Our Changing Identities

Our Changing Identities

The New Black Magazine

Adam K. Raymond

On forms asking their racial or ethnic backgrounds, young people of multi-racial origin give different answers at different times.

As a teenager, Cameron Clark, whose mother is white and father is black, always checked “African-American” on forms that asked about his race.

“I needed to identify as being black so people would know I’m equally proud of both sides of my heritage,” said Clark whose blonde hair and blue eyes suggest that Caucasian might be a more apt description.

These days, though, Clark, a 22-year-old television reporter in Green Bay, Wisconsin, describes himself as multiracial. “I decided that identifying with one race shows you don’t embrace your other side as much,” he explained. “People need to be equally proud of both sides of their heritage, and using the label ‘multiracial’ is the most effective way to do that,” he said.

Clark is one of a large contingent of biracial young adults who have struggled with fluctuating ethnic identities.

A recent study by researchers at The University of Iowa, Miami University, and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that biracial adolescents tend to change how they self-identify over time.

The researchers looked at how respondents described their race on the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health over a period of five years. In the course of that time, the young adults’ answers changed.

“Ideas about race are not fixed,” said Steven Hitlin, assistant professor of sociology at Iowa University and one of the authors of the study. Racial identity, he said, seems to be “fluid.”…

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