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RAISING BIRACIAL CHILDREN

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ABOUT

The United States is definitively a multicultural society. The biracial and multiracial population is the fastest growing racial group in the country. There are more than 700,000 interracial married couples in the United States and an estimated five million interracial or biracial children. As a result, children and parents are attempting to fully understand themselves and where they belong with almost no help at all. Much of this website is inspired by the book Raising Biracial Children by Kerry Ann Rockquemore and Tracey Laszloffy. The authors wrote this to provide new models for our understanding of mixed-race children and their conception and development of racial identity because the multiracial population in the U.S. is on the rise. It provides parents and anyone interested in multiracial issues with an accessible framework for understanding healthy mixed race identity development and to translate those findings into practical caregiving strategies. The book focuses on black/white mixed-race people because these two groups are the furthest away from each other in terms of social distance and is a difficult status to reconcile currently in the United States. So, this identity will also be the main focus of this website and while we recognize that there are important differences between having one black and one white parent, versus one Asian and one white parent etc., a lot of the information we provide can still be utilized for children of other multiracial identities. Biracial children are sometimes being forced into an identity in order to fit in to society's views. However, individuals are learning that they do not have to “belong” to just one group, they can be a part of all sides of their identity without consequences. This website aims to help parents of biracial children by giving them the information and tools to foster healthy identity development in their children and to help them reach their full potential.

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HISTORY OF MULTIRACIAL IDENTITY DEVELOPMENT

Over the years, social scientists have shifted their position on what is considered the "healthy" ideal for mixed-race people, all the while clinging to the assumption that there is one ideal racial identity for members of this population.  Before the mid-1980s, researchers assumed that the only healthy way for members of this group to identify racially was as one identity. This conceptualization was grounded in the historical and cultural norm in the United States of the "one drop rule," which mandated that individuals with any black ancestry were designated as members of the "black race." Because the one-drop rule operated as an unquestioned assumption held by researchers, racial identity was not understood as a negotiable reality, nor was it an area where individuals had options. Because anyone with black ancestry was assumed to be black, black identity models were used to assess the racial identity development of mixed-race people. Beginning in the late 1980s, the study of racial identity among mixed-race people shifted as the one-drop rule was challenged and reconceptualized. A new generation of researchers, many of whom were themselves multiracial, advanced a new way of defining healthy identity for mixed-race people. The upside of the emergence of new biracial identity models is that there is growing support for the idea of"multiracial" as a legitimate category of racial identification. The downside is that this shift in models has had the unintended consequence of marginalizing singular racial identities (especially black identity) in order to establish the legitimacy of biracial and multiracial identity. In recent years however, more models are resisting attempts to "fit" mixed-race people into a singular correct identity, and instead recognize that multiple and equally valid racial identifications exist among the growing multiracial population. This website utilizes the COBI Model (Rockquemore & Laszloffy. 2005) to offer a framework by which mixed-race individuals may self identify along a continuum.

 

IDENTITY DEVELOPMENT

Biracial Identity Formation

Biracial and multiracial identity development is a process that spans across the individual’s life.  The identity is based on numerous factors, both internal and external. When basic racial identity development research was applied to biracial and multiracial people, there were many limitations as they failed to recognize variance in developmental experiences that occur within racial groups. This research assumed that individuals would choose to identify with, or choose to reject, one racial group over another dependent on life stage. Now we know that should not be the case and individuals should be able to identify with any part of their identity if they so choose. 

  • Each individual will have a unique journey 

    • One size does not fit all

    • There is no one appropriate way for mixed-race people to understand their racial identity.

    • Privileging one racial identity as the ideal fails to comprehend the multidimensionality and variation within the mixed-race population

    • Racial identification can change over time

  • Many factors influence the development of a multiracial identity 

    • Identity choices are shaped by the experiences an individual has with others ​

      • Mixed race individuals have a unique way of accepting/finding their own identity and this process is constantly ongoing.

    • Physical appearance, gender, peers, school, parents, relationships, SES etc. influence identity formation 

      • Truly anything that the individual encounters in their life can affect their identity.

  • How one sees themselves and how others seem is not always consistent

    • Others tend to identify people based on the salient features that the individual shows to them. Physical appearance is often the most influential factor that others use. 

    • This can force mixed race individuals to be pushed by their peers towards the identity that fits their physical appearance. However, this is not always and should not necessarily be the case.  Mixed race individuals need to have a support system that reinforces their identity from all angles.

  • Even with support and sources of validation in their lives multiracial people are bound to experience some forms of rejection

    • It is important as a parent to understand all of the factors that make mixed race individuals choose their identity and realize what the individual truly wants​

    • Validation/rejection of a person's identity by others plays a key role in racial identity choices made ​

      • See Model 1.2 in Models tab

  • The process of finding and accepting ones identity is constantly ongoing

    • Depends on their environment and experiences ​​at the present moment

    • Individuals may self-identify at any point along a blending continuum

    • They can self locate anywhere along this continuum and that location can change over their lifetime (COBI Model, 2005)

      • See Model 1.1 in Models tab

 

COBI Model

Continuum of Biracial Identity 

(Rockquemore & Laszloffy, 2005)

The COBI Model from Raising Biracial Children suggests that mixed-race people can locate themselves at any place along a blending continuum. Each pole of the continuum represents the singular racial identification of a child's parents (one end represents black and the other white). The middle represents an equal blend of the two, not in biological terms, but in terms of identification. Mixed-race people can locate themselves anywhere along this continuum and that location can change over their lifetime.

 
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Validation/Rejection

The Relationship Between Validation, Rejection, and Racial Identity 

(Rockquemore & Laszloffy, 2005)

Because identity refers to how we understand ourselves relative to others, and because our identities are constantly evolving, interactions with others are crucial to the racial identity development process. In short, others affect how we see and understand ourselves racially. At the heart of these interactions reside experiences with validation and rejection. Whether our racial identity is validated or rejected by others is communicated through various verbal and nonverbal messages. These messages reveal how others perceive us as well as how they feel about what they perceive and, therefore, play a significant role in how we develop our racial self-understanding.

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Tips

 

Healthy socialization involves talking honestly, openly, and directly to children about race. To successfully do this, parents need to learn strategies and acquire skills for negotiating these difficult situations. Below are some tips for parents of mixed-race children to help them socialize their children in a healthy way.

  • Provide honest education about the realities of race​​​

    • For most black people, educating children about race is necessary but is something that is often neglected in white families. It is important for both parents to be able to talk to their children about their race and how this affects them. 

  • Practice the art and skill of talking about race​

    • Talking about race can be very difficult so it is important to practice at every opportunity possible. It can be like learning a new language and especially difficult in cross-racial interactions.  Talk to your friends that are of different race explicitly about how race affects their life. You might feel some anxiety about it but this will be a great tool when talking about race with your kids.

  • Recognize sameness and difference

    • As parents you must realize that while you share many things in common with your children, their experience as a multiracial person will be unique. The challenge you face will be simultaneously connect your children to your racial identity while recognizing differences in your racial realities as well. 

  • Affirm the minority side of your child's identity

    • When you are not completely white you are usually instantly devalued. As a parent of a biracial child you have to push against the negative messages about being a minority in our society.  One way you can do this is by highlighting role models from the minority side of their identity to help give value to all sides of their racial identity. 

  • Prepare your children for encounters with racism

    • Talk with your children to help them understand that they may experience discrimination because of their racial identity.  By giving them this knowledge, the rejection of others will hopefully not profoundly affect them. ​Tell them identifying with more than one identity is okay, even if it isn't typical. 

  • Know when to talk back and when to pull back

    • Talk back - having the capacity to call attention to an expression of racism and hold the offenders accountable.

    • Pull back - knowing when to pick your battles, never put yourself in harm’s way

  • Put your children in environments where they will have allies

    • If possible, place your kids in schools and neighborhoods with diverse demographics.  This will make many of the challenges that come with being of a mixed-race identity easier because they will see people of many different racial identities around them. 

  • Teach your kids how to love themselves and their identity

    • bell hooks states, "Love is profoundly political. Our deepest revolution will come when we understand this truth. Only love can give us the strength to go forward in the midst of heartbreak and misery. Only love can give us the power to reconcile, to redeem, the power to renew weary spirits and save lost souls. The transformative power of love is the foundation of all meaningful social change. Without love our lives are without meaning. Love is the heart of the matter. When all else has fallen away, love sustains.​" The most powerful thing you can do is love your child and be their support no matter what.

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MIXED-RACE PERSON OF THE WEEK

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson

  • From playing college football at the University of Miami to becoming a professional wrestler, Dwayne Johnson is now one of the biggest movie stars in the world.

  • Dwayne Johnson's mother is of Samoan heritage, and his father, wrestler Rocky Johnson (Wayde Douglas Bowles), is of Black Nova Scotian descent.

  • Even with his stardom, Dwayne’s identity has still been met with some controversy.  

    • In his days of being a professional wrestler, he was never booked as being black and has been criticized for this in recent years.

    • He recently went on twitter to talk about this and his identity. Below is his tweet:

Dwayne Johnson‏ @TheRock

"Glad I came across this and I’ll give you guys some context & truth.

I identify as exactly what I am - both. Equally proud. Black/Samoan.

And my friend, let me expand your thoughts a bit here - I transcended race in wrestling so there was no 'booked that way'. Thx guys"

 

PERSONAL STORIES

Biracial people have a range of stories and experiences. The people in these videos share some of their stories.

 

RESOURCES

 

Below are resources that will help parents of mixed race individuals understand the biracial and multiracial experience and foster healthy development. 

NATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS

These websites offer helpful tips and other information about the multiracial population in the United States.

AMEA (Association of Multiethnic Americans)

http://ameasite.com/

The Center for the Study of Biracial Children

https://csbchome.org/

Project RACE

https://www.projectrace.com/

BOOKS FOR CHILDREN

The books below are great tools to foster healthy racial identity development in your kids. 

I am Mixed (Author: Beauvais, G.) 


Mixed Blessings: A Children’s book About a Multiracial Family (Author: Cosman, M.)


Black, White, Just Right! (Author: Davol, M. W.)


Dirty Sally (Author: Edwards, M. J.)


Mixed: Portraits of Multiracial Kids (Author: Fullbeck, K.)


Trevor’s Story: Growing Up Biracial (Author: Kandel, B.)


Amy Hodgepodge Series (Authors: Wayans, K. & Knotts, K.)

ONLINE RESOURCES

Other miscellaneous helpful resources.