Growing up Mixed Race – Biracial Self-Identity Study

October 6, 2016 josierk No comments exist
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If you are Biracial, please take a moment to complete this survey and participate in this important research on Biracial Self-Identity.
 
ELIGIBILITY: To be in this study, you must be middle school age 11-13, high school age 14-18, or a young adult 19-30, and be biracial with one Black parent.
 

growing-up-mixed-race--biracial-selfidentity-studyThank-you for allowing me to share my story of raising my only child. I am sure that if she were telling the story, it would be very different from the one I tell. My daughter, Kelly, is driving my research at Claremont Graduate University. Questions I have had watching her grow up are what easily led me to my research topic, How Biracial Students with One Black Parent Self-Identify. I have always wondered what she thinks about the subject of race. As a little girl, she could not verbalize her feelings. Now that she is in high school, we have interesting conversations from her perspective.
 
 

I decided to study Biracial self-identity because…

 
My research is designed to help me understand my own child, and I think it will offer some insight for other people as well. I have seen studies that question biracial college students to see how they self-identify. But I am asking children. If you are reading this blog and fit my criteria or know someone who does, would be so kind as to take my survey? I will share my results on this blog when my study is complete. Middle and high school students can access my survey with a parental consent at: Biracial Self-Identity Study/Minors. Adults 18-30 can access my survey at: Biracial Self-Identity Study/Adults.

 
My daughter, Kelly, is Japanese like her father and Black like me. She is now a lovely and talented 15-year-old whose daily life revolves around her studies, marching band, her friends, her boyfriend, and where she is going to college. Kelly has had an interesting journey through life. Her father died when she was three years old. The Japanese side of her family has never been present in her life, even when her father was alive.

 

All that she knows from her Japanese culture is my limited knowledge, what she’s learned from family friends, and what she has learned from her own curiosity from searching the internet. It is her dream to visit Japan someday. Kelly basically has grown up with my Black family. My parents were like second parents to her. Her Pop-pop died a few months ago and that was like losing her father all over again.

 

When she was little, my background in education and child development always had me observing and trying to understand as she developed her cultural identity. And as a mom, I always tried to do the right thing to raise a culturally aware young woman. I always referred to her as African-American to keep current with her generation, but she always called herself Black, just like me.

 
For elementary, Kelly came to school with me where I was teaching. Our school’s population was/is 90% Latino. Her friends all assumed she was Mexican, because she has brown skin and long braids like they did. Kelly would say, “You know my mother” and laugh off their comments. Race and culture just didn’t seem to be an issue in her world. She was accepted by everyone on her all Black track team, her all White swim team, and her racially diverse gymnastics team. When I had to check a box to racially identify her in elementary school, I always checked Black. Kelly was Black like me.

 

Although I had the opportunity to indicate all that applied, I never checked the Asian box, because I wanted her high state test scores counted as one of the few Black students in our school. But is that the reason?

 
Once Kelly reached middle school she had the opportunity to fill out her own paperwork. I was curious to see what racial category she would choose for herself. She always checked Black. When I asked her why, she said, “it’s just easier.” But middle school was also the time that she began to follow her favorite YouTuber who happened to be Japanese. Kelly began to research her Japanese culture on her own for the first time. She was curious about the language, the food, the country, and its people. My baby was growing up and branching out.
 

High school has been interesting. She continues to go to school with her childhood friends, but she has also met other students from various cultural and religious backgrounds. But for the most part she has been cocooned. Recently, she had the opportunity to spend the weekend at a college campus with a group of Black students that she did not know. The other students all attended the same high schools and everyone seemed to know someone. Everyone except my daughter.

 

I must admit, I was very nervous to let her go that weekend. Not because she didn’t know anyone and not because she was spending two nights away from home. I was facing my worst nightmare. She was spending time with Black girls that didn’t know the wonderful young woman she is. I worried they may tease her because she doesn’t talk like them and bigger yet, she doesn’t look like them.

 

I had considered keeping her home because I did not want her to face any negativity. But I helped her pack her bag and told her I would pick her up if she wanted to come home. That weekend was a huge cultural awakening for Kelly and me. She now realizes that to be Black means many things to many people. We are a diverse people with many gifts and abilities. Being at the college that weekend opened her eyes to the larger world she will enter when she actually goes off to college in a couple of years.

 

She met a few new friends that weekend. She had a good time, but she didn’t feel she could be herself. The other kids “just weren’t like me,” she says. But now I know that Kelly will be ok. She can handle things without me. I don’t think I know the whole story of what went down that weekend. I still worry about her leaving home and being confronted because “she thinks she’s cute.” But maybe those are only my fears. ~ Maria, guest blogger
 

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