Multiracial Marginalization

From left: Shannon Palmer, Japanese/Irish; Vasco Mateus, Portuguese/African-American/Haitian; Laura Wood, black/white. Credit Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

In recent years, the number of multiracial students as increased drastically. Since the year 2000, the number of people who identify as mixed-race has grown by 35 percent, according the Census Bureau (Saulny, 2011). However, on many college campuses, it seems as though their existence is quite unknown. There are multicultural affinity groups for those identify as Black, Asian, and Latina. It has been shown in research that a fairly common theme to pop-up for this population of students who identify as mixed race is for them to monoracialized, or for one or more of their identities to be lost in their appearance. In some cases, these students can feel “not monoracial enough to fit in.” Research has shown that some students feel that they do not fit the cultural expectations set by their monoracial peers, and struggle to find were they fit in on campus (Harris, 2017). This in and of itself pressures that student to pick between their varied identities.

This tension between one’s identity can lead to a sort of identity crisis in an individual. A 2011 New York Times article by Susan Saulny documents the account of different mixed-race students. One student, Sabrina Garcia, who is Palestinian and Salvadoran, found solace in the Mixed and Biracial Student Association. She recalled that she considered the Latina Student Union, but because she is only half, did not want to feel like she was hiding any part of herself. In addition to this, Ian Winchester, a part Ghanaian, part Scottish-Norwegian student has felt these affects not only at school, but also at home. He accounts how he has been pulled in both direction by his family. One side trying to get him to embrace is Scottish-Norwegian heritage trying to get him to embrace his Ghanaian heritage. However, he stated that he is tired of being pulled in two directions about who he is. He has stopped even identifying himself as a race, and just wants to be recognized as a person (Saulny, 2011). It begs the question of what can be done to prevent this problem from occurring. One way this has been addressed is by the simple action of allowing students to select more than one racial identity on forms that request this information. In addition, some schools have started student associations for students of mixed racial identities. With this in mind I pose this question, “Should every college have a Multiracial and Biracial Student Association?”

Reference: Harris, J. (2017). Multiracial college students’ experiences with multiracial microaggressions. Race Ethnicity and Education, 20(4), 429-445. DOI:10.1080/13613324.2016.1248836.

This is a special post in a series authored by students in Professor Wolfe’s Spring 2019 Research Lab. We are studying the experiences of students of color at PWIs.

3 thoughts on “Multiracial Marginalization”

  1. Michael I’m glad you talked about this in your post. When studying students of color, or people of color, anywhere, it is easy to get caught up in binaries. This is something we have been socialized to do, whether it is gender, sexuality, or even race and ethnicity. Recognizing that someone’s identity can be intersectional and fluid is difficult and equally necessary and important. People are too often judged based off of their appearance or the way they dress or act, they are misinterpreted and misunderstood. We need to find more compassion, understanding, and acceptance. Especially at Muhlenberg, I have noticed that there is not necessarily a counterspace for multi-racial or bi-racial students. Even the multicultural house focuses on specific racial categories, but does not necessarily have a space for students who might not be monoracial.

    • I think the answer above maybe to simplistic. Many students at Muhlenberg Identify as Multiracial and have chosen to focus on whatever salient characteristic connect them to their peers or they refuse to focus on any.

      In my time st Muhlenberg I have never met a student who has requested a multiracial group but if they wanted one it would be supported.

      Never put students of color, LGBTQIA or multi racial students against one another—that to me is the way racism and homophobia operates to ensure infighting.

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