Biracial Identity: Outside the Color

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Abstract

A light-skinned man walks into a social gathering. Things go as normal for a while, but after a while, he is asked a question that he has had to answer time after time, “What are you?” The inquisitor was trying to ask, “What race are you?” The light skinned man, being the child of an African father and a Caucasian mother, smiles, and answers, “I’m American”. The inquisitor, feeling rebuked, turns away. This man had gotten to experience both sides of the two chief races: white and black. He was accepted in many circles as black because of his light complexion, and he was also able to be accepted in white gatherings.  This brings up a query: what if his complexion was dark like that of his father? Would he receive the same level of acceptance from people of all races?

As much as society has evolved over the years from racism, this subtle categorization, and segregation continues to haunt civilization. The world as we know it is made up of many diverse cultures and ethnicities, each one as unique, and as colorful as the next (Shih et al., 2007). The major world races consist of Caucasians, Africans, Asians, Hispanics, and Arabs. Under these, there are other numerous distinct races that are original in their own way. However, due to the powerful influence of Americans and Europeans in world affairs, lighter skinned races have domineered over dark skinned races for centuries (Wolfenstein, 1981).

When the Europeans colonized many countries during the time of the first and second world wars, they left the imprint of their culture in many countries. Especially in the colonized countries, people began to lookup to the western culture.  The centuries-old scourge of racism continues to rear its head in modern society. However, it has been significantly toned down over the years. Human rights groups and activists have assisted to create awareness concerning the negative effects of racism. Peoples all over the world have also responded significantly to this information.

Cultural diversity

Most people do not know the real definition of cultural diversity. One should start with the definition of diversity itself. This is the difference from the majority such that there is a small percentage differing from the rest. In most cultures there is a majority, and then there are a vast number of minorities. These are a set of norms that set standards for a society for what is the acceptable form of behavior (Chryssochoou, 2004). Every culture has its set standards of interaction considered as an unspoken code of behavior.

The American situation

These include eye contact, and body language displayed while in public, as well as, the type of negotiating style used. Americans for one have quite a distinct style of their norms. They usually stand about 18 inches from each other while in communication. They prefer a lot of direct eye contact while conversing, and are always very direct when arguing asking for the basic point each time. Other cultures may be more conservative and prefer a more subtle approach. They may not like direct eye contact as much, and they may opt for less body language. Unfortunately Americans also have the habit of being quite myopic in their attitudes to other cultures.

When they view others as being different from them, most immediately assume that they are wrong in their logic in that their culture is not right in some way or another. This creates the view to other cultures that Americans are ugly in their perception. That they are ignorant and quite smug of their standing and believe that they have sole right to say what is right or wrong. There was a time that researchers and ethnographers in the country used to refer to the country as being a melting pot of cultures where immigrants would be integrated into the American culture. Obviously this did not happen because one can still readily see the cultural differences, (Naylor, 1999).

Instead people are labeling it as a garden salad where one can still see all of the ingredients that made up the dish in the first place. The problem has become so well accepted that people no longer become surprised when it rears its ugly head. When a person asks the other ‘so what are you’ they immediately get impression of what they mean. They are referring to their ethnicity. They may not even have malicious or insidious intent, but they may have curiosity of a person’s origin if they seem like a mixture of ethnicities courtesy of their parents.

Beyond black

In some settings that are free and frisky, this may be considered as an ice breaker, and the protagonist may be called upon to guess about the ethnic background of the person they asked. As a victim of this occasion one scholar Rockquemore who as the author of Beyond Black: ‘Biracial Identity in America’ she sought to shed some light on the social and personal experiences of the growing biracial population that lived within America (Rockquemore et al., 2008). The fact that there are great public figures of biracial origin that have gained a lot of acceptance is a sign that biracial people are receiving more tolerance.

The fact is although, that race is still a troubling subject in the United States. This can be seen from the recent activities of the controversies over the Trent Lott’s remarks on segregation, as well as, the policies about affirmative action. The society seems to be at an awkward juncture because its ideas about race do not seem to matter anymore, and have been replaced with a more scientific point of view. People cannot classify each other anymore from the one drop rule stating from the lower status group type of parent.

Multiracial identities

This is such that one cannot be considered as a purely white person no matter what their appearance. Thus the racial identity and boundaries had become more fluid over the course of time. When the Rockquemore and Brunsma conducted surveys they found four variations of biracial identity that stood out from the rest. These are the border identity which has both accepted forms of black, and white yet it incorporates another form from the combination. Then there is the protean which has multiple identities that can be called upon in the right contexts.

The others are the black or white field which identifies themselves as either rather than biracial. The last group is the transcendent type that identifies them as having no ethnic background whatsoever. The trouble with multiracial individuals is that they challenge the norms of society’s traditional notions, and usual assumptions thus they cannot be easily be placed into any of societies preexisting racial categories. Thus those burdened with being multiracial have numerous social hurdles that people of one race do not have to contend. For example, when it comes to classification, the multiracial people will not easily fit into one race majorities or minorities.

Thus, a great deal of attention moves toward them, and how they classify themselves around the rest of society. There are multiracial groups that have argued for representation. I form of recognition of a multiracial category, although activists such as Jesse Jackson argued against this in the spirit of persevering political influence, and conserving minority numbers. There was no need to divide the numbers of the black minority into other sub groups that would be subject to their own political orientation. This would complicate matters for the black movement in the sixties. Of course it is a different matter now, and multiracial people still find themselves in a grey area as society still lives them with no answers as to classification.

‘If one were to change the social perception of the groups would it change the thinking process of the whole?’ is a debatable question. Therefore, who is black today, and who will be black in the coming days. It is one thing for a person to label themselves as being black or white and another for their family or their friends to validate them of being such in certain situations. Some respondents of Rockquemore, and Brunsma's described that being multiracial meant that they would now alter their behavior to suit the situation.

 Another respondent called Bob stated that race was actually a false categorization of humanity. He stated that what he wanted the most as to be recognized by peers, and the society as being a unique individual with unique talents, and skills that had nothing to do with his skin color. His descriptions included that of musician, thinker, kind hearted, as well as, his religious orientation.  Rockquemore admits that the discussions about race do not show the best side of the society. It is not something that the society talks about with a great deal of comfort.

However, the author of the book Rockquemore hopes to provide some instruction, and hope for parents of biracial children (Rockquemore, 2005). This is to confront the social and motional challenges that she experienced, and noted down in her time. She also ants it to provide some help to teachers, and educators that find themselves dealing with larger numbers of biracial children. In the past, there was a doctrine in schools that a biracial child had to grow up with a black mentality else they would receive endless pathologies.

Historical perspective

Of course people know better because it is a different time, but that also means that there is still a lot of room for improvement. The account of biracial births in the United States goes back about four hundred years in the 1600s. In the year 1630, a man called Hugh Davis was logged in front of a mixed crowd of white Virginia colonists, and African slaves. His only crime was that he had sex with an African woman. At the time this was a dishonor to God, and an abomination. It seems the discrimination on the biracial had begun long before the civil rights movement almost half a century onward (Korgen, 1999).

It was as if the whites wanted to keep their race pure from any form of ‘contamination’ whatsoever. If they allowed the blacks, and whites to intermarry there would be such a blend soon from their children that one would not be able to tell the result and that would be disastrous for them. Of course this was quite inevitable, and futile for the whites to obstruct. The first biracial births happened on after the arrival of the first Africans on the North American mainland. This happened when the African slaves were sold to the white masters and interacted with their white slaves.

They shared the same hardships, and situations on the plantations and in some instances friendships were born, and in some cases, love affairs. These gave way to biracial offspring. Of course, this created a bit of a problem for the administration when it cam to slavery questions. The church especially frowned upon relations between Africans and whites to a degree that sexual intercourse with a black by a white was deemed as bestiality as of 1622.

During this era, there was a deficiency of women in the colonies both black and white. Thus, when a biracial child was born chances were that it was that of a white father and a black mother. The common law stated that all children had to be relegated to the status of their fathers. This gave the landowners a bit of a problem because they would lose labor rights over such an individual and could not use him as a slave.  To curb this problem, the Virginia assembly determined that an African woman having a biracial child would subject the child to the same treatment as of an African child.

Therefore, a biracial child in this case, would also be considered a slave. There were also harsh punishments meted out to white women who delivered children with a trace of African blood. Of course, this was to solve the problem of slavery, but it was still a losing battle of purity. Most of these affairs were of course out of wedlock and, thus,  quite flexible and random. This mad them more unpredictable and hard to deal with from a white man’s perspective. They were like a problem that could not be fixed, and in a way they were right.

Philosophical view of equality

To solve the problem, there must be certain virtues instilled into the society. The virtue of equality has received quite an amount of analysis from the philosophers Plato and Aristotle. It was the Louis Fischer who was able to offer a compilation of about four types of quality according to his research. These have evolved over the course of time. They are ontological equality, equality of opportunity, equality of result and that of condition.

The first type of equality which is ontological bases on the fact that everyone is equal and that everyone is the same in the eyes of God because he created everyone equally. The second type is to make sure that every person gets what they deserve and is better suited to a lawful interpretation whereas everyone has a valid reason to get representation. No one should get economic or religious discrimination. The other form of equality is of condition which strives for the equality o the living standard of every person, as well as, that of various social groups.

Equality of out come emphasizes that of government resources and that of its allocation. Environmental conditioning, which is also known as social interaction, is a critical part of socialization. People should realize that nature has nothing to do with the discrete categorization o human traits or their various identities. People are the ones who create these identities to simplify the complexity of their various multiple identities and realities. In essence this environmental conditioning should be directed for good, but instead it leads to dichotomization, as well as, fragmentation.

The factors that influence such socialization are found in the world view of the dominant western culture. These are centered on groupings and beliefs. Stereotypes tend to exert their power, as well as, their control through the use of prejudice and discrimination; therefore, the individuals that are of the status in the majority tend to hold the majority. This is because they are socialized to seek power. Power is the key to control and people tend to listen to those who have power. They socialize those who do not have an in a position that is not advantageous and this ends up in oppression in most circumstances.

When trying to challenge the difficulties attained as a result of institutionalized aspects of discrimination, the problems may seem too complex or too hard. Bringing about the change that is needed in the American culture, for example, which is, enunciated by the majority imposing stereotypes on the minority will a require a lot of carefully thought out strategies each correspond to the one goal. One of the outspoken changes is from the self advocacy of those in the civil rights movements and the legislations.

Civil rights movement and effects

History has taught that anyone in such a position as to be marginalized typically found themselves with few options afforded to them by the government. This was because of some rigid laws that had the purpose of usurping their access to the local protections, as well as, due process to law. The harsh reality of individuals in these positions is that they should assume the role of an agent of change and assume the responsibilities of the attendant in that role. The civil rights movement in the United States for example has existed for over forty years.

This is because the virtue of the minority group put their goals in one area which was civil rights. Out of the movement in the 60s there was a growing impetus and growing militancy within the ranks of the minority individuals. The sacrifice of a lot of African Americans in the sixties laid the ground foundations for a lot anti discrimination movements. His include those of lesbians, gays, women, as well as, people with disabilities. Most of these started after the main movement or African Americans and based themselves from that. The ear of emancipation had already begun, and many groups earned the piece of the cake after some struggle.

Cultural and personal Identity

One of the biggest forms of personal power is that of culture. This is that of being able to identify one and if necessary relate with a group of people or an organization. Tomlinson (2003) states that the largest view of the power of identity are that of any person that is surveying that of dramatic movements of minority groups such as gender and religion. Because it recognizes the significant cultural resources of resistance, globalization gives a hand in getting the power into perspective. On the other hand, there are many factors that hinder multi-racial identity.

For one, the conflict between public and private definitions may bring some conflict because the individual’s view of themselves may not match that of the outside world towards them. This brings feelings of anger and frustration and marginalization. Then there is justification of questions related to identity. This is such that, multiracial people have to justify themselves on their definitions when they are faced with questions on their ethnicities. This leads to low self esteem and constant introspection. Multiracial people also face the problem of social pressures. These are questions that define them in one way or another.

This may be a single race identity or a mixed race identity that does not incorporate their fluid specifications. Multiracial youths are often faced with conflicting messages. These emanate from their family and the messages received from the community. They may realize that the two are completely different. Here, one states that race is relevant and the other dos not agree with that statement. Multiracial people often face difficulty when it comes to rejection. They lie in a middle ground because of their origin. They cannot subscribe to the dominant group for obvious reasons. At the same time, they cannot quite go to the smaller group. Thus, they find themselves stuck.

There may be some approaches that may be taken as precaution to curb these disturbances. There is many a time that a culturally diverse family is held in a negative sense of view. The first step that on must take is make a concerted effort to understand all of the cultural dimensions that lie within an organization or one’s environment. Thus, one can acknowledge that there is a difference between people and groups. In the second phase people should attempt to talk freely about their cultural diversities with a few conditions in their communication. These are such that they should not resort to stereotypes for one.

This is because there are no two people that are exactly the same and also to avoid people getting offended. The second thing is to remember that as the diversity within the environment or the company in a work situation grows, then so does the complexity of the communication and the need to develop communication skills as well. As a result, awareness and discussion may provide a better picture of the situation at hand. In this situation tolerance may not be the only thing needed at the time. Supporting cultural differences among individuals, as well as, nurturing them is essential.

When it comes to cultural diversity mapping there are a few methods that cold be put into place to help the process along.  These ethical distinctions form the basis for mapping by using political censuses, as well as, statistics to promote objectivity. At the same time, coordination with education facilities and media for language purposes is a noble cause. Teaching a second language to children of different cultural backgrounds is a foundation so as to give them a base for common communication. This serves to create consciousness and cultural diversity awareness I the eyes of the general public.

School experiences

Research has been done on racially diverse environments and various results have been derived as a result. Previous research associated with racially diverse environments when it comes to education has yielded results stating positive social and intellectual outcomes for students in university. When it comes to university he issue of cultural diversity, however, is linked to the assumption that individuals may come together to discuss their ethnic backgrounds which may be of different origin. Studies show that a lot of these discussions will concern diversity and issues on culture across race will cause student retention and have a good impression on the student about his experience in campus.

This data of course has no way of being completely proven as it is self reported and cannot also measure cognitive effects. Research in the area of this field although, has yielded result suggesting that the more heterogonous a group then the more the probability that it will have better problem solving skills than when it is of homogenous composition. This suggests that mixture of different elements adds to a group rather than takes away from the group. On the other hand the homogeneity of a group may lead it to have cohesive and other such desirable attributes, but in the end may take away by creating a lack of creativity (Švob-%u0110oki%u0107,  N. and Obuljen, N. 2003).

Thus the group may have less productivity when put into retrospect. Of course most people would tend to believe that cohesiveness of a group will create increased productivity, but in the actual sense, this creates a phenomenon called group think. This is the basis of what results in poor decision making. The basis is caused by unanimity of the decisions because of the homogeneity of the group. No one will likely give an opposing opinion if they are from the same back ground and so leaves space for compromise on the quality of some decisions made for the groups welfare.

Identity versus racial diversity

When it comes to racial diversity, then there may be divergence in backgrounds, as well as, the values of the individuals that may be presented in novel situations. The novel situation of course may be perceived or actual. When it comes down to the bottom line most lines of racial diversity are perceived rather than real. People seem to be fixated on the purpose of further subdividing themselves along racial lines when it actual sense the differences may be quite minimal that they could be negligible. This may arise from a need to identify oneself as unique, but oddly enough there is a small physical difference between one race and the other and the many blends in between (Dalmage, 2000).

The identity of a person is complex as it may have several different parts or fields of influence. According to the psychologist Erikson, identity seems to be a process from simultaneous reflection and observation.  This process takes place supposedly on all the levels of functioning in the mental sense. At this point the individual perceives how others may perceive him and how he perceives himself. Identity also seems to be fashioned from some individual characteristics, as well as, the family element and the historical context.

Researchers for one discovered that the identity issues may differ depending on the racial backgrounds of the children in schools. It is especially different when considering biracial children who are white or minorities. These studies showed that children had the tendency to get confused because they did not know how to connect with their racial heritage. On the one hand, their mother may be of one descent and on the other; their father may encourage them to take another direction (Antonio, Chang, Hakuta). The schools and the community do not also help matters much because they ignore this aspect. This leaves a grey field where the children do not know where to go.

There are many examples of these factors including gender age, the structure of the family, whether intact or not, sexual orientation, as well as, the level of exposure experienced (Wade, 1999). It seems that a lot of what people think about themselves seems to be linked to how they perceive others view them in the overall context. This also links to the feelings that these perceptions generate and what they do for a persons self esteem. If the perception is negative or if the reception from others is nebulous then it will be difficult to develop a positive identity out look.

In the long run identity is a dynamic process that takes a person mostly all of his or her life to develop. It may also fluctuate depend on the circumstances that a person is dealt. According to Erikson and some other psychologists, identity formation is a process that begins at birth at its basic form. It gains critical importance at the point of adolescence when the person starts to experience many changes and revelations. It continues to develop during adulthood. It is very important because it influences how people relate with one other and with each other.

Thus the solutions to some of these diversity problems of discrimination are based solved at the individual level rather than as a group. At this point a person can ascertain their issues with perceptions of others, as well as, that of themselves. If they manage to conquer their insecurities then they can go on to do some good and make a difference. Race is a word that was socially constructed to differentiate a group of people from the others based on their outward social characteristics. They are in fact, quite unnecessary for anything other than social statuses.

The concept of racial difference first originated in the united states in the 1800s so as to differentiate. The concept was supposed to justify the issue of racial prejudice so that it would be okay to discriminate the blacks (Hud-Aleem and Countryman, 2008). In this way, negative traits were attributed to the blacks while the superior and admirable were reserved for the whites. Of course much has changed since then. The identity models for different categories of people have gotten more complicated for one. These have progressed over time as the society began to accept different groupings of people.

Conclusion

For example, before the seventies in the United States there was no platform for people such as women and people of color. That goes especially for leadership in government, (Organista. et. al, 2010). A lot of things have changed since then as there are now movements for gays and lesbians and other minority that would not exist. These groups would be illegal and probably would never see the light of day if they were brought out in their full context just a few decades ago. That is the extent of development it would seem that people grow a new shade of tolerance every few decades or so in their lifetime.

They hate to admit it because this would bring out their incredible vanity. It exists under the surface although; they hate to admit it every so often. That is the ugly truth and hardly anyone can escape it. Most of the time identity issues that come up from discrimination would be blamed on things like up bringing or environmental conditions or even status situations pertaining financial status. In reality the main reason is people themselves and the hung ups they may have, but do not want to admit. 

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