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Eleven
The Undergraduate Journal of Sociology
Volume 1
2010
Created By UndergradUates at the
University of California, Berkeley
Eleven
Editor-in-Chief
Aaron Benavidez
Managing Editor
Laura Siragusa
Editors
Rudy S. Garcia, Nicole Iturriaga, Annie Lin,
William Pe, Johnny Tran, Janet Yi, and Mira Yuzon
The Undergraduate Journal of Sociology
Volume 1
Directors of Public Relations
Wafa Hazem and Charita Law
Faculty Advisor
Sandra Smith
Undergraduate Advisors
Cristina Rojas and Jennifer Sykora
Production Consultant
Cover Designer
Colt Shane Fulk
Cover Artist
Sir. X
Eleven: The Undergraduate Journal of Sociology, Vol. 1, 2010, is the annual
publication of Eleven: The Undergraduate Journal of Sociology, a non-profit unincorporated
association at the University of California, Berkeley.
Grants and Financial Support: This journal was made possible by generous grants
from the ASUC Intellectual Community Fund and the Department of Sociology at the
University of California, Berkeley.
Special Appreciation: We would also like to additionally thank: Kristi Bedolla, Victoria
Bonnell, Michael Burawoy, Bill Gentry, Allison Hall, Mia Houtermans, Mary Kelsey,
Trond Petersen, Alyse Ritvo, Sue Thur, Kim Voss, Belinda White, and the Department
of Sociology at the University of California, Berkeley.
Contributors: Contributions may be in the form of articles and review essays. Please
see the Guide for Future Contributors at the end of this issue.
Review Process: Our review process is double-blind. Each submission is given a
number and all reviewers are supplied a specific review number per each submission. If
an editor is familiar with any submission, she or he declines review. Our review process
ensures the highest integrity and fairness in evaluating submissions. Each submission is
read by three trained reviewers.
Subscriptions: Our limited print version of the journal is available without fee. If you
would like to make a donation for the production of future issues, please inquire at
eleven.ucb@gmail.com.
Copyright © 2010 Eleven: The Undergraduate Journal of Sociology unless otherwise
noted.
2010
“The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways;
the point, however, is to change it.”
–Karl Marx, “XI” from “Theses on Feuerbach”
Editor’s Note
Aaron Benavidez
1
‘How Can You Say You’re Only One?’: Identity and
Community Among Mixed Black High School Students
Alyssa Newman
3
The Disappearance of Black San Franciscans: 1970-2010
Sarah Erlich
29
Capitalist Development as White Elephant:
A Case Study of Argentina’s Yacyretá Hydroelectric Dam
Simeon J. Newman
54
The Chicana/o Compromise: Parenting Re-Socialization
of Immigrant Mexican Families in the Bay Area
José Soto
84
Notes on Contributors
110
Guide for Future Contributors
112
Created By UndergradUates at the
University of California, Berkeley
ELEVEN: THE UNDERGRADUATE JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY
1
EDITOR’S NOTE
We are proud to introduce the first volume of Eleven: The Undergraduate
Journal of Sociology. Conceived in August 2009 by four sociology students,
Eleven was originally forged to offer a much-needed forum for undergraduate
papers. With this goal in mind, we sought generous help from Professor
Sandra Smith and the UC Berkeley Department of Sociology. These sources
of support provided honest advice and necessary inspiration.
Since its inception, Eleven was intended to fulfill two promises: to
expand the recognition of exceptional undergraduate work in the social
sciences and to give students the opportunity to share their research with a
community of fellows. These two promises—one that, no doubt, encourages
individual scholarship and one that resists academic individualism by
inspiring dialogue—have propelled Eleven from an embryonic spark to a
new-fangled publication.
Eleven was also envisioned as a social experiment, a burning desire to
explore the limitations and possibilities that might emerge from a publication
that embraces Marx’s “Eleventh Thesis.”
Earnestly, we asked ourselves a series of questions related to the
thesis that Engels portended would be “the brilliant germ of the new world
outlook.” What types of social scientific methods present more than mere
interpretation and speculation? Should we privilege papers written to address
an empirical puzzle and snub research driven by theoretical concerns?
Would a paper that embodies the command that one should “change” the
world offer policy recommendations along with analysis? Could our modest
journal promote enough transformation to actually constitute “a change” in
everyday terms, let alone in line with Marxist ideals?
We still have not fully answered these questions. Nor are we done
lifting our namesake thesis to the light, watching our inquiries refract in
multiple directions. What we do know, however, is this: scholarship written
from a perspective that seeks to promote social change is fairly easy to spot.
This scholarship seeks to visibilize otherwise invisible affairs not from a topdown gaze but from a standpoint already informed by speaking nearby, what
Patricia Hill Collins might call an outsider-within perspective.
We see variations of this orientation in all four of the articles
published in this edition. Alyssa Newman, once a multiracial black high
school student herself, sought to explore both the trials and triumphs for
multiracial black high school students who assert a multiracial identity
and the conditions under which a multiracial identity is possible. José
2
EDITOR’S NOTE
Soto, whose own biography includes navigating between Euro-American
and Mexican pedagogical practices, complicates early development and
childrearing theories. His work questions a “one-white-size-fits-all-colors”
understanding of parenting strategies, which he concludes is problematic on
moral and scientific grounds.
Both Simeon Newman and Sarah Erlich bring to light historical
events not comprehensively explained in social scientific literature. Newman
explains why the Yacyretá hydroelectric dam, Argentina’s largest and most
important development project, failed to achieve its original promise of
economic prosperity for the state. Erlich, for her part, reveals the literal
and figurative disappearance of Black San Franciscans between 1970 and
2010. Her work diligently charts the multiple and complex factors that led
to a precipitous decline of African Americans in a city known as a minoritymajority metropolis.
We hope that you will read this journal from cover to cover. The
collection of articles testifies both to the talent of undergraduates and to the
refusal to retire their scholarship to a dusty closet much too soon. So join us
in celebrating this edition, a long awaited volume by and for undergraduates.
Aaron Benavidez,
Eleven Editor-in-Chief
‘How Can You Say You’re
Only One?’: Identity and
Community Among Mixed
Black High School Students
Alyssa Newman
University of California, Santa Barbara
Abstract
This paper investigates the role of peers and community in the development and
assertion of racial identity for mixed black students at a high school in Northern
California. A survey of 129 students from all grades and racial backgrounds
found that students felt pressured to conform to stereotypical notions of race.
In addition, interviews with seven mixed black students showed that there was
little differentiation of racial identity (all identified as multiracial) and a rejection
of the “one-drop rule.” While school peers and others in the community
often imparted expectations of stereotypical black behavior (in terms of taste
in music, style of dress, manner of speaking, etc.), the school’s noticeably
present mixed race population lent visibility and normalcy to the adoption of a
multiracial identity. Experiences among mixed black students varied depending
on factors such as the racial demographics of the neighborhood they lived in,
what other high schools they have attended, their phenotypical appearance, and
their fortitude in asserting a mixed race identity.
Keywords
race, multiracial, identity, youth, stereotypes
INTRODUCTION
Fears of racial mixing, hybrid degenerative theory, and stereotypes
such as the “tragic mulatto” have had lingering effects on the offspring of
interracial unions since the codification of laws against interracial marriage
in the seventeeth century. People of mixed racial descent have been plagued
by lasting stereotypical images, pressures from an externally imposed
identity, and doubts regarding racial group legitimacy. These issues are
further complicated by racial and ethnic stereotypes or societal prejudices
linked to any one of the multiple heritages associated with one’s multiracial
background (Kellogg 2006). Under these unique conditions, the process of
identity formation can be especially complicated for mixed race individuals.
4
‘HOW CAN YOU SAY YOU’RE ONLY ONE?’
Recently, national attention was finally drawn to the complexity of
the multiracial experience when the 2000 Census, for the first time, allowed
multiracial individuals to check multiple responses for race categorization.
With the 2010 Census fast approaching, a deeper understanding of the
multiracial identity is needed. Namely, a robust analysis of what factors
influence a multiracial person’s self-identification is necessary to clarify
whether or not, with the option available, they will claim their multiple racial
identities.
In a nation that relies heavily on race as a social indicator—a
cue that tells us about who a person is, including assumptions about a
person’s class, education, and social status—the existence of mixed race
individuals challenges the ability to recognize race immediately and utilize
racial assumptions. In the colonial history of the United States after the
decline of white indentured servitude, race was a simple indicator—it
defined whether a person was slave or free. Today, however, with the broad
spectrum of nationalities, accents, cultures, and other social backgrounds
that comprise the American demographic, a simple glance at a person’s
skin color does not easily convey as much, especially when that person
appears to be “racially ambiguous.” As Omi and Winant (1994) observe:
One of the first things we notice about people when we
meet them (along with their sex) is their race. We utilize race
to provide clues about who a person is. This fact is made
painfully obvious when we encounter someone whom we
cannot conveniently racially categorize—someone who is,
for example, racially “mixed” or of an ethnic/racial group
we are not familiar with. Such an encounter becomes a
source of discomfort and momentarily a crisis of racial
meaning (p. 59).
The history of black multiracials1—unique among any other multiracial
groups given its multitude of former census categories (e.g., mulatto,
quadroon, octoroon) and the contemporary multiracial movement—makes
for a very interesting moment to look at black multiracial identity. The mixed
black identity provides a special lens to view race in the United States, one
that can expose racism from multiple sides, from colorism within the black
1
The terms black multiracials, mixed black, and multiracial black are intended to indicate
persons who are part black in heritage and “mixed” with one or more other racial heritages
and may be used interchangeably.
ELEVEN: THE UNDERGRADUATE JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY
5
community to overt or covert instances of racism within broader society. At
this moment, when a growing and increasingly vocal multiracial population
is gaining power in public discourse, issues affecting the mixed black
community will be more pertinent and visible to the rest of society than
ever before. Even more, President Barack Obama’s multiracial black identity
as well as his public discussion of race punctuate this reality emphatically.
Multiracial people can no longer be ignored or rendered invisible, whether in
schools, the local community, or in political and social debate.
This study focuses on black multiracial high school students and how
their interactions with peers, teachers, administrators, and others in the
community affect their identity formation and views on race. I specifically
looked at how their self-identification may or may not have changed
over time, and what incidents or experiences may have affected identity
formation and formulation. I limited the study to black multiracial students
to see how the legacy of hypodescent or the one-drop rule may have had
a continuing impact in pressuring students to arrive at a black monoracial
self-identification. Part of the intent behind undertaking this research was
to help identify how race is constructed and reinforced. Only by identifying
and understanding the mechanisms by which race is constructed and
reconstructed are people able to fight against the elements of privilege and
oppression inherent in a system of hierarchically structured racial categories.
The literature review that follows elaborates on this hierarchical social order,
the history of black multiracials in the United States, and the conceptions
of race and hypodescent that likely impact the way mixed blacks view their
racial identity today.
LITERATURE REVIEW
Much of the work within the literature is inspired by the unique
position—an ambiguous, intermediate standing in terms of racial
identification, and, unfortunately, an often marginalized space—that
multiracial or mixed race individuals occupy in the United States. In part,
these difficulties arise because race itself is constantly evolving in order
to maintain relevance in face of groups it cannot accurately categorize.
Many social scientists conceive of race as a social construction, a view
that distinguishes “between race as a physical category and race as a social
category” (Banton 1979:128). In other words, social scientists distinguish
between the biological concept of race and race as perceived biological
differences given significance through social meaning and status assignment
(p. 128). Racial distinctions are a necessary tool of dominance, and racial
6
‘HOW CAN YOU SAY YOU’RE ONLY ONE?’
categories have traditionally served primarily to separate the “subordinate”
people out. Given this function of race, the fact that racially mixed
people fall under multiple racial categories makes their standing in a racial
hierarchy somewhat open for question (Spickard 1992). The United States
has addressed the status of multiracial individuals and the questions they
generate uniquely by following the “one-drop rule” of racial assignment for
people of mixed black racial descent.
The “one-drop rule,” a socio-legal-sanctioned decree that operates by
a principle of hypodescent, stipulates that any person with as little as “one
drop” of African blood is considered to be black (Davis 1991; Fredrickson
2002). This system of racial classification reinforced the idea of the
exclusivity and purity of whiteness; only those “untainted” with any other
blood could maintain the privilege of a white racial status. In addition, the
“one-drop rule” conveniently added to the “property” of slave-owners since
any children born to slaves were automatically given the same slave (and,
therefore, property) status as their shackled parent. As F. James Davis (1991)
confirms: “American slave owners wanted to keep all racially mixed children
born to slave women under their control, for economic and sexual gains,
and [to] define such children as anything other than black became a major threat
to the entire system” (p. 114; emphasis added). Even with a strict prohibition
against sexual relations across races, white men were able to sexually violate
black slave women across an extreme power differential in which slave
women, completely devoid of rights and humanity, were powerless to resist
or consent to such advances. Moreover, Davis elaborates, “it was intolerable
for white women to have mixed children, so the one-drop rule favored the
sexual freedom of white males, protecting the double standard of sexual
morality as well as slavery (p. 114). This two-fold benefit from the “one-drop
rule” enabled white men to not only enjoy racial dominance but also gender
and sexual dominance, while simultaneously ensuring that white women,
the epitome of white racial purity, would continue to protect the sanctity of
whiteness through “racially pure” progeny.
As the “one-drop rule” demonstrates, the United States solution to
the problem of racial classification is one that relies almost exclusively on
ancestry, as a person need not appear phenotypically identifiable as black
to be considered black. However, much of the dominant scholarship on
race fails to recognize the United States system of racial classification as
unique in that respect, often treating the U.S. system as the standard rather
than an exception. Loïc Wacquant poignantly remarks that since “the
sociology of ‘race’ all over the world is dominated by U.S. scholarship,” and
“U.S. scholarship itself is suffused with U.S. folk conceptions of ‘race,’ the
ELEVEN: THE UNDERGRADUATE JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY
7
peculiar schema of racial division developed by one country during a small
segment of its short history, a schema unusual for its degree of arbitrariness,
rigidity and social consequentiality, has been virtually universalized as the
template through which analyses of ‘race’ in all countries and epochs are
to be conducted” (Wacquant 1997:224). In fact, throughout the world the
question of racial designation of multiracial people has been answered
differently (Davis 1991; Wagley 1965). According to Charles Wagley, “the
criteria for defining social races differ from region to region in the Americas.
In one region, ancestry is stressed, in another region sociocultural criteria are
emphasized, and in still another, physical appearance is the primary basis for
classifying people according to social race” (Wagley 1965:532; emphasis
original). These different methods of classification demonstrate variation
across the United States, Latin America, and the Caribbean and help expose
the complexity of maintaining racial hierarchy when confronted with people
who do not neatly fit into a preassigned racial category.
A brief survey of the literature related to how multiracial people are
racially assigned across the Americas helps to demonstrate the diversity
of systems of racial classification outside of the United States context.
For example, Harry Hoetink’s work on race in the Caribbean shows how
even among the Caribbean islands, which he divides into Hispanic and
non-Hispanic categories, the “models” of race relations differ stemming
from their experiences during colonialism and slavery (Hoetink 1985). In
much of the Hispanic Caribbean, “a color continuum developed within
which subtle differences in skin color, hair texture, and facial features
were noted and essentially catalogued in an extensive vocabulary, with all
its social implications, but without any group striving after (or succeeding
in) the maintenance of strict endogamy, which might have created a
clear separation from all others” (p. 61). A robust emphasis on color and
extensive vocabulary for racial mixtures also exists in many parts of Latin
America (such as Nicaragua and Brazil), which represent alternative models
to the United States racial classification system (Lancaster 1991; Wagley
1965). These differing models not only determined how multiracial people
were classified, but also generated messages about the social acceptability
and discouragement of interracial unions. Hence, the status of multiracial
people in these societies was intimately connected to the models of race
relations that have historically developed within a given country. F. James
Davis (1991), for example, chronicles seven different statuses for racially
mixed progeny: a lower status than either parent group, a higher status, an
in-between status, a variable status, and more. These scholarly works expose
different ways race is socially constructed around the world.
8
‘HOW CAN YOU SAY YOU’RE ONLY ONE?’
While skin color is considered extremely important to the system
of racial classification in many of the countries previously discussed, it is
also a salient factor in the United States as well. As darker skin color has
typically been used to identify and separate “subordinate” people, inversely,
white skin was used to denote privilege. Within the black community, or
other communities of color, people of mixed racial descent (and their
monoracial counterparts) often encounter the issue of colorism. Since many
mixed blacks tend to have somewhat different physical features than those
of their monoracial black counterparts, skin color, hair texture, and other
phenotypical elements are often relevant to a discussion of the mixed black
experience. G. Reginald Daniel (1996) insists that colorism “persists into
the present due to the enduring Eurocentric bias in the larger American
society,” and asserts that Eurocentric features can both denote privilege in
some circles and result in discrimination and social exclusion in others (p.
131). Multiracial blacks potentially contend with the oscillating experience
of having their European features valued (thereby, providing them with an
elevated status) and/or having others resent them for it (being relegated to
a relative outsider status as someone who is “different”). This simultaneous
insider/outsider status also contributes to another aspect of the mixed
black experience, namely, a potentially heightened exposure or vulnerability
to racism and discrimination. For example, one study compared different
perceptions of racism between white, black, and black-white multiracial
students on the urban campus of a Southern university. The black-white
multiracial students reported the most experience with perceiving racism
and prejudice on campus, which was attributed to the unique viewpoint
that multiracials have on race and the multiple fronts from which they
can experience racism (Brackett 2006). While lighter skin color and an
approximation of European phenotypical features may denote privilege to
mixed blacks in some surroundings, these characteristics do not exempt them
from experiencing racism or discrimination in all contexts. In fact, several
scholars note that a multiracial ancestry may make them more vulnerable to
racial attacks in certain situations (Daniel 2002; Rockquemore and Brunsma
2002; Renn 2004; Brackett 2006)
Context also has a significant impact on the way the mixed race person
identifies his or herself. The research of David Harris and Jeremiah Sim
(2002) exposes just how fluid and contextual multiracial identity may be.
Using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health,
Harris and Sim demonstrate how multiracial adolescents included in the study
gave inconsistent answers regarding their racial identity when interviewed
at home (survey questions administered by an interviewer and often with
ELEVEN: THE UNDERGRADUATE JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY
9
family members present) and when answering a self-administered survey
at school (Harris and Sim 2002). In addition, these researchers found that
patterns surrounding contexts of identifying monoracially and multiracially
varied among the multiracial groups they studied (white/black, white/Asian,
and white/American Indian youth).
While context is one area of mixed race identity that continues to
deserve more attention in the literature, the legacy of the “one-drop rule”
has also limited the scope of multiracial research by making the various
ways a mixed race person may racially identify unproblematic. Taking the
racial identity of multiracial people for granted (in effect, assuming that they
identify monoracially as a member of the “subordinate” group of their racial
heritage as the “one-drop rule” would imply) has stymied further inquiry
into the mixed race identity and what forms it may take. Yet, one would be
remiss in not highlighting significant work that has contributed to the study
of multiracial blacks.
In their seminal 2002 work, Rockquemore and Brunsma uncover
three different types of multiracial identities. First and most common is
the “border identity,” in which individuals see their identity as “in-between”
and incorporate both or all into a sort of unique hybrid. Next, they posit,
are people who adhere to a “protean identity” and thus vary their racial
identity depending on the social and cultural context. Lastly, people who
ascribe to a “transcendent identity” do not identify with any race and really
see race as a false category. They answer the frequent inquiries about their
race with “I belong to the human race,” or leave the check boxes for race on
questionnaires blank, or check “other” (Rockquemore and Brunsma 2002).
Kristen Renn (2004) also noted similar patterns in mixed race identities
among college students, and found slight differences between students who
adopt monoracial, “border,” “protean,” and “transcendent” identities by
factors such as gender, whether the individual had two parents of color or
one and despite racial demographics of their current community.
As the United States Census and many other government-administered
surveys now allow respondents to check more than one box for their racial
identity, new data and opportunities for research are enabling even more
questions relating to multiracial identity to be asked. In looking towards the
future of mixed race and the multiracial movement, Daniel (1992) argues
for “the next logical step in the progression of civil rights, the expansion of
our notion of affirmative action to include strategies not only for achieving
socioeconomic equity, but also for affirming a nonhierarchical identity that
embraces a ‘holocentric’ racial self ” (p. 333). In addition, Gino Pellegrini
(2005) focuses specifically on the growing multiracial movement in the
10
‘HOW CAN YOU SAY YOU’RE ONLY ONE?’
post-Civil Rights era and the push for the right to assert a multiracial,
multifaceted identity. This work looks at the role of colleges and multiracial
campus groups in fostering the movement, and how these college campus
movements helped propel and fuel the larger national one. Angela Kellogg
(2006) also found that most of her mixed race respondents sought to
establish a multiracial, multifaceted identity and sought to assert that they
were “double not half ” to claim their multiple heritages. These scholarly
works represent a move away from the tacit acceptance of the “one-drop
rule” and monoracial identity. In fact, these works align more closely with
the findings from my research, pointing towards a collective move away
from monoracial identification.
METHODS AND SETTING
The methodology for this research consisted of in-depth qualitative
interviews with seven multiracial black high school students and a survey
of 129 of their peers. In designing the study, I wanted to be able to focus
on a single campus to see how attitudes about race in this singular, specific
community affected students’ racial self-identification. My research was
conducted in the early months of 2008 at Oakview High,2 a school in a
Northern California suburb, which, according to the school’s 2005-2006
accountability report card, was populated by 1,545 ninth to twelfth graders.
The school’s “socioeconomically disadvantaged” population represented
46.5 percent of total enrollment, and another 18 percent of students were
described as English language learners. In terms of ethnic categories, the
school reported the following statistics: White (non-Hispanic), 45 percent;
Hispanic or Latino, 20.1 percent; Asian, 6.3 percent; African American,
18.4 percent, Multiple or No Response, 6.3 percent; and Other, 3.9 percent.
These responses include 1.5 percent or less for American Indian or Alaska
Native, Filipino, and Pacific Islander.3 Aside from the category of “Multiple
or No Response,” no further details on mixed race students could be
found. In addition, the consolidation of “Multiple and No Response” is
potentially misleading since there are a variety of reasons why there may be
“No Response” on the ethnic category for a student—that is, a “Multiple
2
The names of the high school, interviewees, and cities or suburbs have been changed to
preserve anonymity. Some of the pseudonyms used were suggestions from the interviewees.
3
Although the report shows a majority of students on campus were White, both students and
teachers acknowledged that the proportion of minorities on campus has gone up since the
2005-2006 school year. However I was not able to obtain exact demographics for the current
school year.
ELEVEN: THE UNDERGRADUATE JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY
11
or No Response” may be completely unrelated to whether students refuse
to respond based on their belonging in multiple racial or ethnic categories
(such as those multiracials who embrace Rockquemore and Brunsma’s
(2002) “transcendent identity”). In fact, there is no way to distinguish
whether the combination of these two response types overinflates the
multiracial population of students on campus or whether that number is
minimally impacted by a small number of non-responses being included in
that category.
The racial demographics of Oakview High School provided an ideal
context for undertaking this research, largely because of the racially diverse
setting and sizable representation of a variety of racial groups on campus.
While the school accountability report card shows a 45 percent whiteidentified student population, the report does not reflect the proportion of
those students who are first or second generation of Russian or Ukrainian
descent. Nevertheless, the further differentiated ethnic breakdown of the
white category contributed to a campus environment that did not seem to be
dominated by any one racial group. For investigating the ways in which black
multiracial students receive messages about their racial identity from their
peers, having a diverse student body was valuable in that I did not merely get
a picture of how, for example, monoracial black students interacted with and
impacted the racial identity of their black multiracial counterparts, but also
how other non-black racial groups interacted with students of mixed black
racial backgrounds.
The specific racial environment at Oakview High was deliberately
chosen and represents a highly specific educational institution setting. As
such, I do not purport to extend the findings of this study as generalizable
to other social settings. Rather, I hope that the unique dynamics of the high
school where I situated my research and the detailed attention I paid to the
racial messages received by black multiracial students at this school will expose
the mechanisms by which interactions with peers, teachers, administrators,
and others in the community may (or may not) impact the way students
construct their racial self-identification. By exposing these mechanisms, it
is possible that they will work in similar ways across other settings such as
a predominately white high school. Therefore, this case study is merely an
opening of a conversation, one that will hopefully, in time, demonstrate the
multiple ways in which messages about racial boundaries and belonging are
sent to multiracial black adolescents and the extent to which the “one-drop
rule” continues to (or ceases to) shape the racial perception of those with
one black parent and one parent of a different race.
To get an overall picture of how the campus setting was perceived by
12
‘HOW CAN YOU SAY YOU’RE ONLY ONE?’
students, I chose to administer a survey. The brief survey was given to 129
students from all grades and racial backgrounds during their history course.
The survey asked for students’ racial backgrounds, opinions of groups on
campus (whether they tended to be monoracial or mixed), whether they or
their fellow classmates had been treated differently by others due to their
race (and whether differential treatment was received from other students,
teachers, administrators, people in the community, or friends and family),
and any specific incidents that described differential treatment they had
either experienced or witnessed on account of one’s race. The survey was
only intended to briefly reference how students of all racial backgrounds
interpreted the racial situation on campus and to get an overview of how
their experiences as racialized bodies may or may not have differed. As
a general and simple measure for assessing the school’s racial mood, the
survey was a valuable tool in getting a portrait of how experiences related to
race were seen by all students.
In addition to the survey, I also conducted in-depth interviews with
seven multiracial black students from Oakview High. Interviewees4 were
recruited either from contact information voluntarily given at the time of
the school-wide survey or from referrals (snowball sampling) through other
interviewees. I interviewed five juniors and two seniors. Two of the seven
interviewees were male. All respondents had one black or mixed black
parent (no interviewee had two mixed black parents), and all mothers were
non-black with the exception of one. Interviews were conducted mostly on
campus, although some took place in the respondents’ homes, and lasted
from thirty minutes to a little over an hour. Questions were geared towards
understanding students’ perspectives and experiences relating to their racial
identity from early childhood to the present.
The interview sample disproportionately favored female and partwhite students from a family in which the father was the black parent.
While the administration of the survey was largely impersonal, conducting
in-depth interviews with students about their experiences with race (which
at time could be sensitive or painful in their recollection), was a process in
which my own positionality and relation to the subject could not be removed.
As a female undergraduate student not terribly older than the students I
interviewed, also from a black multiracial background, my similarities to the
interview subjects almost certainly invoked a sense of shared life experiences.
In short, I was able to relate to my interviewees and sensed that they felt
4
Please see the Index of Interviewees on page 27.
ELEVEN: THE UNDERGRADUATE JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY
13
they could relate to me. While this could be an advantage given that students
probably felt more at ease talking with me, they also may have assumed a
shared similarity meant that they did not need to explain or elaborate on
their experiences and the feelings that resulted from them. I intentionally
remained conscious of these possible effects during my interviews, and
attempted to continually ask interviewees to expand upon their answers and
accounts while also resisting sharing my own narrative during interviews.
SUMMARY OF SURVEY RESULTS
The surveys were meant to determine if students thought that their high
school maintained cliques with a monoracial character. For those of mixed
race descent, a large degree of monoracial solidarity across campus cliques
created either the odd outsider/marginal status to all groups or conformity
to a single monoracial group. When students reflected upon the groups or
cliques on campus, 62.4 percent of students said that they themselves hung
out with friends from all sorts of different racial backgrounds, while 57.1
percent responded that their peers mostly hung out in monoracial groups.
These results expose an interesting disconnect between how students
interpreted their own behavior as compared with their perceptions of fellow
classmates.
The survey also sought to capture perceptions of differential treatment
on the basis of race. The survey specifically asked students if fellow
students, teachers, school administrators, family, friends, and/or others in
the community had ever treated them differently because of their race. For
each section, the majority of students reported that they had not felt they
were treated differently because of their race. However, the two highest
categories with “yes” responses were “by fellow students” at 41.7 percent
and “by others in the community” at 39.4 percent. Interestingly, when a
similar question was posed about the respondent’s perception of whether
their classmates had ever been treated differently because of their race, more
than half of students—54.7 percent—responded “yes”. Therefore, the “by
fellow students” category consistently received the most “yes” responses on
the question regarding differential treatment by race. Peers tended to be the
ones reinforcing racial norms and behaviors, as the open-ended response
sections on the surveys showed. Appendix A includes tables enumerating
the complete breakdown by percentage of “yes” and “no” responses by
category for both questions about the respondent’s experience and his or
her perceptions regarding the experience for others on campus.
The open-ended questions often revealed painful realities for students.
14
‘HOW CAN YOU SAY YOU’RE ONLY ONE?’
Many students shared a feeling of differential treatment from their peers.
These feelings ranged from non-acceptance to struggling to prove belonging
to one’s own racial group to outright exclusion based on racial difference.
Several responses were common among survey respondents. For example,
many students perceived stricter enforcement of the no-red-or-blue clothing
policy (meant to deter assumed gang associations on campus) for black and
Mexican students than for Asian and white students. In addition, students
often reported hearing racial jokes on campus from fellow students and
occasionally also from teachers. Furthermore, a sizable number had even
experienced racial joking personally. One student wrote: “Some students
make jokes and say ‘it’s because you’re black.’ But they laugh and act as if
they were playing but it really hurts.” In fact, students commonly reported
stereotypes, racial jokes, and sometimes even racial slurs, and a few students
actually described very blatant experiences with racism. The range of
students and their experiences showed that highly racially charged behaviors
were certainly not limited to any one race and that there had certainly
been incidents at the school and the community more generally that were
predicated on race.
Focusing on the African American respondents, a notable portion
reported feeling a set of expectations regarding how they were supposed to
act based on their racial identity. These students felt excluded or different
than the other black students due to the way they talked, their interests, and/
or their mannerisms. One girl commented: “My friends think that I should
be more ‘ethnic’ because I’m black.” Family members also enforced these
behavioral expectations. For example, another student reported: “My family
makes me feel like I should act a certain way because I’m black. It’s almost
like they’re ashamed I pronounce my ‘er’s.’” These social expectations were
also repeated in the interviews with mixed black students, demonstrating
that they were a central part of campus life relating to the enforcement of
racial boundaries.
There were also a considerable number of mixed-race survey
respondents. Several of these mixed-race students reported no instances of
differential treatment on campus and did not interpret racial discrimination
or differential treatment for their classmates either. Among the “yes” and
detailed responses, the answers of mixed black students mirrored those of
their monoracial black counterparts in that they reported certain behavioral
expectations associated with being black or part black. Their responses also
pointed out that people similarly make assumptions about the other, nonblack side of their heritage. This meant that they could have dual, competing
expectations of their behavior based on any one of their multiple racial
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15
backgrounds. For example, one mixed white and black male explained
that “people think because I’m half white I’m some preppy character.”
Another student, a multiracial black female, wrote that when she spoke a
certain way or exhibited a specific set of preferences her aunt would remark
“Oh, that’s what white people do” or “That’s the white in you.” Aside from
these expectations stemming from students’ whiteness, they also described
negative expectations and assumptions placed on black people by society’s
common black stereotypes. For example, one mixed black and white female
wrote: “People look at me funny in stores assuming I’m gonna steal because
I look black.” Mixed black survey respondents were vulnerable to differential
treatment based both on the fact that they were racially mixed and on the
fact that they were part black. While the surveys were significant in getting
a rough portrait of the racial environment of the campus, the in-depth
interviews were necessary to understand the complicated, contradictory, and
often confusing experience of being a mixed black student at Oakview High
School.
SUMMARY OF INTERVIEW RESULTS
The opportunity to speak at length with seven of the mixed black
students at Oakview High enabled me to examine their experiences in
detail. With each interview, I attempted to cover a wide range of topics and
themes: their histories (including how they have racially identified in the
past); their views on being multiracial; how it has impacted their interactions
with the black community; the ways in which they feel certain expectations
of behavior based on their race; how they contend with stereotypes about
any of the racial groups included in their heritage; and their ability to make
connections with other mixed-race individuals.
Racial Identification
Since my central question was to understand how students racially
identified and what impact that self-identification had in their lives, one of
my first tasks was to determine how students had thought of their racial
identity in the past, if it was fluid depending on their surroundings; and, if
it had changed at all over time, why it had changed and how they arrived
at their current racial self-identification. Nearly all interviewees reported
that they had always identified as mixed race from as early as they could
remember. Students often described memories of having to check boxes
indicating their race, and most claimed to have either always checked multiple
boxes or to have always selected the “Other” box and then written in their
16
‘HOW CAN YOU SAY YOU’RE ONLY ONE?’
mixed racial background. These students were assertive in accounting for
their mixed heritage, and they were willing to exert the extra effort necessary
to write in all of their races under “Other” if the form did not allow multiple
boxes. Jalyn, an effervescent senior with a black, Native American father of
Cape Verdean descent and a white mother of Irish and French background,
explained that she checks “Other” because: “I feel it’s kinda unfair if I just
check black or I just check white.” Another student, Derek, a gangly, tall,
16-year-old junior with a tightly curled miniature afro from a black-white
biracial family, reported that he simply had never felt personally pressured to
choose one side and always responded as mixed. Another interviewee, Ryan,
rebelled against the race question on the form entirely if it did not allow for
the checking of multiple boxes. Ryan a muscular, 17-year-old junior on the
football team with a Vietnamese and French father and black mother, skips
the question entirely: “Because to me the question is saying choose what
race you are. I don’t just choose one, I don’t just answer to one thing. I’m
both, or I’m all three …. I see it as you making a choice, like are you this or
are you that. If I’m both I’m not going to answer your question.” While his
firm stance is closest to the “transcendent identity” that Rockquemore and
Brunsma (2002) describe, most students ascribed to the “border identity.”
That is, most students tried to incorporate their multiple heritages into a
hybrid and recognized themselves as “both” or “all” rather than one race.
Only two students, Isabella and Olivia, said they had changed the way
they answered the question about racial identification on these forms. For
Isabella, the way she answered forms depended on her mood. She said: “I
usually mark Black/African American and Caucasian, but a lot of times I
find myself just putting black, because that’s what I feel like I’m considered
from a lot of people. Sometimes I’m just like whatever; I’m just considered
black, and then sometimes I’m just specific about it.” Isabella, a well-dressed
black-white biracial junior who recently transferred to Oakview, grew up in
and had previously attended schools in predominately white neighborhoods.
For Olivia—a light-skinned, tall, athletic junior with a Filipino, white mother
who was born in Hong Kong and a black father who was born in Texas—
changing her racial identification on forms was more related to specific
periods in her life or certain incidents that affected the way she thought
about her racial identity. In elementary school Olivia reported that she only
checked the “Pacific Islander” box. She could not recall why at that young
age she identified primarily with her Filipino heritage, yet she remembered
clearly when she started changing this behavior and only checked the “Black/
African-American” box instead. In elaborating on why she changed the way
she racially identified herself she said:
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17
Well it’s because I remember this incident where my best
friend and I were arguing over something, and he was like,
“You’re not even black!” And I was like, “I am black what
are you talking about! How can you tell me I’m not black?”
And then that made me mad so I guess I kinda let people
know I was black, since they could tell I’m mixed. Also,
it was because then I realized I was mostly black. So that
incident made me start changing.
By “mostly black,” Olivia meant that according to a strict logic of
proportioning her “blood,” she was 50 percent black, 25 percent Filipino,
and 25 percent white. Hence, she considered herself “mostly” black. Olivia’s
history reflects the possibilities of a highly fluid racial identity among
multiracial youth. Finally, the variety of experiences among the seven mixed
black students I interviewed is consistent with Harris and Sim’s (2002)
finding “that with respect to racial self-identification there is not a single
multiracial experience” (p. 618).
Taking Pride in Mixed Racial Background
Nearly all students did, however, express a fairly firm degree of pride
in their multiracial backgrounds, and considered their background, in many
ways, an asset. In particular, Jalyn expressed how much she enjoyed receiving
inquiries about her racial background because then she was able to “show off
the whole thing.” In fact, she joked that she loved being multiracial because
it allowed her to “say anything about any different race.” Other students also
used words like “proud,” “diverse,” and “interesting” when explaining what
they liked about their multiracial background. While a palpable willingness
to assert a mixed identity showed a degree of comfort and assurance, racial
pride did not completely insulate these students from having some painful
experiences with race and doubts regarding racial belonging.
Most notably, Isabella reported not seeing any advantages to being
mixed race, and thought that it would perhaps be easier to embrace a
monoracial black identity even despite negative black stereotypes. She
reported numerous struggles with her identity and described coming home
from junior high everyday in tears because other students did not understand
her mixed-race identity. In addition, Isabella was raised by her white aunt and
uncle in a predominately white neighborhood, where people disapproved of
interracial couples; she felt that this made people not only look down on her
18
‘HOW CAN YOU SAY YOU’RE ONLY ONE?’
parents, but also on her, the child of an interracial couple. Isabella, however,
was not alone in her identity struggles as the discussion below illustrates.
“Acting White” and the Performance of Race
Nearly every interviewee made repeated references to the idea of
“acting white” or the expectation that individuals act a certain way depending
on their race. In fact, appropriate racial performance was among the most
common themes that emerged in this study. Most students reported being
told that they “acted white” and that people’s expectations of how they
would behave or talk were different. Getting to the core of what exactly
“acting white” meant was complicated, as the interviewees had difficulties
articulating what such a blanket, overarching term was intended to explicate.
Descriptions ranged from acting “preppy,” speaking “proper,” being “not
ghetto,” listening to certain types of music, etc. “Acting black” seemed to
express the opposite of “acting white.” “Acting black” referred to speaking
in slang, listening to rap or hip-hop, and acting (what was loosely referred to
as) “ghetto.” While “acting white” was sometimes used as a sort of insult,
at the very least it was meant to convey that a person was acting outside
of their expected behavior or mannerisms. Students of all races used the
term to reinforce not only racial boundaries and expectations, but also to
powerfully contribute to the social construction of race as a salient social
category. Through “acting white” or “acting black,” students could decide
who was black, who was white, and who somehow violated the social
boundary between the two.
Some students intensely internalized the message of “acting white”
and “acting black,” and even altered their behavior or their dress based on
these expectations. Shonda, a fairly reserved senior captain of the softball
team, had spent her freshman year at a predominately white high school.
She shared that her experiences at this high school impacted her behavior
and dress. In one example, she explained that she bought clothes from
the popular “preppy” retail store, American Eagle, not because she would
“normally” wear those clothes, but because she went to a predominantly
white high school and adopted the style of dress to blend in there. In addition
to subtly adopting the tastes/dress of their surroundings, interviewees also
received direct messages or “corrections” regarding race-specific behavior.
Students were explicitly told that they did not “act their heritage” or that
they “acted white.” As such, students struggled with both resisting and
taking part in these stereotypes. For instance, Jalyn expressed her conflicting
tensions. Despite asserting that “I don’t think there’s a certain way a certain
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19
race acts,” she admitted to, at times, calling her sister a white girl since “if
you act preppy, then I’d say you’re acting like a white girl.” While resisting
and trying to question stereotypes, Jalyn still actively perpetuated racebased behavioral assumptions. Although it was common for interviewees to
question and admit confusion over behaviors that fell under that umbrella
of “acting white,” they nevertheless expressed a fear of having the “acting
white” stereotype lodged at them. Much of this was due to their desire to
claim their black racial heritage, which they did not have full access to if they
“acted white.”
Acceptance, Belonging, and Relationship to the Black Community
Some of the mixed black students I interviewed were firmly rooted
in and comfortable with their black heritage, while others struggled to
understand their relationship to a monoracial black community. Many
students shared experiences of constantly having to explain their different
phenotypical features, fending off expectations of their behavior and with
whom they should associate. Students also felt a strong need to prove their
belonging or membership when interacting with the black community.
While the formula of the “one-drop rule” would indicate that a person who
is part black is automatically black, most students’ experiences showed that
they felt there was much more to being black than just having the ancestry
“in your blood.”
Faith, a quiet, friendly, fair-skinned junior of black, Cherokee, Irish
and French heritage, concisely captured the importance of acting according
to black behavioral expectations in achieving acceptance. She offered: “I
think a big part of being black is that you have to show you are black.” At
times, interviewees made conscious efforts to conform to black stereotypes
and “talk ghetto,” but often faced repudiations from their black monoracial
peers, encountering comments such as “you don’t sound right talking like
that” or “you’re such a white [girl/boy].” Interviewees with lighter skin
recounted that they had to work especially hard to assert their black heritage
because their appearance would not always immediately convey their partblack identity. Ryan described his frustration at people’s disbelief upon
learning of his black heritage. He elucidated:
Sometimes it got really irritating because people would
swear that I’m not black. They’ll say like, “No, forget that,
you’re not black” or “No, you’re lying, you’re just saying
that.” It’s like, no, I don’t have to prove myself to you. I
20
‘HOW CAN YOU SAY YOU’RE ONLY ONE?’
am black. And usually they just go on denying it so I just
go on to the next subject.
Due to his appearance, Ryan was left with the burden of proof. For
him, the “one-drop rule” was actually difficult to implement because his
phenotypical appearance belied that he had any black heritage at all. Isabella’s
identification as black (which she sometimes asserted because she felt that
society just saw her as black), however, was also challenged. A student at
Oakview High actually told her she wasn’t black since “If you’re fifty percent
black and fifty percent white, how can you go around and say that you’re
only one?” For Isabella, who struggled with trying to assert her blackness,
the rejection of her monoracial black identity by her peers was also seen as a
devastating rejection of her blackness. When living in a predominately white
neighborhood, her part-black heritage stood out and marked her difference
from others in the community, making it more possible within that context
for her racial identity to be seen as black. However, in a context in which
there was a sizable population of monoracial blacks, her multiraciality was a
distinguishing characteristic among that community, and, therefore, she had
a harder time accepting her identity as just black without recognizing her
mixed heritage as well.
Coping With Society’s Negative Views of Blacks
Coping with and fighting against society’s widely held negative
stereotypes about African Americans were also common themes that
emerged from this study. For some interviewees, this meant being subject to
these negative views; for others, this meant dealing with more direct, overt
instances of racism.
Some interviewees were acutely aware of how negatively blacks were
viewed in society, partially because their light skin or straight hair made them
not immediately recognizable as part-black. Ryan’s previous experience at
a predominately white school made him especially aware of his elevated
status as a mixed black rather than a monoracial black. For instance, some
of Ryan’s white classmates told him, by his recollection: “You’re different;
you’re cool, because you’re not just black.” Due to these experiences, Ryan
specifically sought to make himself identifiable as black. He purposefully
bought the clothes that epitomized the black youth stereotype, and noticed
how people responded to him differently depending on what he wore. He
explained:
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21
I don’t really look black, it was just what I was wearing that
kinda classified me as black. I notice that if I walk into a
restaurant wearin’ this shirt [a relatively snug, well fitting
t-shirt], no one turns around and looks. But if I walk into a
restaurant wearin’ a 3XL tall tee and a fitted cap, everyone
looks. Everyone kinda just makes sure they know where
their purse is or where their kids are.
Due to the fact that a simple change in dress resulted in a noticeable change
in the way he was perceived, Ryan described how he would deliberately and
“excessively act black just to piss people off,” trying to prove a point to
others about discrimination. His experience at a predominately white school
distinctly exposed him to the fluidity of his racial identity. He realized that,
in some contexts, he carried the burden of negative societal views of blacks,
while, in other contexts, he was subject to a somewhat privileged status as a
racially mixed person.
Interviewees also discussed feeling representative of the black race
and the black image in certain situations. Especially in situations where there
were not many other people of color, students repeatedly reported the sense
that they were the black person in the group. Olivia shared a story about trying
to project a positive image of blacks to the white parents of one of her
friends. She explained:
I was like 11 or 12, and I was self conscious of being
black, and I wanted to change the image. I mean, I didn’t
really know what stereotype was back then, but I was like,
OK, I’m guessing she doesn’t have many black friends for
a reason, and if they know that I’m black, and I act proper
then maybe she’ll gain more black friends and her parents
won’t be like, telling her, “I don’t really want you to hang
out with people like them [blacks].”
Interviewees demonstrated that pervasive negative societal views of
blacks also influenced their own thoughts about blacks and perpetuating
stereotypes that they themselves began to buy into. This internalized negative
view of blacks was especially strong in Jalyn’s case, given her father’s absence
and that her mother’s rocky relationship with him made for occasional racial
stereotyping within Jalyn’s own household. Her mother specifically made
generalizations about black men leaving their children, using drugs, and
abusing women. For Jalyn, these comments affected how she viewed race,
22
‘HOW CAN YOU SAY YOU’RE ONLY ONE?’
causing her to be wary about dating black men.
The interviewees’ descriptions of their experiences with black
stereotypes also showed how, at times, being part black meant they were
subject to and included in these stereotypes, and how, at other times, being
part black meant that they were considered outside black stereotypes. Given
the history of racial oppression in America, strong ties developed among
the black community and blackness became a particularly central aspect to
the way many blacks conceive of their identity. Hence, it makes sense that
the definition of blackness has been inclusive to enclose all people who in
some manner identify black racially and, at other times, exclusive to maintain
a protective barrier around their community (Rockquemore and Brunsma
2002). Depending on the degree of their connectedness to and comfort with
the black community, some students were able to play with this boundary
at will, while other students significantly struggled with this boundary and
what it meant for them. Other students who had felt representative of the
black race were deeply aware of situations in which their identity was fixed
for them by virtue of environments in which people were not accepting
of a mixed-race identity. However, in situations where there was a visible
population of other mixed blacks, such as at Oakview High, the situation
was able to play out much differently.
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23
mixed-race students may not have known each other personally, they likely
knew of each other. As such, even though there were no mixed race clubs
on campus, there were enough groups of mixed-race friends or “mixed
faces” around campus to have a recognized presence on campus.
While most interviewees admitted to both being accused of and also
enforcing the “acting white” stereotype, among their multiracial peers, they
understood that their social circle was a safe space where racial behavioral
expectations were not as rigorously enforced (although enforcement was
assuredly not non-existent). Among others who were also racially mixed, they
felt less pressure to prove their blackness by adopting black stereotypes. In
addition to the comfort of being around other mixed students, interviewees
who had experienced predominantly white schools seemed to be more
comfortable at Oakview High—not only due to the presence of other
multiracial students, but due to the presence of other students of color. For
most interviewees, the school’s racial diversity contributed to their relative
feeling of comfort and stable mixed race identity.
Finally, students also seemed to be able to create a safe space around
their mixed racial identity by blocking out or ignoring people who tried to
challenge their multiraciality. Of course, some students were emotionally
sensitive to teasing or challenges to their multiracial identity, but a few
students firmly asserted who they were. As Faith explained:
Creating Safe Mixed-Race Spaces
One result of the growing multiracial population in America is that
they have more multiracial students to constitute a larger presence on
school campuses. In the case of Oakview High School, a sizable multiracial
presence enabled interviewees to find a safe space to express a multiracial
identity. All interviewees discussed having other friends who were also of
mixed racial descent or at least knowing of other mixed students on campus.
Derek explained:
Well, in this community most everyone is mixed that I
really know, like no one’s really just one race anymore. If
someone’s not mixed they have a friend or know someone
that is mixed. So it’s not really that big of a deal.
Derek was, in effect, describing the large presence of multiracial
students on campus and how that population was large enough that every
student at Oakview was likely connected to a person of mixed race. The
connection he described can be understood as a loose network: although
I’m sure there are a lot of things that I have been treated
differently because of my racial background, but I tend to
block those kinds of things out and they don’t faze me as
much. I don’t really base myself off those kind of things,
I mean, if you’re gonna be mean I’m gonna ignore you.
I’m sure there are people who have not liked me because
of who I am. My heritage is a part of who I am …. So
if you don’t like it then I’m sorry you feel that way. I can’t
change myself to make you happy and I wouldn’t anyway.
Even without this attitude, interviewees created a safe mixed-race space at
Oakview High, which allowed them to assert mixed identity and embrace
multiple heritages. While the large scale organizing of a national movement
to contest the way racial data was collected on the United States Census
vocally and visibly asserted a multiracial identity, such confrontational stances
were not necessary on the Oakview High School campus (Rockquemore
and Brunsma 2002). Rather than being constrained by the “one-drop rule,”
interviewees were often expected to identify multiracially.
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‘HOW CAN YOU SAY YOU’RE ONLY ONE?’
CONCLUSION
In this study, students’ experiences with their mixed racial background
ranged from a reported absence of negative racial experiences at school
or in the community to painful struggles with racial identity ending daily
in tears. The original intent of this project was to document the changing
racial self-identification of multiracial black students and try to locate the
incidents or factors that contributed to these changes. However, only one
student exhibited a changing racial identity over time and most of the
others reported that they had always claimed all of their racial heritages.
While many scholars indicate that mixed race individuals will sometimes
look to a monoracial identity to solve their identity crisis, most interviewees
reported not ever seriously considering it (Hershel 1995; Renn 2004).
Students I interviewed seemed to be proud of their multiracial background
and embraced it even when it was not convenient to do so. Despite their
reported stable, unchanging mixed-race self-identification, interviewees still
faced many difficulties associated with race. Students were certainly subject
to racism and discrimination from peers, community members, and even
family directed at blacks and/or other races. Until racial categories are
entirely dissolved, people of mixed-racial descent will continue to wrestle
with the untenable position of being both a person within and separate from
a given racial community. Even if “mixed” or “multiracial” was established
as a legitimate racial category, one cannot be mixed or multiracial without
having simultaneous membership in two or more racial categories, and this
position, then, is always both insider and outsider to a given race.
While the racial data for the school is slightly dated (from the 20052006 school year) and does not make the number of mixed student on
campus clear, the school’s noticeably present mixed-race population provided
a context in which all interviewees asserted a mixed-race identity. The
presence of other students walking around campus and being recognized
as mixed, reporting their identity as mixed, or being seen with two parents
of a different race made a multiracial identity not all that shocking, notable,
or uncommon. This finding suggests a positive correlation between the
number and visibility of a mixed-race population and the normalization of
the identity. As the population and visibility of mixed-race people continues
to grow, it provides at least one mechanism for the normalization of the
mixed race identity.
Although there are a number of limitations to this study and even
though this research is specific to one campus, my findings certainly align
with a growing literature documenting the increasing irrelevance of the
“one-drop rule” in determining how people of mixed-racial descent identify
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25
(Daniel 2002; Rockquemore and Brunsma 2002; Renn 2004; Kellogg 2006).
In addition, my research points to the importance of the specific social
context of the high school in which identities are being asserted—namely,
the school’s racial demographics. Future research would benefit from an
analysis of how other demographic arrangements may impact the way
mixed black adolescents racially identify. For example, how might their
experience with racial identity differ if they attend a predominately white
or black high school, especially if there is a small multiracial population?
Does region also impact this experience? Additionally, since my sample
largely consisted of black-white biracial students, how might findings differ
among black multiracials who have two parents of color? Finally, future
work on racial boundary maintenance and racial authenticity would benefit
from further attention to the aspects of the performance of race and racial
behavioral expectations that my interviewees struggled to articulate. Black
multiracials, especially adolescents such as the black-white biracials included
in my study, have a unique positionality in relation to this question because
at the same time they are reinforcing “correct” modes of behavior in their
peers or siblings (i.e., reprimanding each other for “acting white”), they are
also actively recognizing the white part of their racial identity by identifying
as racially mixed. It is important that scholarly research addresses the ways
in which it is possible for students to experience the simultaneous pull to
enforce racial boundaries as well as asserting a racial identity that exists
“betwixt and between” those boundaries (Daniel 2002:113)
Lastly, to expand the suggestive findings of my case study, future
scholarship would benefit from adjusting the way racial data is collected
for large scale studies, whether connected to questions of multiraciality or
not. Just as the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health enabled
researchers Harris and Sim (2002) to take one of the first looks at the
contextuality of adolescent multiracial identity on a nation-wide scale, it is
important that research on any topic take into account the ways in which
race is a dynamic social category. As such, classifications of race should
reflect the contemporary arrangements that allow people to identify in ways
that resonate with their self-identification rather than from a restricted list
of options. In addition, the reporting of these statistics needs improvement.
Although the collection of racial data for the students at Oakview High
School allowed for the option of checking more than one box, the responses
of students checking more than one box were conflated with those who had
no response to the racial question, a highly misleading and confusing way
to take stock of the multiracial population. The collection of data based
on constantly changing, imperfect, and socially constructed categories such
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‘HOW CAN YOU SAY YOU’RE ONLY ONE?’
ELEVEN: THE UNDERGRADUATE JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY
as race will always lend itself to inaccuracies; however, scholars should be
careful not to perpetuate racial classifications that complicate results and
blanch out racial complexity and difference.
TABLES: SURVEY RESULTS
Table 1. Percentage of “Yes” and “No” Respondents for Question on “If
Student Ever Experienced Differential Treatment Due to His or Her Race.”
In your view, have you ever been treated differently
by any of the following persons due to your race?
By fellow students/classmates
By teachers
By administrators
By others in the community
By family members/friends
YES
41.1%
16.8%
26.6%
39.7%
15.7%
NO
58.9%
83.2%
73.4%
60.3%
84.3%
27
INDEX OF INTERVIEWEES
Interviewee Age Year
Racial Background
Olivia
16
Junior
Black Father
Filipino, White Mother
Shonda
18
Senior
Black Father (British Virgin
Islands), White Mother
Derek
16
Junior
Black, French Father
White Mother
Jalyn
16
Senior
Black, Native American Father
(Cape Verdean)
White Mother (Irish and French)
Faith
16
Junior
Black, Cherokee, French Father
White Mother (Irish)
Isabella
16
Junior
Black Father
White Mother
Ryan
17
Junior
Vietnamese, French Father
Black Mother
REFERENCES
Table 2. Percentage of “Yes” and “No” Respondents for Question on
Student’s Perceptions on “If Their Peers/Classmates Had Ever Experienced
Differential Treatment Due to Their Race.”
In your view, have any of your peers/classmates ever been treated
differently by any of the following persons due to their race?
By fellow students/classmates
By teachers
By administrators
By others in the community
By family members/friends
YES
54.7%
30.5%
30.9%
41.9%
21.5%
NO
45.3%
69.5%
69.1%
58.1%
78.5%
Banton, Michael. 1979. “Analytical and Folk Concepts of Race and
Ethnicity.” Ethnic and Racial Studies 2(2):127-138.
Brackett, Kimberly. 2006. “The Effects of Multiracial Identification on
Students’ Perceptions of Racism.” The Social Science Journal 43:437-444.
Daniel, G. Reginald. 1992. “Beyond Black and White: The New Multiracial
Consciousness.” Pp. 333-346 in Racially Mixed People in America, edited by
M. Root. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.
——. 1996. “Black and White Identity in the New Millennium: Unsevering
the Ties that Bind.” Pp. 121-139 in The Multiracial Experience: Racial
Borders as the New Frontier, edited by M. Root. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage
Publications.
——. 2002. More Than Black? Multiracial Identity and the New Racial Order.
Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.
Davis, F. James. 1991. Who is Black? One Nation’s Definition. University Park,
PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press.
28
‘HOW CAN YOU SAY YOU’RE ONLY ONE?’
Fredrickson, George M. 2002. Racism: A Short History. Princeton, NJ:
Princeton University Press.
Harris, David R. and Jeremiah Joseph Sim. 2002. “Who Is Multiracial?
Assessing the Complexity of Lived Race.” American Sociological Review
67:614-627.
Hershel, Helena J. 1995. “Therapeutic Perspectives on Biracial Identity
Formation and Internalized Oppression.” Pp. 169-181 in American Mixed
Race, edited by Naomi Zack. New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Inc.
Hoetink, Harry. 1985. “‘Race’ and Color in the Caribbean.” Pp. 55-84 in
Caribbean Contours, edited by S.W. Mintz and S. Price. Baltimore, MD: The
Johns Hopkins University Press.
Kellogg, Angela H. 2006. “Exploring Critical Incidents in the Racial Identity
of Multiracial College Students.” Ph.D. dissertation, Student Affairs
Administration and Research, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA.
Lancaster, Roger N. 1991. “Skin Color, Race, and Racism in Nicaragua.”
Ethnology 30(4):339-354.
Omi, Michael and Howard Winant. 1994. Racial Formation in the United States:
From the 1960s to the 1990s. New York: Routledge.
Pellegrini, Gino. 2005. “Multiracial Identity in the Post-Civil Rights Era.”
Social Identities 11:531-549.
Renn, Kristen A. 2004. Mixed Race Students in College: The Ecology of Race,
Identity, and Community on Campus. Albany, NY: State University of New
York Press.
Rockquemore, Kerry A. and David L. Brunsma. 2002. Beyond Black: Biracial
Identity in America. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.
Spickard, Paul. 1992. “The Illogic of American Racial Categories.” Pp. 12-23
in Racially Mixed People in America, edited by M. Root. Newbury Park, CA:
Sage Publications.
Wacquant, Loïc. 1997. “For an Analytic of Racial Domination.” Political
Power and Social Theory 11:221-234.
Wagley, Charles. 1965. “On the Concept of Social Race in the Americas.”
Pp. 531-545 in Contemporary Cultures and Societies in Latin America, edited
by Dwight B. Heath and Richard N. Adams. New York: Random House.
The Disappearance
of Black San Franciscans:
1970-20101
Sarah Erlich,
University of California, Berkeley
Abstract
Of all “major” cities in the United States, San Francisco experienced the most
precipitous decline of its African American population between 1970 and 2005.
Many African Americans from this study felt systematically excluded from San
Francisco. Interviewees separately and repeatedly identified calculating and
criminalizing instigators of displacement: the San Francisco Redevelopment
Agency’s urban renewal projects in the Western Addition; the San Francisco
Housing Authority’s demolition of public housing and enforcement of a “One
Strike and You’re Out” law for public housing residents; the San Francisco
Police Department’s enforcement of gang injunctions in the Western Addition
and Bayview Hunters Point; and real estate agencies’ and banks’ issuance of
subprime mortgage loans. Apart from formal instigators of displacement,
several other factors fueled the disappearance of black San Franciscans: the
exorbitant expense to rent or own housing in San Francisco; the level of violent
crime and environmental health hazards that pervade the few neighborhoods
African Americans find accessible in the housing market; the underinvestment
in public education, which undermines the city’s appeal for raising children; and
the absence of middle class African American visibility.
Keywords
race, urban renewal, San Francisco, displacement, public housing
INTRODUCTION
Of all “major” cities in the United States, San Francisco experienced
the most precipitous decline of its African American population between
1970 and 2005. During this period, approximately 88,000 African Americans,
1
The author would like to express her profound appreciation to Professor Victoria Bonnell
for her undivided attention during presentations and office hours, her precise, constructive
criticism, and unwavering patience. She would also like to thank the editors of Eleven for
their careful analysis of this work and for providing thoughtful commentary. This article is an
abridged version of an honors thesis submitted to the Department of Sociology in May 2010.
To request a copy of the original version, please send an e-mail to SKErlich@gmail.com.
Eleven
The Undergraduate Journal of Sociology
Volume 1
2010
Created By UndergradUates at the
University of California, Berkeley
Eleven
Editor-in-Chief
Aaron Benavidez
Managing Editor
Laura Siragusa
Editors
Rudy S. Garcia, Nicole Iturriaga, Annie Lin,
William Pe, Johnny Tran, Janet Yi, and Mira Yuzon
The Undergraduate Journal of Sociology
Volume 1
Directors of Public Relations
Wafa Hazem and Charita Law
Faculty Advisor
Sandra Smith
Undergraduate Advisors
Cristina Rojas and Jennifer Sykora
Production Consultant
Cover Designer
Colt Shane Fulk
Cover Artist
Sir. X
Eleven: The Undergraduate Journal of Sociology, Vol. 1, 2010, is the annual
publication of Eleven: The Undergraduate Journal of Sociology, a non-profit unincorporated
association at the University of California, Berkeley.
Grants and Financial Support: This journal was made possible by generous grants
from the ASUC Intellectual Community Fund and the Department of Sociology at the
University of California, Berkeley.
Special Appreciation: We would also like to additionally thank: Kristi Bedolla, Victoria
Bonnell, Michael Burawoy, Bill Gentry, Allison Hall, Mia Houtermans, Mary Kelsey,
Trond Petersen, Alyse Ritvo, Sue Thur, Kim Voss, Belinda White, and the Department
of Sociology at the University of California, Berkeley.
Contributors: Contributions may be in the form of articles and review essays. Please
see the Guide for Future Contributors at the end of this issue.
Review Process: Our review process is double-blind. Each submission is given a
number and all reviewers are supplied a specific review number per each submission. If
an editor is familiar with any submission, she or he declines review. Our review process
ensures the highest integrity and fairness in evaluating submissions. Each submission is
read by three trained reviewers.
Subscriptions: Our limited print version of the journal is available without fee. If you
would like to make a donation for the production of future issues, please inquire at
eleven.ucb@gmail.com.
Copyright © 2010 Eleven: The Undergraduate Journal of Sociology unless otherwise
noted.
2010
“The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways;
the point, however, is to change it.”
–Karl Marx, “XI” from “Theses on Feuerbach”
Editor’s Note
Aaron Benavidez
1
‘How Can You Say You’re Only One?’: Identity and
Community Among Mixed Black High School Students
Alyssa Newman
3
The Disappearance of Black San Franciscans: 1970-2010
Sarah Erlich
29
Capitalist Development as White Elephant:
A Case Study of Argentina’s Yacyretá Hydroelectric Dam
Simeon J. Newman
54
The Chicana/o Compromise: Parenting Re-Socialization
of Immigrant Mexican Families in the Bay Area
José Soto
84
Notes on Contributors
110
Guide for Future Contributors
112
Created By UndergradUates at the
University of California, Berkeley
ELEVEN: THE UNDERGRADUATE JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY
1
EDITOR’S NOTE
We are proud to introduce the first volume of Eleven: The Undergraduate
Journal of Sociology. Conceived in August 2009 by four sociology students,
Eleven was originally forged to offer a much-needed forum for undergraduate
papers. With this goal in mind, we sought generous help from Professor
Sandra Smith and the UC Berkeley Department of Sociology. These sources
of support provided honest advice and necessary inspiration.
Since its inception, Eleven was intended to fulfill two promises: to
expand the recognition of exceptional undergraduate work in the social
sciences and to give students the opportunity to share their research with a
community of fellows. These two promises—one that, no doubt, encourages
individual scholarship and one that resists academic individualism by
inspiring dialogue—have propelled Eleven from an embryonic spark to a
new-fangled publication.
Eleven was also envisioned as a social experiment, a burning desire to
explore the limitations and possibilities that might emerge from a publication
that embraces Marx’s “Eleventh Thesis.”
Earnestly, we asked ourselves a series of questions related to the
thesis that Engels portended would be “the brilliant germ of the new world
outlook.” What types of social scientific methods present more than mere
interpretation and speculation? Should we privilege papers written to address
an empirical puzzle and snub research driven by theoretical concerns?
Would a paper that embodies the command that one should “change” the
world offer policy recommendations along with analysis? Could our modest
journal promote enough transformation to actually constitute “a change” in
everyday terms, let alone in line with Marxist ideals?
We still have not fully answered these questions. Nor are we done
lifting our namesake thesis to the light, watching our inquiries refract in
multiple directions. What we do know, however, is this: scholarship written
from a perspective that seeks to promote social change is fairly easy to spot.
This scholarship seeks to visibilize otherwise invisible affairs not from a topdown gaze but from a standpoint already informed by speaking nearby, what
Patricia Hill Collins might call an outsider-within perspective.
We see variations of this orientation in all four of the articles
published in this edition. Alyssa Newman, once a multiracial black high
school student herself, sought to explore both the trials and triumphs for
multiracial black high school students who assert a multiracial identity
and the conditions under which a multiracial identity is possible. José
2
EDITOR’S NOTE
Soto, whose own biography includes navigating between Euro-American
and Mexican pedagogical practices, complicates early development and
childrearing theories. His work questions a “one-white-size-fits-all-colors”
understanding of parenting strategies, which he concludes is problematic on
moral and scientific grounds.
Both Simeon Newman and Sarah Erlich bring to light historical
events not comprehensively explained in social scientific literature. Newman
explains why the Yacyretá hydroelectric dam, Argentina’s largest and most
important development project, failed to achieve its original promise of
economic prosperity for the state. Erlich, for her part, reveals the literal
and figurative disappearance of Black San Franciscans between 1970 and
2010. Her work diligently charts the multiple and complex factors that led
to a precipitous decline of African Americans in a city known as a minoritymajority metropolis.
We hope that you will read this journal from cover to cover. The
collection of articles testifies both to the talent of undergraduates and to the
refusal to retire their scholarship to a dusty closet much too soon. So join us
in celebrating this edition, a long awaited volume by and for undergraduates.
Aaron Benavidez,
Eleven Editor-in-Chief
‘How Can You Say You’re
Only One?’: Identity and
Community Among Mixed
Black High School Students
Alyssa Newman
University of California, Santa Barbara
Abstract
This paper investigates the role of peers and community in the development and
assertion of racial identity for mixed black students at a high school in Northern
California. A survey of 129 students from all grades and racial backgrounds
found that students felt pressured to conform to stereotypical notions of race.
In addition, interviews with seven mixed black students showed that there was
little differentiation of racial identity (all identified as multiracial) and a rejection
of the “one-drop rule.” While school peers and others in the community
often imparted expectations of stereotypical black behavior (in terms of taste
in music, style of dress, manner of speaking, etc.), the school’s noticeably
present mixed race population lent visibility and normalcy to the adoption of a
multiracial identity. Experiences among mixed black students varied depending
on factors such as the racial demographics of the neighborhood they lived in,
what other high schools they have attended, their phenotypical appearance, and
their fortitude in asserting a mixed race identity.
Keywords
race, multiracial, identity, youth, stereotypes
INTRODUCTION
Fears of racial mixing, hybrid degenerative theory, and stereotypes
such as the “tragic mulatto” have had lingering effects on the offspring of
interracial unions since the codification of laws against interracial marriage
in the seventeeth century. People of mixed racial descent have been plagued
by lasting stereotypical images, pressures from an externally imposed
identity, and doubts regarding racial group legitimacy. These issues are
further complicated by racial and ethnic stereotypes or societal prejudices
linked to any one of the multiple heritages associated with one’s multiracial
background (Kellogg 2006). Under these unique conditions, the process of
identity formation can be especially complicated for mixed race individuals.
4
‘HOW CAN YOU SAY YOU’RE ONLY ONE?’
Recently, national attention was finally drawn to the complexity of
the multiracial experience when the 2000 Census, for the first time, allowed
multiracial individuals to check multiple responses for race categorization.
With the 2010 Census fast approaching, a deeper understanding of the
multiracial identity is needed. Namely, a robust analysis of what factors
influence a multiracial person’s self-identification is necessary to clarify
whether or not, with the option available, they will claim their multiple racial
identities.
In a nation that relies heavily on race as a social indicator—a
cue that tells us about who a person is, including assumptions about a
person’s class, education, and social status—the existence of mixed race
individuals challenges the ability to recognize race immediately and utilize
racial assumptions. In the colonial history of the United States after the
decline of white indentured servitude, race was a simple indicator—it
defined whether a person was slave or free. Today, however, with the broad
spectrum of nationalities, accents, cultures, and other social backgrounds
that comprise the American demographic, a simple glance at a person’s
skin color does not easily convey as much, especially when that person
appears to be “racially ambiguous.” As Omi and Winant (1994) observe:
One of the first things we notice about people when we
meet them (along with their sex) is their race. We utilize race
to provide clues about who a person is. This fact is made
painfully obvious when we encounter someone whom we
cannot conveniently racially categorize—someone who is,
for example, racially “mixed” or of an ethnic/racial group
we are not familiar with. Such an encounter becomes a
source of discomfort and momentarily a crisis of racial
meaning (p. 59).
The history of black multiracials1—unique among any other multiracial
groups given its multitude of former census categories (e.g., mulatto,
quadroon, octoroon) and the contemporary multiracial movement—makes
for a very interesting moment to look at black multiracial identity. The mixed
black identity provides a special lens to view race in the United States, one
that can expose racism from multiple sides, from colorism within the black
1
The terms black multiracials, mixed black, and multiracial black are intended to indicate
persons who are part black in heritage and “mixed” with one or more other racial heritages
and may be used interchangeably.
ELEVEN: THE UNDERGRADUATE JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY
5
community to overt or covert instances of racism within broader society. At
this moment, when a growing and increasingly vocal multiracial population
is gaining power in public discourse, issues affecting the mixed black
community will be more pertinent and visible to the rest of society than
ever before. Even more, President Barack Obama’s multiracial black identity
as well as his public discussion of race punctuate this reality emphatically.
Multiracial people can no longer be ignored or rendered invisible, whether in
schools, the local community, or in political and social debate.
This study focuses on black multiracial high school students and how
their interactions with peers, teachers, administrators, and others in the
community affect their identity formation and views on race. I specifically
looked at how their self-identification may or may not have changed
over time, and what incidents or experiences may have affected identity
formation and formulation. I limited the study to black multiracial students
to see how the legacy of hypodescent or the one-drop rule may have had
a continuing impact in pressuring students to arrive at a black monoracial
self-identification. Part of the intent behind undertaking this research was
to help identify how race is constructed and reinforced. Only by identifying
and understanding the mechanisms by which race is constructed and
reconstructed are people able to fight against the elements of privilege and
oppression inherent in a system of hierarchically structured racial categories.
The literature review that follows elaborates on this hierarchical social order,
the history of black multiracials in the United States, and the conceptions
of race and hypodescent that likely impact the way mixed blacks view their
racial identity today.
LITERATURE REVIEW
Much of the work within the literature is inspired by the unique
position—an ambiguous, intermediate standing in terms of racial
identification, and, unfortunately, an often marginalized space—that
multiracial or mixed race individuals occupy in the United States. In part,
these difficulties arise because race itself is constantly evolving in order
to maintain relevance in face of groups it cannot accurately categorize.
Many social scientists conceive of race as a social construction, a view
that distinguishes “between race as a physical category and race as a social
category” (Banton 1979:128). In other words, social scientists distinguish
between the biological concept of race and race as perceived biological
differences given significance through social meaning and status assignment
(p. 128). Racial distinctions are a necessary tool of dominance, and racial
6
‘HOW CAN YOU SAY YOU’RE ONLY ONE?’
categories have traditionally served primarily to separate the “subordinate”
people out. Given this function of race, the fact that racially mixed
people fall under multiple racial categories makes their standing in a racial
hierarchy somewhat open for question (Spickard 1992). The United States
has addressed the status of multiracial individuals and the questions they
generate uniquely by following the “one-drop rule” of racial assignment for
people of mixed black racial descent.
The “one-drop rule,” a socio-legal-sanctioned decree that operates by
a principle of hypodescent, stipulates that any person with as little as “one
drop” of African blood is considered to be black (Davis 1991; Fredrickson
2002). This system of racial classification reinforced the idea of the
exclusivity and purity of whiteness; only those “untainted” with any other
blood could maintain the privilege of a white racial status. In addition, the
“one-drop rule” conveniently added to the “property” of slave-owners since
any children born to slaves were automatically given the same slave (and,
therefore, property) status as their shackled parent. As F. James Davis (1991)
confirms: “American slave owners wanted to keep all racially mixed children
born to slave women under their control, for economic and sexual gains,
and [to] define such children as anything other than black became a major threat
to the entire system” (p. 114; emphasis added). Even with a strict prohibition
against sexual relations across races, white men were able to sexually violate
black slave women across an extreme power differential in which slave
women, completely devoid of rights and humanity, were powerless to resist
or consent to such advances. Moreover, Davis elaborates, “it was intolerable
for white women to have mixed children, so the one-drop rule favored the
sexual freedom of white males, protecting the double standard of sexual
morality as well as slavery (p. 114). This two-fold benefit from the “one-drop
rule” enabled white men to not only enjoy racial dominance but also gender
and sexual dominance, while simultaneously ensuring that white women,
the epitome of white racial purity, would continue to protect the sanctity of
whiteness through “racially pure” progeny.
As the “one-drop rule” demonstrates, the United States solution to
the problem of racial classification is one that relies almost exclusively on
ancestry, as a person need not appear phenotypically identifiable as black
to be considered black. However, much of the dominant scholarship on
race fails to recognize the United States system of racial classification as
unique in that respect, often treating the U.S. system as the standard rather
than an exception. Loïc Wacquant poignantly remarks that since “the
sociology of ‘race’ all over the world is dominated by U.S. scholarship,” and
“U.S. scholarship itself is suffused with U.S. folk conceptions of ‘race,’ the
ELEVEN: THE UNDERGRADUATE JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY
7
peculiar schema of racial division developed by one country during a small
segment of its short history, a schema unusual for its degree of arbitrariness,
rigidity and social consequentiality, has been virtually universalized as the
template through which analyses of ‘race’ in all countries and epochs are
to be conducted” (Wacquant 1997:224). In fact, throughout the world the
question of racial designation of multiracial people has been answered
differently (Davis 1991; Wagley 1965). According to Charles Wagley, “the
criteria for defining social races differ from region to region in the Americas.
In one region, ancestry is stressed, in another region sociocultural criteria are
emphasized, and in still another, physical appearance is the primary basis for
classifying people according to social race” (Wagley 1965:532; emphasis
original). These different methods of classification demonstrate variation
across the United States, Latin America, and the Caribbean and help expose
the complexity of maintaining racial hierarchy when confronted with people
who do not neatly fit into a preassigned racial category.
A brief survey of the literature related to how multiracial people are
racially assigned across the Americas helps to demonstrate the diversity
of systems of racial classification outside of the United States context.
For example, Harry Hoetink’s work on race in the Caribbean shows how
even among the Caribbean islands, which he divides into Hispanic and
non-Hispanic categories, the “models” of race relations differ stemming
from their experiences during colonialism and slavery (Hoetink 1985). In
much of the Hispanic Caribbean, “a color continuum developed within
which subtle differences in skin color, hair texture, and facial features
were noted and essentially catalogued in an extensive vocabulary, with all
its social implications, but without any group striving after (or succeeding
in) the maintenance of strict endogamy, which might have created a
clear separation from all others” (p. 61). A robust emphasis on color and
extensive vocabulary for racial mixtures also exists in many parts of Latin
America (such as Nicaragua and Brazil), which represent alternative models
to the United States racial classification system (Lancaster 1991; Wagley
1965). These differing models not only determined how multiracial people
were classified, but also generated messages about the social acceptability
and discouragement of interracial unions. Hence, the status of multiracial
people in these societies was intimately connected to the models of race
relations that have historically developed within a given country. F. James
Davis (1991), for example, chronicles seven different statuses for racially
mixed progeny: a lower status than either parent group, a higher status, an
in-between status, a variable status, and more. These scholarly works expose
different ways race is socially constructed around the world.
8
‘HOW CAN YOU SAY YOU’RE ONLY ONE?’
While skin color is considered extremely important to the system
of racial classification in many of the countries previously discussed, it is
also a salient factor in the United States as well. As darker skin color has
typically been used to identify and separate “subordinate” people, inversely,
white skin was used to denote privilege. Within the black community, or
other communities of color, people of mixed racial descent (and their
monoracial counterparts) often encounter the issue of colorism. Since many
mixed blacks tend to have somewhat different physical features than those
of their monoracial black counterparts, skin color, hair texture, and other
phenotypical elements are often relevant to a discussion of the mixed black
experience. G. Reginald Daniel (1996) insists that colorism “persists into
the present due to the enduring Eurocentric bias in the larger American
society,” and asserts that Eurocentric features can both denote privilege in
some circles and result in discrimination and social exclusion in others (p.
131). Multiracial blacks potentially contend with the oscillating experience
of having their European features valued (thereby, providing them with an
elevated status) and/or having others resent them for it (being relegated to
a relative outsider status as someone who is “different”). This simultaneous
insider/outsider status also contributes to another aspect of the mixed
black experience, namely, a potentially heightened exposure or vulnerability
to racism and discrimination. For example, one study compared different
perceptions of racism between white, black, and black-white multiracial
students on the urban campus of a Southern university. The black-white
multiracial students reported the most experience with perceiving racism
and prejudice on campus, which was attributed to the unique viewpoint
that multiracials have on race and the multiple fronts from which they
can experience racism (Brackett 2006). While lighter skin color and an
approximation of European phenotypical features may denote privilege to
mixed blacks in some surroundings, these characteristics do not exempt them
from experiencing racism or discrimination in all contexts. In …
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