Caught in the Middle: Raising a Multiracial Teen in a Rural Place (page 2)
Ethnicity and Identity
A New Emergence of Multiracial Identity
- Some choose to identify with the ethnicity of both parents and embrace a blended ethnic identity, using terms such as “mixed,” “multiracial,” “swirl,” or “biracial” (4, 5).
- Others may relate more strongly with the ethnicity of one parent over the other, using a single racial identifier to describe themselves as Black, Hispanic, Asian, or less commonly, as white.
- Still others may leave ethnic terms out of their descriptions of self altogether, choosing not to emphasize ethnicity as an important part of their identity. Researchers call this a transcendent ethnic identity (4).
Having Choices In Ethnic Identity Can Be A Source Of Stress
Difficulties for Rural Youth
- Rural places, particularly those experiencing a recent influx of immigrants, may be especially prone to strained race relations and more rigid definitions of what qualifies as white and non-white.
- Recent immigrants often retain strong ties to the homeland and emphasize ethnic pride, which may add to expectations mixed-race youth feel to acknowledge certain aspects of their ethnic identity (2).
- Part-Hispanic youth may feel compelled by peers and family members to have a connection to the homeland, be encouraged to speak Spanish, and participate in cultural events and holidays.
Difficulties For Part-Hispanic Youth
- They experienced a quite literal color line during their lunch break when they had to choose between hanging out with their white friends on one side of the gym or their Hispanic friends on the other. Under such circumstances, youth saw themselves as being in a no-win situation no matter which aspects of their ethnicity they chose to acknowledge.
- Choosing a blended identity caused friction with their Hispanic friends who saw this as a sign of disloyalty and a way of communicating that they thought they were somehow superior.
- Choosing a white identity was not considered an option for youth who were occasionally subjected to the same racial slurs and other forms of racial discrimination from whites in their community as their Hispanic peers and family members.
- At the same time, feeling accepted as a full member of the Hispanic community was difficult when they were teased by peers and family members about having lighter skin tones, not speaking Spanish, and being seen around town with a white parent (5).
The Media’s Impact On Boys’ Racial Identity
What Can Parents Do To Help Multiracial Teenagers?
- Be aware that your child is surrounded by conflicting messages about race and ethnicity and may feel confused about where they fit in.
- Realize that the racial climate in your community, attitudes about race and ethnicity conveyed by family members, and messages about race in the popular media all affect how teens view their ethnicity.
- Try to provide balance for negative stereotypes by exposing your child to an assortment of cultural events in your community.
- Encourage them to make friends with kids from diverse backgrounds.
- Talk to your kids about how race and sexuality are portrayed in the media.
- Be supportive of your teen’s ethnic identity.
- Recognize that there is no one “appropriate” or “healthy” way for mixed-race youth to experience their ethnicity, and help them cultivate a sense of self-love and pride in who they are. Self-acceptance serves as the most important buffer between your child and racial discrimination.
- Talk to your teen about racism and racial discrimination. This might rank on the awkwardness scale with talks about sex and drugs, so be prepared to experience some resistance. Even if you have not personally experienced racial discrimination, don’t assume that it doesn’t happen in your community. Help your teen come up with a plan of action for coping with racial discrimination.
- Dalmage, H. (2003) Tripping on the color line. New Brunswick: Rutgers University.
- Herman, M. (2007). Racial identification among multiracial youth: Implications for adjustment. In Quintana & McKnown, (Eds.) Handbook of race, racism, and the developing child. New Jersey: Wiley.
- Root, M.P.P. (1996). The multiracial experience: Racial borders as the new frontier. London: Sage Publications.
- Rockquemore, K.A. & Brunsma, D.L. (2002). Beyond black: Biracial identity in America. London: Sage Publications.
- Mouzong, C. (master’s thesis, 2008) “I’m the best of both worlds” Factors influencing the racial identities of biracial youth.
- Obama, B. (1995). Dreams from my father: A story of race and inheritance. NY: Crown.
- Rockquemore, K.A. & Laszloffy T. (2005). Raising Biracial Children. New York: AltaMira.
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