Multiracial individuals are more likely to have a heightened awareness of race as a social construct than monoracial individuals. (Shih, Bonam, Sanchez, Peck, 2007) With research also showing that racial identity is directly linked to ability and that Asian/White and Black/White multiracial individuals were less susceptible to racial stereotypes than monoracial individuals because of how multiracial participants view race as a social construct and are not assigned one set of stereotypes due to being more than one race according to the authors. When a person’s race becomes, salient or made relevant as part of who he or she is, that person is directly affected by that and the stereotypes that come with their particular race. Whether it be high performing, educated, and affluent versus low performing, uneducated, and impoverished. These are the stereotypes that can follow someone their entire life and yet through it all it does not define who they are and or who they will become.
S.J. is a rambunctious, smart, funny, beautiful, happy, loud, and sassy 4 year old little girl who at a very young age knows who she is as Skylar and a soon to be big sister! What she knows is that her mother and father love each other and love her unconditionally. She knows that she has a Mimi and a Nonna’ a Paw Paw and a Poppy. She has an Aunt Allie, Ashleigh, Lizzy, and a Titi (me). What she does not know is that the world will initially see that she is a product of an interracial marriage and is a bi-racial or “mixed” child and how the world might judge what she can do by that label.
She does not know that the world will remark her beauty and then feel uncomfortable or unsure of whom to assign it to. Her Caucasian mother or her African-American father. She does not know that she will be judged by those who oppose interracial relationships and the children that they create. She does not know that she will be asked and in some ways told to choose a side, pick an identity, be one and not the other.
The conversation that will happen and have already started happening about who she is primarily as an individual and that her race is secondary and that her race has nothing to do with her ability and who she will become. We continue to show and tell her that she can be whoever she wants to be with no limitations. Looking at her face when someone refers to her as “mixed” I cannot help but notice the look of confusion that comes across it, and as she often looks to me for an answer, I simply tell her she is “Skylar”. As we do not categorize her or allow others to, she will not either. She will then have to be ready to educate those around her, some may be strangers and others may be her friends and in some cases her own family.
Take these two beautiful girls, who are second cousins. Both girls are bright, beautiful, and come from highly educated backgrounds and parents and are inseparable, however the world around them has already separated them and deemed them as unequal to one another based on their race. Skylar will never worry about the things Sasha will worry about, she will never second guess herself when she walks into a room, if someone stares at her for a moment too long it will not be because they think she is too dark or different. Skylar will not be marginalized based on her race. I would love to be a fly on the wall in one of their conversations 15 years from now.
Most of all I am doing what I can to prepare her for the conversation she may one day have about her own identity. I will tell her that my racial identity and that of her father’s is one with stereotypes that she may never experience or understand. The world she will know and experience will be vastly different from that of what I knew then, know now, and experience today. I cannot wait for the world to meet Skylar Jade who is already a force to be reckoned with and not a “pretty little mixed girl” to be categorized.
M. Shih, C. Bonam, D. Sanchez, C. Peck (2007) Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, American Psychological Association