Conversation Of The Week XXII: Mixed-Race Students and The College Experience

Posted in Articles, Campus Life, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, United States on 2012-01-22 19:53Z by Steven

Conversation Of The Week XXII: Mixed-Race Students and The College Experience


Amy O’Loughlin

In January, The New York Times published Black? White? Asian? More Young Americans Choose All of the Above,” a provocative and widely circulated article about college students of mixed racial and ethnic backgrounds, as well as the rise in population of a multiracial America.

As the article states, since 2000, when the U.S. Census Bureau allowed Americans to identify themselves in more than one race category, the number of mixed-race Americans grew by approximately 35 percent. Seven million people reported being of mixed race, making multiracials “one of the country’s fastest-growing demographic groups.”

In turn, the enrollment of multiracial students at colleges and universities throughout the U.S. is also swiftly expanding. In 2004, University of California, Berkeley conducted the UC Undergraduate Experience Survey, and found that 22.9 percent of UC Berkeley respondents identified themselves as multiracial or multiethnic, while throughout the UC system, the total averaged 25.8 percent. “The crop of students moving through college right now,” The New York Times article affirms, “includes the largest group of mixed-race people ever to come of age in the United States.”

Are U.S. institutions of higher learning adapting adequately to this upsurge in student population? Are a representative number of faculty and policy makers mixed-race? Are schools offering curricula relevant to multiracial and multiethnic students?

A look into course offerings at various universities reveals that higher education does in fact provide a framework for the comprehensive understanding of mixed-race heritage in America. The UC Berkeley’s “People of Mixed Racial Descent” class began in 1980, it was the first of its kind in the nation, and is still offered as part of the school’s Ethnic Studies program with between 150 to 250 students attending. The University of Washington in Seattle offers the course “Mixed Identities and Racialized Bodies,” Chicago’s DePaul University lists “Mixed Race America” in its course catalog, and Mixed Race in the New Millennium is part of Stanford University’s curriculum.

But even if multiracialism is addressed academically, how do students of mixed race “negotiate the racialized landscape of higher education?” asks Kristen A. Renn, associate professor at Michigan State University (MSU), and author of Mixed Race Students in College: The Ecology of Race, Identity, and Community on Campus (2004). What does being multiracial mean to today’s mixed-race student?…

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Chosing Racial Sides… American Society Forces Its Children To Make Tough Choices

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Identity Development/Psychology, New Media, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2010-04-27 03:05Z by Steven

Chosing Racial Sides… American Society Forces Its Children To Make Tough Choices

Cassandra Franklin-Barbajosa

When Jolanda Williams looks in a mirror, the image she sees is a warm peach complexion framed in dark silky hair, high cheekbones beneath almond eyes, and full lips that slip into an easy, radiant smile. She has a face that could belong almost anywhere in the world, Mexico, India, or Indonesia. Yet Williams, the daughter of a white German mother and a black American father, has spent the better part of her 35 years coming to terms with where she fits in.

“In America, it is all about your physical characteristics,” says Williams, a resident of Brooklyn, New York, who, for as long as she can remember, has identified herself on paper as African-American. “If I were to put “white” on a job application and walk into an interview, whoever was interviewing me would assume they had the wrong person. It is unrealistic for me to think I can actually walk through the world identifying as white, considering the way I look.”…

Dr. Melissa Herman, assistant professor of sociology at Dartmouth College in Hanover, [New Hampshire], understands the reasoning behind the choices made by the more than six million multiracial people in the United States.

“A lot of our choices about identity have to do with phenotype, our physical characteristics, because it is these characteristics that determine how other people perceive us and treat us,” she says. “If you look even slightly black, there is extreme social pressure in American society to be black, which is certainly a vestige of the system of hypodescent, or the one-drop rule. Even though it is no longer legally enforced, it is very much socially enforced. It is ingrained in children from a very early age; not necessarily by their parents, who may want them to have the freedom to choose, but by our society.”..

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