Masters Thesis

Beyond color: an examination of interethnic and biracial identity

The primary purpose of this study is to examine the strategies biracial and interethnic individuals use in self-identification of racial/ethnic identity. In the United States, multiracial/ethnic individuals have socio-historically been expected to identify in only one racial or ethnic category but there has been a recent shift in race and ethnic relations due to the increase of mixed race/ethnicity individuals. The 2000 census ushered in a new multiracial movement with the option to select more than one race or ethnicity, and there continues to be implications for those of more than one racial or ethnic group. Biracial and interethnic identity is the result of a complex set of factors. These factors include social/peer networks (Brunsma 2005; Campbell and Eggerling Boeck 2006; Quillian and Redd 2009; Cheng and Klugman 2010), family influence (Brunsma 2005; Bratter 2007; Bratter and Heard 2009; Bratter and Damaske 2013) and social context (Herman 2004; Brunsma 2005; Campbell and Eggerling Boeck 2006; Wilton et al. 2013). All of these factors were included in this study to determine identity strategies and overall trends. Identity strategies have been observed before in research but in mostly quantitative analysis and since identity may shift or change in context, it is important to provide in-depth ways in which individuals negotiate their sense of self. This research used a qualitative approach and interviewed 12 biracial or interethnic individuals in Kern County in order to understand the identity strategies they used in everyday situations. The participants were selected based on the differing racial and ethnic backgrounds of their biological parents. Rockquemore’s (1998) classification system was utilized to determine if the participants followed the same identity patterns. This study found the classification system held true among other multiracial groups beyond black-white biracial individuals and differed in that a larger range of races and ethnicities were included. The sample consisted of participants belonging to 21 racial and ethnic categories and added to future research on under represented mixed race combinations not commonly found in the scholarly literature. The majority of the participants were found to belong to the border identity category, followed by the singular identity category. Limited evidence was found for the protean and transcendent categories. There was evidence to support signs of skin tone stratification, cultural assimilation, and the Anglo-conformity model. Additionally, participants perceived they were subject to more advantages in terms of college, financial aid, and scholarships due to their mixed race status. Lastly, they were found to show signs of acceptance, biculturalism, and multicultural pride.

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