Social Construction of Ethnicity Versus Personal Experience: The Case of Afro-Amerasians

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, United States on 2012-04-28 20:56Z by Steven

Social Construction of Ethnicity Versus Personal Experience: The Case of Afro-Amerasians

Journal of Comparative Family Studies
Volume 29, Issue 2 (Summer 1998)
pages 255-267

Teresa Kay Williams

Michael C. Thornton, Professor of Afro-American Studies
University of Wisconsin, Madison

The article focuses on the existence of ethnic group differences in the U.S. and how the subgroup of Black Americans, Afro-Amerasians, situate themselves in an environment that attempts to place them within established racial boundaries. Afro-Amerasians are estranged between two forces: the contrasting push of society to identify them as only Black, and the pull of their own personal and unique experience. However, instead of succumbing to these forces, these groups developed a different kind of Black identity which incorporates other parts of their heritage. They choose to situate themselves on the traditional boundaries of racial groups rather than deny important parts of who they are; thus, they choose to be marginal. They grew up in environment where they had ample opportunity to develop. These people tried to make sense of their experiences as radicalized peoples. Their struggles with personal and social accepts of identity provide sociological insight into understanding the complexities and contradictions of race and their ever-changing meanings and applications.

There are two significant contributors to ethnicity or racial group identity: a thread of historical experience that is shared by each member of the collectivity, and a sense of potency/strength inherent in the group (see Phinney, 1990). In social science research, racial identity, ostensibly feelings toward the group, is rarely examined with explicit measures of group feelings. Usually, a racial label is correlated to psychosocial development of group members. In this regard, racial group membership – and not actual experience – is normally featured.

 Thus, race is often used as a proxy for experience and attitudes, a practice embedded in premises of social science literature (Wilkinson, 1984). Deterministic views of race ignore important variations in how subgroups of Blacks relate to the larger group and to one another. Perhaps no experience better exposes the contradictions regarding how we view race in America than that of racially mixed individuals and, in particular, those with African heritage (Bonacich, 1991; King and DaCosta, 1995; Root, 1992).

Although a rare occurrence, interracial ties draw much attention because they encapsulate unresolved feelings and attitudes about race (Thomton and Wason, 1995). In a society racially stratified, where races are seen to be distinct, racial mixing has always been considered problematic (Spickard, 1992). Interracial populations muddy the dualistic view of race (i.e., that each of us is one or another race) and epitomize the inadequacies of this ideology; they lead us to question basic assumptions of how racial life is organized. In this article, we elaborate on this point by examining what would normally be considered a subgroup of Black Americans. We explore how Afro-Amerasians situate themselves in an environment that attempts to place them within established racial boundaries.

LITERATURE REVIEW

Black Group Identity

Work on Black group identity is not easy to characterize, in part because of relatively limited research on this issue, especially that which examines ethnic group differences (Porter and Washington, 1993). Typically, analysis highlights the influence of social class on identity (e.g., Landry, 1987; Farley, 1984). Some inquiry suggests that class is only a part of the puzzle. Broman et al. (1988) reveal that older, less-educated respondents in urban areas and highly-educated Blacks living outside the West were most likely to feel close to other Blacks. Gurin et al. (1989) show that identity, defined as common fate and as more Black than American, was not simply related to class. Males and those of upper-class status were more likely to feel a common fate with Blacks. Younger Blacks and those who did not work full-time were also more likely to feel more Black than American.

Usually, these studies implicitly assume that group identity is a globally positive (or negative) feeling toward a homogeneous racial referent (Allen et al., 1989). This view fails to recognize that subgroups of Blacks have attitudes about various groups within the racial category (e.g., poor versus middle-class Blacks). It is also common, within this perspective, to treat Blacks as having assimilated and thus not see identity as an alternate cultural experience (Porter and Washington, 1993). These assumptions result in an approach that rarely sees group attitudes as an admixture of positive and negative feelings. This approach does not allow for the possibility that group attitudes may involve an affinity with some aspects of subgroups within the racial category, even while coupled with attempts to disassociate from others (McAdoo, 1985; Jackson et al., 1988; Cross, 1991).

However, an ambiguity toward the racial group might be expected for minorities who contend with negative images of their group permeating society. Some emerging works identify several reference groups within the overarching racial category. Allen et al. (1989) describe identity as containing two important referents: masses (non-mainstream) and elites (mainstream). They suggest that within the racial category is an array of boundaries and identities prioritized in a variety of ways. For example, case studies show that native Black Americans distance themselves from Black Haitians (Stafford, 1985).

Multiracial Identity

Blacks will have different views of Blackness depending on where they are positioned in the social hierarchy. The position we consider here is mixed racial heritage. Historically, this category was simple. Mixed race referred to Black-White offspring who were part of a two-tiered system: Whites and Blacks, with racially mixed people viewed as improved versions of Blacks. Changes in the racial composition of the United States have been the catalyst of emerging work accenting race relations as inclusive …

Tags: , , , ,

The Multiracial Experience: Racial Borders as the New Frontier

Posted in Anthologies, Anthropology, Books, Census/Demographics, Gay & Lesbian, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, Teaching Resources on 2009-12-30 17:59Z by Steven

The Multiracial Experience: Racial Borders as the New Frontier

SAGE Publications
1995
512 pages
Paperback ISBN: 9780803970595

Edited by Maria P. P. Root

In her bold new edited volume, The Multiracial Experience, Maria P. P. Root challenges current theoretical and political conceptualizations of race by examining the experience of mixed-race individuals. Articulating questions that will form the basis for future discussions of race and identity, the contributors tackle concepts such as redefining ethnicity when race is less central to the definition and how a multiracial model might dismantle our negative construction of race. Researchers and practitioners in ethnic studies, anthropology, education, law, psychology, nursing, social work, and sociology add personal insights in chapter-opening vignettes while providing integral critical viewpoints. Sure to stimulate thinking and discussion, the contributors focus on the most contemporary racial issues, including the racial classification system from the U.S. Census to the schools; the differences between race, ethnicity, and colorism; gender and sexuality in a multicultural context; ethnic identity and identity formation; transracial adoption; and the future of race relations in the United States. The Multiracial Experience opens up the dialogue to rethink and redefine race and social relations in this country. This volume provides discussions key to all professionals, practitioners, researchers, and students in multicultural issues, ethnic relations, sociology, education, psychology, management, and public health.

Table of Contents

The Multiracial Experience: Racial Borders as a Significant Frontier in Race Relations РMaria P. P. Root

PART ONE: HUMAN RIGHTS

  • A Bill of Rights for Racially Mixed People – ¬†Maria P. P. Root
  • Government Classification of Multiracial/Multiethnic People –¬†Carlos A. Fernandez
  • The Real World –¬†Susan R. Graham
  • Multiracial Identity in a Color-Conscious World – Deborah A. Ramirez
  • Transracial Adoptions: In Whose Best Interest?¬†–¬†Ruth G. McRoy and Christine C. Iijima Hall
  • Voices from the Movement: Approaches to Multiraciality¬†– Cynthia L. Nakashima

PART TWO: IDENTITY

  • Hidden Agendas, Identity Theories, and Multiracial People – ¬†Michael C. Thornton
  • Black and White Identity in the New Millenium: Unsevering the Ties That Bind¬†– G. Reginald Daniel
  • On Being and Not-Being Black and Jewish – Naomi Zack
  • An `Other’ Way of Life: The Empowerment of Alterity in the Interracial Individual¬†– Jan R. Weisman

PART THREE: BLENDING AND FLEXIBILITY

  • LatiNegra Lillian: Mental Health Issues of African –¬†¬†Lillian Comas-Diaz
  • Race as Process: Reassessing the `What Are You?’ Encounters of Biracial Individuals – Teresa Kay Williams
  • Piecing Together the Puzzle: Self-Concept and Group Identity in Biracial Black/White Youth – Lynda D. Field
  • Changing Face, Changing Race: The Remaking of Race in the Japanese American and African American Communities¬†–¬†Rebecca Chiyoko King and Kimberly McClain DaCosta
  • Without a Template: The Biracial Korean/White Experience –¬†Brian Chol Soo Standen

PART FOUR: GENDER AND SEXUAL IDENTITY

  • In the Margins of Sex and Race: Difference, Marginality, and Flexibility¬†– George Kitahara Kich
  • (Un)Natural Boundaries: Mixed Race, Gender, and Sexuality –¬†Karen Maeda Allman
  • Heterosexual Alliances: The Romantic Management of Racial Identity- ¬†Francine Winddance Twine
  • Ambiguous Bodies: Locating Black/White Women in Cultural Representations –¬†Caroline A. Streeter

PART FIVE: MULTICULTURAL EDUCATION

  • Making the Invisible Visible: The Growth of Community Network Organizations¬†– Nancy G. Brown and Ramona E. Douglass
  • Challenging Race and Racism: A Framework for Educators –¬†Ronald David Glass and Kendra R. Wallace
  • Being Different Together in the University Classroom: Multiracial Identity as Transgressive Education¬†– Teresa Kay Williams et al
  • Multicultural Education –¬†Francis Wardle

PART SIX: THE NEW MILLENIUM

  • 2001: A Race Odyssey¬†– Christine C. Iijima Hall
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

American Mixed Race: The Culture of Microdiversity

Posted in Anthologies, Arts, Books, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Philosophy, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2009-10-13 20:00Z by Steven

American Mixed Race: The Culture of Microdiversity

Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
March 1995
420 pages
6 1/4 x 9 1/4
Cloth ISBN: 0-8476-8012-6 / 978-0-8476-8012-2
Paper ISBN: 0-8476-8013-4 / 978-0-8476-8013-9

Edited by Naomi Zack, Professor of Philosophy
University of Oregon

This exciting multidisciplinary collection brings together twenty-two original essays by scholars on the cutting edge of racial theory, who address both the American concept of race and the specific problems experienced by those who do not fit neatly into the boxes society requires them to check.

List of Contributors
Linda Alcoff, Debra A. Barrath, Jennifer Clancy, Susan Clements, F. James Davis, Abby L. Ferber, Carlos A. Fernandez, Freda Scott Giles, David Theo Goldberg, Susan R. Graham, Helena Jia Hershel. M. Annette Jaimes, Cecile Ann Lawrence, Zena Moore, Maria P.P. Root, Laurie Shrage, Stephen Satris, Carol Roh Spaulding, Mariella Squire-Hakey, Teresa Kay Williams, Bruentta R. Wolfman, and Naomi Zack.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction – Naomi Zack
  • Autobiography
    • Five Arrows – Susan Clements
    • Color Fades Over Time – Brunetta R. Wolfman
    • Racelessness – Cecile Ann Lawrence
    • Check the Box That Best Describes You – Zena Moore
    • What Are They? – Stephen Satris
  • Art
    • From Melodrama to the Movies – Freda Scott Giles
    • The Theater of Identity – Teresa Kay Williams
    • The Go-Between People – Carol Roh Spaulding
  • Social Science
    • The Hawaiian Alternative to the One-Drop Rule – F. James Davis
    • Some Kind of Indian – M. Annette Jaimes
    • Exploring the Social Construction of Race – Abby L. Ferber
    • Therapeutic Perspectives on Biracial Identity Formation and Internalized Oppression – Helena Jia Hershel
  • Public Policy
    • Grassroots Advocacy – Susan R. Graham
    • Testimony of the Association of Multi Ethnic Americans – Carlos A. Fern√†ndez
    • Multiracial Identity Assertion in the Sociopolitical Context of Primary Education – Jennifer Clancy
    • Yankee Imperialism and Imperialist Nostalgia – Mariella Squire-Hakey
  • Identity Theory
    • The Multiracial Contribution to the Psychological Browning of America – Maria P. P. Root
    • Made in the USA – David Theo Goldberg
    • Mestizo Identity – Linda Alcoff
    • Race and Racism – Debra A. Barrath
    • Ethnic Transgressions: Confessions of an Assimilated Jew – Laurie Shrage
    • Life After Race – Naomi Zack
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,