Racial Identity Struggles Among Multiracial Families and Children

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Racial Identity Struggles amongst Multiracial Families and Children

Aliza Moody
Sociology 71
Foundations of Sociology
December 12, 2011

A casual look around most neighborhoods today reveals an undeniable trend: more multicultural families exist in the United States than ever before. In fact, in the 2000 census, more than six million Americans described themselves as being of more than one race (2000 Census). Multiracial families face many struggles with regard to race identification in their daily lives as well as children at school. Many children commonly experience the social isolation of not belonging to a defined group. I will examine which factors influence these families to identify racially, the psychological effects of their well-being, and the importance of the education systems approach towards relating to multiracial children in the classroom. A major difficulty mixed-race families and children face are assumptions and misconceptions about their racial identity. One of the most common misconceptions is derived from the area of sports and its direct correlation between that of whites and blacks. The problem is that such scientific misconceptions about the “natural” athleticism of black person’s body feeds directly into the stereotypes common in racial differences. In the movie “White Men Can’t Jump”, Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes portray a good example that these stereotypes die hard yet linger in subtle competitions still today. In terms of racial identity, we should not have to ask blacks what special genes they possess that enable faster running or higher jumping, but rather why a general consensus regarding sports is so in-tuned with it not being of equal latitude or athletic ability with whites. How mixed children racially identify can depend on a number of factors, including physical features and family attachments. To a degree, a person’s feelings and behaviors are in fact a direct representation of the ethnic group they have identified themselves with. Therefore, it is critical for parents to have a positive outlook and a perceived general sense of acceptance about their child’s ethnic identity and realize it is an essential part of the developmental process (Herman 2004). Parents can however, influence children to understand that ethnic identity is more than what a person can see on the outside. The attitudes of multi-racial children are predominantly influenced by parents, teachers, peers, and extended family, all of whom have a major role in facilitating a child's acceptance and pride in his or her racial identity. Children, who are subjected to a lack of education regarding their ethnic culture or find themselves in an attempt to acquire more time with one parent or the other, can lose an identity and become `stagnant (Wardle 2000). Members of specific multi-ethnic groups often share common culture, traditions, values, and/or beliefs. Theories are developed through various ethnographic studies, in addition to conducted interviews amongst bi-racial and multiracial families (Herman 2004). Multiracial families have come to realize that it is quite difficult to fit into a specific ethnic group. Maintaining an ethnic identity is particularly relevant when one's ethnic group is the minority group in society (Herman 2004). Most commonly individuals begin to identify with their “master status”, which is their primary identities that overshadow their other status’. U.S. children of black and white parentage have additional difficulties due to the polarization of blacks and whites (Wardle 2000). In societies that fail to acknowledge their ethnic and racial backgrounds, biracial children often struggle as they attempt to merge their dual heritage without compromising either one. In the U.S. the extensive backgrounds and heritage of many...
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