal colleges and other institutions to develop programs and services to help mixed-race students identify and bond with their learning environments.

Table of Contents

    • Introduction
    • Statement of the Problem
    • Purpose of the Study
    • Significance of the Study
    • Research Questions
    • Definition of Key Terms
    • Overview of Methodology
    • Limitations of the Study
    • Introduction
      • The Politics of Multiracialism
      • Empirical Research On The Identity Politics of Multiracial Students40
    • Focus of the Research
    • Research Design
    • Research Participants
    • Setting
    • Portrait of Participants
    • Data Collection
    • Data Analysis
    • Ethics
    • Validity
    • Trustworthiness
    • Theme One: Racial(ized) Self-Perceptions
      • Identity Politics of Blood Quantum
        • Black/Native American Experience
        • Non-Black/Native American Experience
      • Summary
      • Self-Perceptions of Race Being Asserted, Negotiated and Redefined
        • Non-Black/Native American Experience
        • Black/Native American Experience
        • Non-Black/Native American Experience
          • Black/Native American Experience
          • Non-Black/Native American Experience
      • Disadvantages: Mixed-race Identity Choice
        • Black/Native American Experience
        • Non-Black/Native American Experience
      • Advantages: Mixed-race Identity Choice
        • Non-Black/Native American Experience
      • Summary
    • Theme Two: Peer Interactions and Influences
      • Perceivable Differences
        • Non-Black/Native American Experience
        • Black/Native American Experience
      • Summary
      • Surviving the Losses
        • Non-Black/Native American Experience
        • Black/Native American Experience
      • Summary
    • Theme Three: The Impact on Academic Experiences
      • The Role of Tribal Colleges
      • Schooling Experiences
        • Black/Native American Experience
        • Non-Black/Native American Experience
      • Summary
    • Discussion
      • Major Findings
        • Research Question #1
        • Research Question #2
      • Summary
      • Recommendations
        • Administrators
        • Faculty and Staff
        • Future Research
        • Conclusion

Chapter 1: Introduction


Dark brown skin with wavy hair, I am accustomed to being asked, “What are you?” Often I am mistaken for being reserved despite my easy, sincere grin. My facial expression perhaps does not show what I have learned in my life: reluctant people endure, passionate people live. Whether it is the glint of happiness in my eyes or what I call “using laughter to heal your soul,” my past experience as a mixed-race person has been significantly different from my current outlook on life. I am at ease with my lived experiences, very willing to share and even encouraging others to probe more into my racialized experience. Like many mixed-race people, I experienced an epiphany: disowning a need to belong and disengaging from the structure of race has given me the confidence to critique race discourse.

I identify as Native American with mixed-race heritage. I am mixed-race black/white, Native American, and mixed-race Korean/Mongolian. My father is mixedrace black/white and Native American, and my mother is mixed-race Korean/Mongolian. We are enrolled members of the Haliwa Saponi Tribe. When I was growing up, my father taught me that I am a multiracial person. So, I can personally relate to the idea that monoraciality does not fit my multiracial identity or those of other multiracials in our socalled “melting pot” society.

However, countless numbers of times I have been raced in ways that have forced me to choose a group association. My own experiences illustrate how racial designation and group association plays itself out in society, including in classroom learning environments. My siblings and I grew up in a predominantly mixed-race Native American community in northeastern North Carolina that included black, Native American, and white ancestry. I attended a rural high school that contained mixed-race black/Native American, mixed-raced white/Native American, monoracial blacks, and monoracial white students. It was not unusual for mixed-race black/Native American and monoracial blacks to create close group associations, which were exhibited through social interactions that occurred when sitting together in the cafeteria, classrooms, or in designated lounging areas around campus. However, mixed-race white/Native American students, especially those who seemed phenotypically white, did not want to be associated with monoracial black students. Most mixed-race white/Native American students created group associations with monoracial white students. As a brown complexioned multiracial person in this racially polarized environment, I was placed in a situation where I had to choose a group association to keep mixed-race black/Native American and monoracial black students from viewing me as acting white. On the other hand, the mixed-raced white/Native Americans and monoracial whites viewed my actions as acting black.

Because of my Korean and Mongolian ancestry, I was not perceived phenotypically as a true member of the black or Native American groups. My Koreanness caused friction between me and the monoracial black and mixed-race black/Native American groups with which I most commonly associated because it gave me an inroad to the white/r groups that they did not have. Because I did not acknowledge and challenge my advantage, I allowed myself to be used as an agent of racism. This happened in a number of ways. For instance, monoracial white and mixed-race Native American groups asked me to sit with them in the cafeteria, but they did not invite monoracial blacks and mixed-race black/Native Americans. And I accepted their invitation. As a consequence, the group with which I most associated viewed me as a race traitor, as a racial fraud. And I felt like one, too. I am ashamed that I actively participated in the denigration of blacks, which is the most denigrated part of my own ancestry. A multiracial person with black ancestry who accepts not being identified as black in an effort to subvert white privilege (i.e., resisting racial categorization as a way of challenging the notion of race) can actually be reinforcing it, as was the case for me. The problem is how the context and meaning of being a race traitor or committing racial fraud arises out of and is bounded by the social and political descriptions of race. Both social and political constructs are then used as a justification for policing the accuracy of racial identification or political alliance. In most instances, being cast as a race traitor, or as an alleged racial fraud, is a constitutive feature of the dynamics of the informal school setting, and is further developed in the formal schooling setting Since racial identity is a social and political construct, it requires meaning in the context of a particular set of social relationships. In a tribal college setting, the identity politics of blood quantum often influences the multiracial experience of students (i.e., learning environment…

Read the entire dissertation here.

Tags: , , , ,