Coping with the crickets: a fusion autoethnography of silence, schooling, and the continuum of biracial identity formation

Posted in Articles, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Teaching Resources, United States on 2012-11-19 02:44Z by Steven

Coping with the crickets: a fusion autoethnography of silence, schooling, and the continuum of biracial identity formation

International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education
Published online: 2012-11-07
DOI: 10.1080/09518398.2012.731537

Lynnette Mawhinney, Assistant Professor of Elementary/Early Childhood Education
The College of New Jersey, Ewing, New Jersey

Emery Marc Petchauer, Assistant Professor of Teacher Development & Educational Studies
Oakland University, Rochester, Michigan

This study explores biracial identity development in the adolescent years through fusion autoethnography. Using an ecological model of biracial identity development, this study illustrates how family, peers, and school curricula validate and reject racial self-presentations. We pay specific attention to the different forms of silence (i.e. “crickets”) that teachers and peers deploy as tactics of rejection and how racially coded artifacts such as hip-hop culture and Black Liberation texts function as validations of racial self-presentations. Overall, this study helps researchers and practitioners to understand the fluidity of biracial and multiracial identity development as it relates to everyday school spaces and processes.

Ask any biracial or multiracial person what question makes mem crazy, and 9 times out of 10 the answer will be Ihe question. “What are you?” As a biracial person, even to this day, my response to this question is often physical and visceral: I cringe, clench my jaw, and tense my body. Lewis (2006) writes in his book Fade: My Journeys in Multiracial America that his first thought after this question is, “Here we go again” (3). Ultimately, the question is infuriating because it is provoked by our physical appearance that seems ambiguous or “exotic” according to the insufficient, binary heuristics of race in the USA (Funderburg 1994; Rockquemore and Brunsma 2002; Rockquemore. Brunsma. and Delgado 2009). Though not intending to offend, a person asks the question based upon these narrow heuristics and expects the multiracial person to clearly identify in one category. Some people with multiracial backgrounds do indeed identify as one race, yet instances such as this are problematic, as Lewis (2006, 40) argues, because:

For multiracial people, there is an additional layer in the identity development process. It involves creating a sense of self by assembling pieces of their heritage that others view as incompatible or mutually exclusive.

This additional layer of identity development is inseparable from the process of schooling. Young people spend an enormous amount of their time in schools, thus…

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