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Krystle G. Hays, M.A. Doctoral Student Pepperdine University Graduate School of Education and Psychology Biracial Identity Development: Therapeutic Implications.

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Presentation on theme: "Krystle G. Hays, M.A. Doctoral Student Pepperdine University Graduate School of Education and Psychology Biracial Identity Development: Therapeutic Implications."— Presentation transcript:

1 Krystle G. Hays, M.A. Doctoral Student Pepperdine University Graduate School of Education and Psychology Biracial Identity Development: Therapeutic Implications of Phenotype and Other Contextual Considerations

2 I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. -Martin Luther King Jr., 1963

3 One day our descendants will think it incredible that we paid so much attention to things like the amount of melanin in our skin or the shape of our eyes or our gender instead of the unique identities of each of us as complex human beings. -- Franklin Thomas, 1983

4 Purpose of Presentation Examining the experience of self-identification for persons of biracial heritage, Black and White. Overview of research that explores Black culture and values, and the formation of identity in this cultural group. Overview of literature that highlights White culture, values, and identity- development. Discussion of biracial identity – is there an intersection between Black and White cultural values or is the biracial individual’s identity an independent formation? Discussion of biracial identity development for persons of Black and White descent; including factors of phenotype and sociocultural factors such as family and environment. Looking at racial identifiers used by biracial persons

5 Ethnicity and Race Ethnic group – “A group of people with common historical heritage, originating in the same place, and sharing cultural expressions such as manner of dress, art, music, food, literature, and other concrete manifestations” (Branch, 1999). Ethnic identity – “that part of an individual’s self-concept which derives from his knowledge of his membership in a social group (or groups) together with the value and emotional significance attached to that membership” (Taijfel, 1981) Racial identity – It is the process by which an individual “examines the ‘psychological’, ‘cultural’, ‘physical’, and ‘sociopolitical’ aspects of being a member of one’s racial group along with the value and emotional significance associated with that membership” (Sanders-Thompson, 1992, Taijfel,1981)

6 Biracial and Biethnic Miscegenation – the mixing of race (Spencer, 1997). Biracial – “a person whose parents are of two different socially designated racial groups, for examples, black mother, white father” (Root, 1996). Biethnic – A term used to describe a person who has parents of two different socially designated ethnic groups (Root, 1996) One-drop rule of Hypodescent – “This rule mandates that a mixed-race child shall be relegated to the racial group of the lower status parent. In practice, this norm has been applied most directly to the African-American population as compared to other racial minority groups. The implications is that one drop of black ancestry contaminates an individual, precluding that person from ever being ‘purely’ white” (Brunsma & Rockquemore, 2002). This may also apply to anyone with visually discernable trace of African ancestry being considered only as Black (Hollinger; 2005).

7 Sociopolitial History of Interracial Marriage Who is black? In Colonial times this was determined by the hypodescent or one-drop rule – required that a person of mixed-race be confined to the racial group of the parent with the lower racial status as determined by societal standards. Social sanctions in place to segregate racial groups based on socially-constructed beliefs - blacks are inferior to whites, mixing of blood destroys the purity of the white race. Anti-miscegenation laws, which provided imprisonment as a punishment for the intermarriage of blacks and whites, were in placed from 1922 to 1967 when the ruling of Loving vs Virginia the ban on interracial marriages unconstitutional for the first time in United States history (Hartill, 2001). The lifting of the anti-miscegenation laws led to the biracial baby boom (Root, 1992).

8 The Biracial Baby Boom In 1970, the “other” designation in the US Census accounted for 720,000 people. In several cases the Census (through 1990) reassigned these individuals into monoracial categories, generally being classified as black (Spencer, 1997). Modification to the Census In 2000, 6.8 million people, self-identified as being of more than one race. With 784,764 people who identified as being of both the ‘white’ and ‘black or African-American’ racial descriptors. (U.S. Census Bureau, 2000) With the growing population of biracialism, it is salient to review the implications of the coming together of races that have historically been ascribed as “polar opposites”.

9 Identity Intersection Black/Afrocentric Identity values -The Black worldview is one that values being “for real, down-to- earth,authentic,[and] genuine” (Staples, 1976). -Cooperative approach -Oral traditions (White, 1984) -Time is primarily based on experiencing of life events White/Eurocentric Identity values -The White worldview is one of “individual, who can be considered as separate, distinct, alone, apart from and independent of others” (White, 1984). - Inherent sense of competition, power, and control in order to survive and remain relevant. - Narrative traditions - Time is a “precisely measured commodity in a linear system that clearly designated the time frames of present, past, and future”(White, 1984) because it is oriented in terms of work, money, and the future.

10 My old man's a white old man And my old mother's black. If ever I cursed my white old man I take my curses back. If ever I cursed my black old mother And wished she were in hell, I'm sorry for that evil wish And now I wish her well. My old man died in a fine big house. My ma died in a shack. I wonder were I'm going to die, Being neither white nor black? - Langston Hughes

11 Biracial Identity - What does this mean for individual who is both black and white? - How do these conflicting value systems find themselves merging within the biracial individual? - How might the biracial individual self-identify – black, white, biracial? Is it a matter of phenotype? Family? Social environment? Choice?

12 (Tragic) Mulatto Hybrid Mutt Half-Breed Oreo Zebra Skunk

13 Bill of Rights for people of mixed heritage I HAVE THE RIGHT... Not to justify my existence in this world. Not to keep the races separate within me. Not to justify my ethnic legitimacy. Not to be responsible for people’s discomfort with my physical or ethnic ambiguity. I HAVE THE RIGHT... To identify myself differently than strangers expect me to identify. To identify myself differently than how my parents identify me. To identify myself differently than my brothers and sisters. To identify myself differently in different situations. I HAVE THE RIGHT... To create a vocabulary to communicate about being multiracial or multiethnic. To change my identity over my lifetime--and more than once. To have loyalties and identification with more than one group of people. To freely choose whom I befriend and love. Root, 1993

14 Defining myself, as opposed to being defined by others, is one of the most difficult challenges I face. - Carol Moseley-Braun

15 Racial & Ethnic Identity Racial identity is defined by various internal and external levels It is the process by which an individual “examines the "psychological" (sense of belongingness and commitment), "cultural" (awareness, knowledge, and acceptance of cultural and social traditions) "physical" (acceptance of physical features of racial group), and "sociopolitical" (attitudes toward social and economic issues of racial group) aspects of being a member of one's racial group along with the value and emotional significance associated with that membership”. A continuum: - Diffused/Unexamined - little to no interest in their ethnicity, no effort to learn more about group - Foreclosed - takes on societal perceptions of their group made by the dominant culture, does little personal research - Moratorium - efforts to learn about their ethnicity, but ambivalent about how they fit in - Achieved - has gathered information about their ethnic group, comprehends the implications and meaning associated with belonging to that group, located where they may fit Note: The achieved individual may have gone through several identities, but it is the commitment to one that makes them reach this status. (Phinney, 1989)

16 Purpose of Racial/Ethnic Identity It is likely to be important to most people’s sense of self The ethnic minority group member may associate a greater level of importance on their ethnic identity than members of the dominant culture (Phinney & Alipuria, 1990). There may also be an association between ethnic identity and appearance, as well as the ascribed roles that an individual takes on within their life. Ethnic identity is only one of several identities that an individual may hold within themselves, it may function as a compliment to those other self-identification factors.

17 Biracial Identity - Theories Horowitz (1939) Poston (1990) Root (1990) Kich (1992) Jacobs (1992) Wardle (1992) Kerwin and Ponterotto (1995) Rockquemore & Brunsma(1999)

18 Horowitz (1939) Test materials were intended to determine self-identification of black children and white children She provided line drawings of a black boy and a white boy, children were to determine which was most like themselves Black children often chose the white drawing Interpreted this misidentification as a wishful activity Studies that followed, such as the study by Clark & Clark (1940) said it was perceptual distortion based on actual skin color

19 Horowitz, Clark&Clark These studies were the beginnings of the discussion of biracial identity, and how it might be determined if a biracial child has achieved self-awareness and how this impacts their ability to formulate a healthy self-identification.

20 Poston (1990) Five-stage model of biracial identity development  Personal identity: no awareness  Choice of Group Categorization: society induces a single choice  Enmeshment/Denial: reaction of disloyalty, shame, or guilt for choosing one racial group  pseudo-identification with both groups  Appreciation: learn more about the group that was previously ignored  Integration: true and full integration of their multiple identities Suggests that all biracial persons will experience conflict and maladjustment

21 Root (1990) Phenomenological approach to identity resolution ‘Other status’ Pathology is removed, respect for difference is ensued,deviation from the traditional models Arrive at a positive sense of self-identity or maintain a positive identity in the face of oppressive attitudes” (Root, 1990)

22 Kick (1992) Age progression Trifold Monoracial self-identity  biracial self-identity Stage 1: 3-10 years, divergent feelings between external perception and self-perception Stage 2: 8 years-adult, difficulty for social acceptance and self- acceptance Stage 3: late adolescence of young adulthood, final internalization of bicultural and biracial

23 Jacobs (1992) Developmental stage model Four factors that are salient in understanding the development of biracial children: (a) constancy of color (b) internalization of an interracial or biracial label (c) racial ambivalence (d) perceptual distortions of the self and family identification Stage I is Pre-Color Constancy: - plays with various dolls but can identify doll of his or her own color, if racial prejudice, may have rage or avoidance of color - What would Horowitz say? Stage II is Post-Color Constancy: - usually 4.5 years of age, aware of prejudices, primarily against Blacks, realizes their skin color is not mutable - rejection of Blackness  ambivalence to first Black and then White  displacement of ambivalence from the Black-White dimension - perceptual color distortion - may distort color of self and family to more closely match the social identification Stage III is Biracial Identity: - usually ages 8-12 years of age, believes that racial group membership is related to but not synonymous with skin color, and rather racial group is informed by parentage (the child is not biracial because his father is black and his mother is white, but rather because their father’s social class belongs to a social class of black people and their mother belongs to a social class of white people) - ambivalence from Stages I&II is dissolved and reconciled in unified ego

24 Wardle (1992) Developmental stage progression Includes ecological constructs - family, community, minority context, majority context, and group antagonism Stage 1: - corresponds with other monoracial developmental theory years old - exploration of racial and ethnic differences, learning social norms, and emotional labels attributed to various ethnic groups Stage 2: - corresponds with Erickson’s model of identity development - adolescence - determining self-identification, learning how family, community, and society identifies them. Both stages are impacted by ecological factors, which differ at each stage, and ultimately determine how successfully the individual moves through the stages toward a healthy self-identification.

25 Kerwin and Ponterotto (1995) Age progression, similar to Kich Variance in identity resolution styles Public identity and Private Identity, influenced by socio-cultural factors Exclusion from both Whites and Blacks Pre-school Stage: May recognize differences and similarities between themselves and others, parents’ sensitivities Entry-to-school Stage: Adopt monoracial self-identification around other groups of children Pre-adolescence Stage: Awareness of societal labels - skin tone, religion, environment, appearance, personal sensitivities Adolescence Stage: Pressure to identify with parent of color College/Young Adulthood Stage: Monoracial groups, aware of race comments/belief systems Adulthood Stage: Exploration of cultures and self-identifiers, adapt in different racial milieus

26 Rockquemore & Brunsma (1999) Qualitative look at the voice of Biracial individuals Four types of identity options for persons who are biracial Singular identity (singular Black or White) – not denying, not salient in self- understanding Border identity (exclusively Biracial) – unique “inbetweeness”, hybrid, “the real tragic mulatto” Protean identity (sometimes Black, sometimes White, sometimes Biracial) – mutable self Transcendent identity (no racial identity) – pluralistic/integrative, no internal/external validation, racial identity is meaningless

27 Summary of Biracial Theories Limitations - Assumption that a fully integrated biracial or multiracial identity is the desired end state, when it is dynamic and impacted by many factors -e.g., parents' identities, nativity, phenotype, and extended family), traits (e.g., temperament, coping skills, and social skills) and socialization agents (e.g., family, peers, and community), etc. - Insight -- but there is no single healthy resolution of identity conflicts applicable to all multiracial individuals Strengths - An attempt to formulate theories that provide more information about this booming population - Emphasis on biracial individuals as unique and not simply an integration of black and white

28 Sociological/Ecological Framework Regional and Generational History of Race and Ethnic Relations Sexual Orientation Gender Class Family Functioning Consistency of parental availability Extended family acceptance Losses and disruptions Sense of belonging & acceptance Violence/abuse/neglect Family Socialization Home language Parent’s identity Nativity Given names Extended family Home values/spirituality Traits & Aptitudes Social skills Coping skills Giftedness Health Learning Difficulties Identities Ethnicities Symbolic Race Community Attitudes & Racial Socialization School/Work Community Friends New community (Root,2002)

29 Phenotype Historically persons who were of mixed heritage with African-American persons were considered Black in terms of the ‘one drop rule’ --- “if you had Black parents, you were Black” (1980s) The appearance-identity link Skin color is one of the most prominent and salient aspects of physical appearance How biracial individuals may perceive their own racial identity and their own ability to locate themselves within social contexts Tizard and Phoenix (1995), through their study, determined that Biracial individuals that appeared White were unlikely to identify themselves as exclusively Black. This suggests a strong link between phenotypic appearance and racial-self identification. Yet, this begs the questions where persons who look ambiguous may fall. How do they determine their group membership? There is no association between self-perceived skin color and identity, yet there is a strong association between socially-mediated appearance and identity Problem -- when an individual chooses to self-identity as a racial group that is not congruent with their skin color

30 Family Families provide a social milieu that allows individuals to develop a sense of self, values, and a belief system (Gecas, 1981). The role of family is an understudied area that requires further research Critical need for the child to gather knowledge about their heritage and value both races Unique identity that parents can’t understand, even though they had an interracial relationship – it’s more intense Social supports, constructive relationships with people who have an awareness and understanding of biracial individuals are utilized as avalidation source Young adults may notice that the groups of friends that they choose may be used as a marker of their phenotype, and interpretation of their racial authenticity

31 Therapeutic Implications Examine your own racial and ethnic identity as a therapist and your feelings about clients from other racial/ethnic backgrounds Be open to discuss cultural variables in therapy with your client Address the client’s experiences with their family of origin on each side to determine if a monoracial or biracial therapist would be more beneficial to client’s treatment outcomes Biracial individuals have been shown to have a preference for working with ethnically matched therapist, based on their stage of identity development Monoracial therapists should seek consultation from biracial colleagues who have expertise in this area when they are at an impasse Biracial individuals should be able to identify themselves without an artificial category or a single name.

32 Therapeutic Implications Multiracial Oath of Social Responsibility I want to make a difference in this world. Therefore: I strive to improve race relations. I know that race and ethnicity are not solely defined by one’s genetic heritage; I refuse to confine my choices in love or loyalty to a single race; I make efforts to increase my knowledge of U.S. racial history; I know that race and ethnicity can be used as political, economic, and social tools of oppression. I recognize the people who have made it possible for me to affirm my multiracial identity. They are my relatives, friends, and mentors; They are people who have crossed color lines to fight discrimination; They are people who identified as multiracial before this choice was recognized; They are people who have exposed and explained the suppression of multiraciality. I must fight all forms of oppression as the oppression of one is the oppression of all. I recognize that oppression thrives on fear and ignorance; I seek to recognize my prejudices and change them; I know that it is neither helpful nor productive to argue over who is more oppressed; I recognize that my life interconnects with all other lives. I will make a difference! (Root, 2004)

33 Need for Further Research The accumulation of empirical evidence demonstrating the variations of adaptive identity development resolutions for biracial and multiracial people is in its infancy Research on the psychological impact of identity-negotiation for the biracial individual Research that denotes the sociocultural factors that have the greatest impact on identity-negotiation A review of the impact on the family environment on the interracial couple who has a biracial child My dissertation: (a) provide a thorough look at the experience of self-identification, in terms of racial identifiers, for persons who are biracial (b) to determine the role of phenotype in self-identification; and (c) to implement a multiple lens approach by looking at the impact of sociocultural factors, specifically, school environment and family dynamics, and their role in shaping biracial identity.

34 Discussion What have you learned about the biracial individual identity development process that you did not previously know? How might this change your interaction, if at all? What are the issues to consider when a biracial individual has negative feelings towards either their black or white heritage? Alternately, what issues may biracial individuals who identify with more than one race face? How might a biracial person who is alienated from one parentage be impacted? What other sociocultural factors might impact the biracial individual’s identity negotiation process? So what does implicate for the biracial client being seen in therapy? What other research might be done in this area?

35 References Available by request –


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