“If You’re Half Black, You’re Just Black”: Reflected Appraisals and the Persistence of the One-Drop Rule

Posted in Articles, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2012-04-16 01:15Z by Steven

“If You’re Half Black, You’re Just Black”: Reflected Appraisals and the Persistence of the One-Drop Rule

Sociological Quarterly
Volume 51 Issue 1 (Winter 2010)
Pages 96 – 121
Published Online: 2010-01-15
DOI: 10.1111/j.1533-8525.2009.01162.x

Nikki Khanna, Associate Professor of Sociology
University of Vermont

Despite growing interest in multiracial identity, much of the research remains atheoretical and limited in its approach to measuring identity. Taking a multidimensional approach to identity and drawing on reflected appraisals (how they think others see them), I examine racial identity among black-white adults in the South and the lingering influence of the one-drop rule. Most respondents internally identify as black and when asked to explain these black identities, they describe how both blacks and whites see them as black. I argue that the one-drop rule still shapes racial identity, namely through the process of reflected appraisals.

…To address this gap in the literature, I draw on interview data with 40 black-white biracial adults currently living in the South and examine how reflected appraisals shape their racial identities. Because I am looking at racial identity among people with black ancestry, I also look at how the one-drop rule influences the reflected appraisal process (and hence identity). Few studies seriously engage reflected appraisals as a determinant of racial identity, and none examine the way in which the one-drop rule affects reflected appraisals. Additionally, I interview black-white biracial people who are currently living in the South for two reasons. First, the one-drop rule is historically rooted in Southern slavery and the Jim Crow segregation in the South, and recent empirical research suggests that the one-drop rule continues to shape black identities in the South (Harris and Sim 2002; Brunsma 2005, 2006).  Second, little attention has been given to this region in previous studies. While quantitative studies suggest that the one-drop rule still impacts identity in the South, little qualitative work examines black-white identity within this context (see Rockquemore and Brunsma 2002a for an exception)….

Read the entire article here.

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Passage to identity is still a struggle

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Passing, Social Science, United States on 2011-01-06 02:19Z by Steven

Passage to identity is still a struggle

Kansas City Star

Commentary by: Jeneé Osterheldt

I’ve always known I wasn’t white like my mama. Even as a little girl, I could feel adults stare as we passed by.

I was different. But was I black like my daddy? It took me much of my young life to figure that out.

Earlier this year, we took the census. The hardest of the 10 questions revolved around racial identity.

President Barack Obama, born to a white mother and a black father from Africa, checked one box: Black, African Am. or Negro.

I checked it, too. But I also marked the ones next to white and Native American. The president and I are both mixed.

So, who chose the right answer?

More and more black-and-white mixed Americans are “passing” for black, according to a recent study in the current issue of Social Psychology Quarterly, titled “Passing as Black: Racial Identity Work Among Biracial Americans.” That’s a reverse form of what biracial and fair-skinned blacks did in the Jim Crow era, when they denied their race altogether.

It’s claptrap. Yes, Obama is mixed, but he’s also black. It’s possible to be both. How can people “pass” for something they already are?..

Read the rest of the commentary here.

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University of Vermont study examines biracial identity

Posted in Articles, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Passing, Social Science, United States on 2010-12-30 17:36Z by Steven

University of Vermont study examines biracial identity

Burlington Free Press

Tim Johnson, Free Press Staff Writer

Even though he was born of a white mother and an African father, Barack Obama is commonly referred to as the first black president. That’s a sign, sociologists say, that America’s “one-drop rule”—a vestige of the United States’ segregationist past—is still with us.

Under the one-drop rule, a person with even minimal African ancestry (one drop of black blood) was considered black. In the Jim Crow South, such people were denied the rights and opportunities accorded to—unless they had sufficiently light skin and Caucasian features to conceal their African ancestry and “pass” themselves off as white.

Racial “passing” still takes place today, University of Vermont sociologist Nikki Khanna reports in a new study, but in different ways. Light-skinned people with African ancestry might pass themselves off as white or as black, depending on the situation. And biracial people with one white parent and one black parent are more likely for various reasons to identify themselves as black and even to conceal their white ancestry, Khanna said…

A person’s racial identity is determined not just by society; it also can be self-defined. Even people who regard themselves as biracial often are inclined to pass themselves off as monoracial, Khanna reports in an article, co-written with Cathryn Johnson of Emory University, published recently in Social Psychology Quarterly

..The fact that “biracial” and “multiracial” have entered common American parlance suggests that the “one-drop rule” might be weakening, Khanna said. The U.S. census, beginning in 2000, allowed respondents to choose more than one race.

Still, the widespread perception that people with one black parent are black has its roots in a historically racist attitude that “one drop of black blood made one black, but one drop of white blood did not make one white,” as Khanna and Johnson put it.

Khanna, daughter of an Indian father and a white mother, grew interested in interracial studies in graduate school. She said she noticed that research was lacking on the offspring of interracial couples…

Read the entire article here.

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Recent Studies on Biracial Identity and Hypodescent to be Discussed on Mixed Chicks Chat (Pre-recorded)

Posted in Audio, Identity Development/Psychology, Interviews, Media Archive, Social Science on 2010-12-28 22:00Z by Steven

Recent Studies on Biracial Identity and Hypodescent to be Discussed on Mixed Chicks Chat (Pre-recorded)

Mixed Chicks Chat (The only live weekly show about being racially and culturally mixed. Also, founders of the Mixed Roots Film & Literary Festival) Hosted by Fanshen Cox, Heidi W. Durrow and Jennifer Frappier
Website: TalkShoe™ (Keywords: Mixed Chicks)
Episode: #186 – Discussion on Recent Studies on Biracial Identity and Hypodescent
When: Tuesday, 2010-12-28, 22:00Z (17:00 EDT, 16:00 CDT, 14:00 PDT)

In this pre-recorded episode recent studies by Harvard Ph.D. student, Arnold K. Ho (“Evidence for hypodescent and racial hierarchy in the categorization and perception of biracial individuals”) and University of Vermont Assistant Professor Nikki Khanna (“Passing as Black: Racial Identity Work among Biracial Americans”) will be discussed.

Listen to the episode here.  Download the episode here.

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How Multi-Ethnic People Identify Themselves

Posted in Articles, Audio, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Passing, Social Science, United States on 2010-12-21 18:41Z by Steven

How Multi-Ethnic People Identify Themselves

Talk of The Nation
National Public Radio

Neal Conan, Host


Nikki Khanna, Assistant Professor of Sociology (and lead author, “Passing As Black: Racial Identity Work Among Biracial Americans”)
University of Vermont

Casey Gane-McCalla, Lead Blogger

Kip Fulbeck, Professor of Art (and author of Mixed: Portraits Of Multiracial Kids)
University of California, Santa Barbara

A new study shows that most people who are biracial self-identify as “biracial.” But in many instances, multi-ethnic Americans change the way they self-identify depending on who they’re talking with. The study was published in the December 2010 issue of Social Psychology Quarterly.

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I’m Neal Conan, in Washington.

What are you? People of mixed race hear that question throughout their lives. The question comes in parts: half-black, half-white, part Asian, a quarter Native American. Sometimes the answer may vary depending on the situation. Sometimes it may change for good.

During the era of Jim Crow segregation, a percentage of those with lighter skin chose to pass as white. Now, it looks as if that’s reversed. In a study published earlier this month, in Social Psychology Quarterly, sociologists found that among black-white biracial adults, more and more self-identify as black…

…Ms. NIKKI KHANNA (Lead Author, “Passing As Black: Racial Identity Work Among Biracial Americans”): Hi, Neal, thank you so much.

CONAN: And I think one of the things we should make clear is your study finds most people who are biracial identify as biracial.

Ms. KHANNA: Absolutely, absolutely. So this study looks at black-white biracial Americans and how they racially identify themselves, and that was the first thing we found, that most identify themselves to others as biracial or multiracial or mixed-race. These terms are certainly becoming much more common today. But in some situations, they identify themselves mono-racially, as black of white.

CONAN: In some situations. For example?

Ms. KHANNA: So for example, so we found individuals would present themselves as black or white. As white, you know, not uncommon were people presenting themselves as white in the workplace, for example, to, you know, they perceived it was advantageous for them to do so to move up in the workplace and move ahead, climb that ladder.

So we see some of that still happening today, although less so than individuals who are presenting themselves as black. And there were a number of situations where that seemed to come in handy. So, for example, during adolescence to fit in with black peers, you know, in adolescence, we all want to fit in.

So it’s not surprising. So in these situations, they oftentimes conceal their white ancestry, the fact that they had a white parent, to present themselves as black.

In other situations, they presented themselves as black when they found whiteness to be somehow stigmatized and negatively stereotyped, and they didn’t want to be associated with it. So they might have perceived whiteness as somehow bad.

Or one individual talked about perceiving whites as oppressive or the oppressor and not wanting to have basically anything to do with that. So in those situations, they would present themselves exclusively as black.

And in the last situation, respondents presented themselves as black oftentimes in filling out race questions commonly found on applications. So they would check the black box basically when they found it beneficial to do so. And this most often occurred on financial aid forms or college university application forms, scholarship application forms.

CONAN: Was there any inclination as to – or any finding that the more biracial people they knew, the more they might just stay with biracial?

Ms. KHANNA: Yeah, I mean, it’s very interesting. For many people that I interviewed in this study that they didn’t know other people who were biracial. So while, you know, it’s becoming increasingly common that there are more and more biracial Americans, oftentimes they didn’t even know other biracial people other than their siblings or another family member…

…CONAN: Joining us now is Casey Gane-McCalla. He’s the lead blogger for NewsOne.com, and he joins us from NPR’s bureau in New York. Nice to have you on the program with us today.

Mr. CASEY GANE-McCALLA (Assistant Editor, NewsOne): Yeah, thanks a lot, Neal.

CONAN: And you are half-black and half-white. How do you identify yourself?

Mr. GANE-McCALLA: I identify myself as both black and biracial. Obviously, I’m biracial, which is two races, but biracial is a very large term. You can be biracial and Mexican and Chinese. You could be biracial, and you could be Indian an Aborigine.

So biracial is a kind of broad term, and I believe that throughout history, black has kind of encompassed biracial. Like, biracial has had a little spot in the Venn Diagram of blackness. If you look from slavery to Jim Crow, if you were mixed, you were a slave. You might have been able to work in the house, but you were still a slave.

Or if it was during Jim Crow, and you tried to – there was no mixed water fountain. There was the two because – due to mostly because of social constructs, I identify as black, and I feel I’m part of the black struggle. I work for a black news website.

But I’m also – I’m definitely not ashamed of my mother’s family, and my mother fought against apartheid in South Africa. And again like the previous caller said, like, I knew a lot of my family, my father’s family from Jamaica, but all my mother’s family is in South Africa. So I didn’t know them that much.

CONAN: Just to clarify again on Nikki Khanna’s study, I think it was you were just studying black-white biracial.

Ms. KHANNA: Absolutely, yes, black-white biracial Americans…

…And let’s see if we can get another caller on the line. Let’s go to Shirley, Shirley with us from Tulsa, Oklahoma.

SHIRLEY (Caller): Yeah, I’m 71 years old and born of a white mother and black father. And this is something really, really puzzling to me because in my neighborhood, which was black, there were five white, mixed families, I’ll say that, and nobody even thought about it.

We didn’t realize, in my neighborhood, St. Louis, Missouri, that there was this type of thing. We knew plenty of people that were passing because they wanted good jobs. They wanted to go to the movies. But my mother just always went where she wanted to go. My sisters did, too, because they looked white.

But to me, this is just a new thing. This is not something that’s new. This is something that’s new that’s being studied.

CONAN: Well, new that people self-identify as biracial. I think when you were growing up…


CONAN: …as Casey Gane-McCalla pointed out, there was no choice. If you…

SHIRLEY: Well, you would just – I just lived in a black neighborhood. But you had a choice if you wanted to be called biracial because in most states except three, I think, if you have any white blood in you, you can claim white and only three states where you have to say you’re black.

But I’m just – you know, I’m just astonished by all this, that people are so amazed at this because I’m 71 years old, and this is old to me. I mean, this has been around so long…

…CONAN: You mentioned earlier, obviously this affects more than black and white. Joining us now is Kip Fulbeck, professor of art at the University of California, Santa Barbara, with us from member station KCLU in Thousand Oaks. And nice to have you with us today.

Professor KIP FULBECK (Art, University of California, Santa Barbara; Author, “Mixed: Portraits Of Multiracial Kids”): Thank you, Neal.

CONAN: You’re also of mixed ethnicity, one parent Asian, the other white, and you call yourself hapa?

Mr. FULBECK: I do. Hapa is a Hawaiian word for half, and it refers to people who, like myself, are part Asian Pacific Islander and something else.

CONAN: So that is, in its own way, saying biracial?

Mr. FULBECK: Exactly.

CONAN: You’ve embraced this third racial category exclusive to people of white – Asian and white parents. Why? Why not just say biracial?

Mr. FULBECK: Well, Neal, the whole thing about being biracial, it’s such a huge, giant nebula because race, if we really want to talk openly, everyone listening to the show right now is African. It doesn’t even exist, biologically, in terms of DNA. We’re all African…

…CONAN: Here’s – we’re talking about biracial identity and self-identity. You’re listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

I should just reintroduce our guests. Casey Gane-McCalla, you just heard, a lead blogger at newsone.com. And also with us, Kip Fulbeck, a professor of art at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

This email from Darrel(ph) in Portland. I’m a 30-year-old black male with a white mother. I have never felt comfortable with the term biracial. Race is a social construct, one which often exposes ideological bias. I often have my blackness called into question, being treated by white people as being more acceptable than typical black people. It disgusts me when people assume my speaking pattern or intelligence are the result of my having a white parent rather than coming from an educated family or growing up on a university campus, especially considering the first thing people would use to describe me if I, say, stole their car would be my race.

I’m proud of my Scottish, Irish and German heritage just as I am of my West African heritage. However, my social experience in this country is that of a black man…

Read the entire transcript here.  Download the audio here.

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Many Biracial Students Game Racial-Classification Systems, Study Suggests

Posted in Articles, Campus Life, Media Archive, Social Work, United States on 2010-12-20 02:30Z by Steven

Many Biracial Students Game Racial-Classification Systems, Study Suggests

The Chronicle of Higher Education

Peter Schmidt

A study of biracial people with black and white ancestry has found that many identify themselves solely as black when filling out college applications and financial-aid forms, raising new questions about the accuracy of educational statistics and research based on racial and ethnic data derived from students.

The study of 40 biracial people—all of whom reported having one black parent and one white one—found that 29, or nearly three-fourths, reported concealing their white ancestry in applying for college, scholarships, financial aid, or jobs.

“Frequently unaware that being biracial is often sufficient for affirmative-action purposes, they presented themselves exclusively as black,” says a summary of the study’s findings being published this month in Social Psychology Quarterly, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Sociological Association…

…The new study suggests that many researchers start out with bad data that conflate information on students with two black parents with information on students with one white parent and one black one, even though those biracial students are less likely, on average, to have grown up with the same disadvantages.

The researcher behind the study—Nikki Khanna, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Vermont, and Cathryn Johnson, a professor of sociology at Emory University— recruited their 40 research subjects by distributing fliers in an unnamed Southern urban city, asking “Do you have one black parent and one white parent?” They base their analyses on extensive interviews of the respondents conducted by Ms. Khanna in 2005 and 2006…

…Susan Graham, executive director of Project RACE (Reclassify All Children Equally), an advocacy group for multiracial Americans, said she believes the article overstates how much people base their racial identification on self-interest. She also argued that, given how much racial-classification systems have changed in recent years, it is inappropriate to draw conclusions based on interviews conducted four or five years ago…

Read or purchase the article here.

Note by Steven F. Riley: See: Lawrence Wright, “One Drop of Blood”, The New Yorker, July 24, 1994…

Those who are charged with enforcing civil-rights laws see the Multiracial box as a wrecking ball aimed at affirmative action, and they hold those in the mixed-race movement responsible. “There’s no concern on any of these people’s part about the effect on policy it’s just a subjective feeling that their identity needs to be stroked,” one government analyst said. “What they don’t understand is that it’s going to cost their own groups”—by losing the advantages that accrue to minorities by way of affirmative-action programs, for instance. [Susan] Graham contends that the object of her movement is not to create another protected category. In any case, she said, multiracial people know “to check the right box to get the goodies.”

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Passing as Black: Racial Identity Work among Biracial Americans

Posted in Articles, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Passing, Social Science, United States on 2010-12-20 02:07Z by Steven

Passing as Black: Racial Identity Work among Biracial Americans

Social Psychology Quarterly
Volume 73, Number 4 (Published online 2010-12-13)
pages 380-397
DOI: 10.1177/0190272510389014

Nikki Khanna, Associate Professor of Sociology
University of Vermont

Cathryn Johnson, Professor of Sociology and Director of Graduate Studies
Emory University

Drawing on interview data with black-white biracial adults, we examine the considerable agency most have in asserting their racial identities to others. Extending research on “identity work” (Snow and Anderson 1987), we explore the strategies biracial people use to conceal (i.e., pass), cover, and/or accent aspects of their racial ancestries, and the individual and structural-level factors that limit the accessibility and/or effectiveness of some strategies. We further find that how these biracial respondents identify is often contextual—most identify as biracial, but in some contexts, they pass as monoracial. Scholars argue that passing may be a relic of the past, yet we find that passing still occurs today. Most notably, we find a striking reverse pattern of passing today—while passing during the Jim Crow era involved passing as white, these respondents more often report passing as black today. Motivations for identity work are explored, with an emphasis on passing as black.

…Characteristics of Respondents

Our data collection efforts resulted in a sample of 40 black-white biracial individuals. The ages ranged from 18 to 45, with the average age a little over 24 years of age. More than half of the respondents, 57.5 percent, fell between the ages of 18 and 22, which is typical college age; this is not surprising considering that our recruitment efforts began at local colleges and universities. Of the remaining respondents, 27.5 percent fell between the ages of 23 and 30, and 15 percent were over the age of 30. Regarding gender, 22.5 percent are men and 77.5 percent are women…


Given the nature of the study and the characteristics of the sample, there are several limitations to be discussed. First, this study examines the phenomenon of passing (among other forms of identity work), yet if biracial people are passing for one race on a day-today basis, they likely would not have answered the advertisements to participate in this study. Hence, we examine those who pass as white or black on an intermittent basis, but not those who may be passing on a continuous basis.

Second, this sample is heavily female, and Storrs (1999) suggests that racial identity may be more salient for women than men; men’s self-concepts may be more tied to other identities, such as those based on occupation rather than race. If racial identity is indeed less salient for men (more work is needed here), then racial identity work and passing may be less frequent for men than women.

Third, these respondents were, for the most part, middle- to upper-middle class and often embedded in predominantly white settings. They were more likely to pass as black rather than white, but it is plausible that working-class biracials may be more motivated to pass as white (if their physical appearance allows it) or, at the very least, they may be more motivated to highlight their white ancestry than their middle-class counterparts; disadvantaged by social class, they may draw on white privilege (if they can) to access opportunities for upward social mobility. Conversely, because of their lower social class status, they may be even more likely than these respondents to present themselves as black. As will be discussed, these middle-class respondents passed as black to fit in with black peers, to avoid what they perceived as a stigmatized white identity, and to benefit from affirmative action programs. It is plausible that working-class biracials are more likely to live and work in minority/black settings and hence pass as black to fit in with black peers and neighbors; in minority/black settings, whiteness may be even more stigmatized as compared to white settings, and hence working-class biracials may feel more pressure to conceal their white ancestry; finally, because they are more disadvantaged financially than their middle class counterparts, affirmative action opportunities may be more crucial to moving up the socioeconomic ladder and so biracial people may be more likely to present themselves as black on admissions, employment, and scholarship application forms…

Strategies of Identity Work

…Factors limiting the accessibility/usefulness of identity strategies. Respondents draw on various identity strategies, and clearly these findings indicate that biracial people have considerable agency with regard to how they identify themselves. We find, however, that these options are not without limits. Extending previous research on identity work (Snow and Anderson 1987; see also Killian and Johnson 2006; McCall 2003; Storrs 1999), we discover several factors that limit the accessibility and/or effectiveness of these strategies—one’s phenotype, social class background, and racial networks. For instance, race in American society is intertwined with phenotype (i.e., we are often raced by how we look); depending upon which identity one is presenting, manipulation of one’s phenotype may or may not be an option. The majority of respondents cannot modify their phenotypes to pass as white, and some respondents have difficulty in altering their physical characteristics to pass as black. However, given the phenotypic variation among blacks (due to centuries of mixing with whites), passing as black is arguably less complicated than passing as white. Having light skin or straight hair, for instance, is not unique to those defined as biracial today; many individuals classified as black also share these traits. In contrast, those wanting to pass as white may face more challenges (e.g., hair cannot always be styled straight, skin tones are not easily lightened)…


…Most interesting, however, are not the few respondents who passed as white, but the many that passed as black. Scholars understand the motivations of passing as white in a society dominated by whites, but less is known about motivations for passing as black. We find that biracial people pass as black for several reasons. Most notably, we argue, because they can. While passing as white is difficult for most, passing as black is less difficult given the wide range of phenotypes in the black community regarding skin color and other physical features. With generations of interracial mixing between blacks and whites and the broad definition of blackness as defined by the one-drop rule, Khanna (2010) argues that most Americans cannot tell the difference between biracial and black. Hence, there is little difficulty when many biracial people conceal their biracial background; this is because many ‘‘blacks’’ also have white phenotypic characteristics (because they, too, often have white ancestry). Further, we find that biracial respondents pass as black for additional reasons—to fit in with black peers in adolescence (especially since many claim that whites reject them), to avoid a white stigmatized identity, and, in the post–civil rights era of affirmative action, to obtain advantages and opportunities sometimes available to them if they are black (e.g., educational and employment opportunities, college financial aid/scholarships)…

Read or purchase the article here.
Read a free summary here.

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Reverse Passing? Kidding… Right?

Posted in Articles, Passing, Social Science, United States on 2010-12-19 05:15Z by Steven

Reverse Passing? Kidding… Right?

The Root

Jenée Desmond-Harris

A report that biracial people are denying their white parents seems absurd to me—but I’m paying attention anyway.

Ever heard of Barack Obama? You know, the first black president? The one who won an election and near-deity status in the African-American community while openly discussing his white mother in books, interviews and stump speeches?

Yeah, me, too. This is just one of the reasons I’m scratching my head at the findings of a new study that people with one white and one black parent “downplay their white ancestry,” in part to gain the acceptance of other black people. The authors dub this phenomenon “reverse passing” and call it “a striking phenomenon.” I’m beyond stumped. In a summary of the results, the sociologists behind “Passing as Black: Racial Identity Work Among Biracial Americans” report that this occurs especially in “certain social situations”—ostensibly, around other black people—where having a white parent “can carry its own negative biases.”

Let’s be clear: Although the study does conclude that people are “exercising considerable control over how they identify” racially these days, we’re not talking about having the freedom to elect to call oneself black. Rather, according to the lead author, University of Vermont sociologist Nikki Khanna, those who self-identify as biracial or multiracial “adopt an identity that contradicts their self-perception of race.” In other words, they’re being purposely disingenuous. They’re exchanging honesty for social benefits, in a mirror-image version of the well-known phenomenon of passing as white…

…While I don’t relate to the results of this study, I won’t dismiss them. My first reaction—after sheer confusion—was to feel superior to the study subjects. (Maybe they should have gone to an HBCU, where I got the message loud and clear that you can be black in any way that makes sense to you. Maybe they should be in social circles like mine. When polled on Facebook, many black acquaintances said that they always figured I had a white or mixed parent, and—surprise!—they didn’t de-friend me.)…

Read the entire article here.

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Passing as Black: How Biracial Americans Choose Identity

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Passing, Social Science, United States on 2010-12-19 03:45Z by Steven

Passing as Black: How Biracial Americans Choose Identity

Time Magazine: Healthland
Friday, 2010-12-16

Meredith Melnick, Reporter and Producer

The practice of passing—identifying with and presenting oneself as one race while denying ancestry of another—reached its peak during the Jim Crow era. Needless to say, the notion of having to “pass” as white is outdated and offensive, but as sociologists Nikki Khanna and Cathryn Johnson report in a new study, passing is still alive and well today. It just happens in the other direction.

For their study, Khanna and Johnson interviewed 40 biracial American adults about their racial identity, and were surprised by what they found: most people tended to suppress or reject their white ancestry altogether and claim to be entirely African American. It wasn’t simply about calling oneself black, but also aggressively changing one’s behavior, looks and tastes to appear more “black.”…

…The question is whether strongly identifying with a racial minority really qualifies as passing. The researchers argue that it does, because it involves a concerted effort to reveal one portion of ancestry while concealing and rejecting another. The volunteers in the study also behaved strategically to project their race—something that sociologists call “identity work.” The authors of the current study prefer to call it “performing race”: they characterize the racial identities of their subjects as a strategically constructed, outwardly projected performance, and in this sense they liken it to the behavior of those who passed during the Jim Crow era…

Read the entire article here.

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Why Biracial Means Black: The History of Race in America Means Most Blacks Are Biracial to Some Degree

Posted in Articles, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2010-12-14 20:35Z by Steven

Why Biracial Means Black: The History of Race in America Means Most Blacks Are Biracial to Some Degree

The Root

Lauren Williams, Associate Editor

Checking a census box that says “black” doesn’t mean you’re denying your white ancestry. It’s just how we roll in America.

When Halle Berry scored her milestone Oscar win in 2002, nobody was screaming from the mountaintops that the first biracial woman had won the Academy Award for best actress. It’s not too often that you hear someone calling Barack Obama the country’s first biracial president. And although I know people who are biracial and multiracial who primarily refer to themselves as such, I’ve also heard most of them refer to themselves as black.

My own mother, who is Creole and fair skinned—to the point where some people assume she is white—will tell you that she is black if you ask, although her answer could be a lot more complicated if she wanted it to be. But isn’t it the same for many black people in this country? It’s generally safe to assume that most black Americans are multiracial. As The Root’s editor-in-chief, Henry Louis Gates Jr., has pointed out, statistics demonstrate that 58.5 percent of black Americans have at least 12.5 percent European ancestry.

That’s why a new study about how biracial Americans of black-and-white ancestry often self-identify as black comes as no surprise. What is surprising is that the researchers refer to this decision as “passing for black.” As if not mentioning your white ancestry when asked to identify yourself is somehow akin to light-skinned blacks of the past having to completely reject—sometimes forever—their heritage and families in order to blend in to white society.

No, it’s not the same, and for a lot of reasons: A biracial person can check “black” on a census form and 10 seconds later start talking fondly and proudly about his or her white mother or father (anyone who’s heard Obama talk about his family knows this). For biracial or multiracial people to call themselves black is not a wholesale denial of their past and family. It’s not a lie. It’s not, heaven forbid, a ploy to get minority-based benefits, as was suggested by researchers behind the study. It is, for better or worse, a by-product of living in a country that is only a few generations removed from Jim Crow and the one-drop rule

Read the entire article here.

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