Becoming a black woman: an identity in process

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Social Science on 2014-03-26 15:36Z by Steven

Becoming a black woman: an identity in process

Black Women of Brazil: The site dedicated to Brazilian women of African descent

Fernanda Souza

“(…) We are born preta (black), mulata, parda, brown, roxinha (a little purple) among others, but becoming negra (black) (1) is an achievement.” (Lélia Gonzalez)

“How (does one) to form an identity around color and non self-acceptance of blackness by the majority whose future was projected in the dream of branqueamento (whitening)?” (Munanga, p. 137, 2004)

My entire life I saw myself as a parda (brown), morena, mulata, mestiça (mixed race), but never, under any circumstances, negra (black). Although having blacks uncles and cousins, besides my late grandmother being black, I didn’t not recognize as such because of not thinking my parents were black, because I believed in the idea that blacks were only those people who had darker skin and my father and my mother could be seen, even by themselves, as mestiços and not as negros. That’s where we have one of the great subtleties while one of the biggest problems for racial consciousness in the country: the mestiço. The mestiço, as an intermediate category between white and black, is a result of the long process of mestiçagem (racial mixture) that marks Brazil. Mestiço here should be understood primarily as someone who is the child of a interracial couple (in this case, I refer to the union between a black man/ white woman and white man/black woman) and can also, to facilitate understanding of the text, be understood as someone who, even though not being the son/daughter of an interracial couple but of black parents, having lighter skin and had/has difficulty in defining themselves as black. Again I reiterate: this extension of the concept of “mestiço” is only to help in the understanding of the text and not to have to use the term “non-white” because it encompasses other ethnic groups, such as indigenous and neither “pardos (browns)”, because I find it politically innocuous for a text that will discuss mainly mestiçagem and the difficulty of asserting a racial-ethnic identity.

Miscegenation constitutes the cornerstone of the myth of racial democracy, whose central idea is that we are mestiços, the result of interbreeding between the three races – white, Indian and Black – which occurred through a contact and a harmonious coexistence between the three – forgetting that this process started from the rape of black women enslaved by plantation masters and there is nothing harmonious about it – and, in this sense, here there doesn’t exist so much discrimination and racial prejudice and people recognize themselves first as Brazilian than from a racial-ethnic identity of the oppressed, because as the myth of racial democracy dissolves, it mitigates and obscures the tensions, conflicts and racial prejudices present in Brazil, as Kabengele Munanga (2004) pointed out…

Read the entire article here.

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On mixedness and blackness

Posted in Articles, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive on 2014-03-16 22:00Z by Steven

On mixedness and blackness

What Nadia Likes

Nadia Riepenhausen

What are you? A question that is fairly straightforward for many, but not so much for me. Before you roll your eyes, expecting to hear another lengthy diatribe about another ‘tragic mullato’ identity crisis, hear me out.

A couple of Sundays ago, I found myself in a ‘battle of the races’ on twitter, a ‘twar’ for the lack of a better term. It started out as a pleasant debate regarding racial categories in South Africa, and the difference between a cultural and racial identity. It ended with me being called a racist who hates black people by choosing to identify as ‘mixed race’. I have been called many things, but a racist is definitely a first for me. I’m not going to justify my non-racist claim, by stating something lame like “some of my best friends are black”, because as I am mixed race, I am also black, but some people just don’t seem to get or accept that it’s possible to be both of these things at the same time

In the aforementioned twitter debate, I was explaining to my fellow tweeters that I prefer to identify as mixed race, rather than ‘coloured’. For those not in the know, ‘coloured’ is how mixed race people are referred to in South Africa, and in Zimbabwe where I grew up. For me ‘coloured’ is more of a cultural identity, rather than a race. Although both of my parents were born coloured, I have never been comfortable with the label. This is mainly due to the way that I have been socialised and the environment that I grew up in. I grew up with my German stepfather and spent parts of my childhood in Germany. I went to predominantly white schools, and was one of a handful of so-called ‘coloureds’ in my school. I found myself with either white or black friends, and when it came to debating issues of race or politics, I adopted a black identity. During the time I was in school, I didn’t have the means to question my identity too much, but always found it difficult to answer questions pertaining to what I was. I didn’t live in the areas that coloured people lived in, I didn’t speak the way they spoke, nor did I go to the same places they did. I may give the impression that I was afflicted with a superiority complex, and that I thought I was better in some way, but this was definitely not the case. I would have loved to have blended in, but I simply did not. The few times that I attempted to, I was told that I ‘didn’t belong’ and was even beaten up by a girl once for being where I don’t belong. Many years on, I have no desire to blend in with any group and have embraced my ‘otherness’…

Read the entire article here.

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‘Mixed race’, ‘mixed origins’ or what? Generic terminology for the multiple racial/ethnic group population

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Social Science, United Kingdom on 2014-03-11 21:46Z by Steven

‘Mixed race’, ‘mixed origins’ or what? Generic terminology for the multiple racial/ethnic group population

Anthropology Today
Volume 25, Issue 2 (April 2009)
pages 3-8
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8322.2009.00653.x

Peter J. Aspinall, Emeritus Reader in Population Health
University of Kent, UK

A broad range of terms have been proposed and debated for the ‘mixed race’ population. Dissatisfaction with ‘mixed race’, the term most widely used but contested on the grounds that it references the now discredited concept of ‘race’, has led to the search for an alternative. In 1994 the Royal Anthropological Institute advocated ‘mixed origins’; despite subsequent further efforts, this alternative has gained little momentum. ‘Mixed race’ now competes with terms such as ‘mixed heritage’, ‘dual heritage’, and ‘mixed parentage’ amongst data users.  However, research indicates that the term of choice of most respondents in general population and student samples of this population group is ‘mixed race’, other terms – including ‘mixed origins’ – attracting little support.  Given its dominance, it is premature to argue that the term ‘mixed race’ should be replaced by candidates that are not self-descriptors.

Read the entire article here.

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Concepts, terminology, and classifications for the ‘mixed’ ethnic or racial group

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Social Science, United Kingdom on 2014-03-11 21:39Z by Steven

Concepts, terminology, and classifications for the ‘mixed’ ethnic or racial group

Journal of Epidemiolgy and Community Health
Volume 64, Issue 6 (2010)
Pages 557-560
DOI: 10.1136/jech.2009.088294

Peter J. Aspinall, Reader in Population Health
Centre for Health Services Studies
University of Kent, United Kingdom

Background: The way to categorise people born of inter-ethnic and racial unions – the ‘mixed’ group – remains unclear and requires new insights, given the increasing size and complexity of the group and its emerging health profile.

Methods: A mixed methods research study focussing on ethnic options of young ‘mixed race’ people (n=326) recruited in colleges and universities investigated respondents’ preferences with respect to concepts, terminology, and classifications.

Results: The overwhelming generic term of choice was ‘mixed race’, widely interpreted by respondents to include mixed minority groups. Respondents were able to assign themselves in a valid way to a 12-category extended 2001 England and Wales Census classification for ‘mixed’, which collapses into five main groupings and also maps back to the census categories. Amongst options tested for census purposes, multi-ticking performed poorly and is not recommended.

Conclusions: A more finely granulated classification for ‘mixed’ is feasible where needed but this requires more extensive testing before it can be judged preferable to a ‘tick one or more’ option that has been shown to have poor reproducibility in validation surveys.

Read or purchase the entire article here.

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Betwixt, Between and Beyond: Racial formation and “mixed race” identities in New Zealand and Singapore

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Dissertations, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Oceania, Social Science on 2014-03-08 06:13Z by Steven

Betwixt, Between and Beyond: Racial formation and “mixed race” identities in New Zealand and Singapore

National University of Singapore
345 pages

Zarine Lia Rocha


“Mixed race” identities are increasingly important for academics and policy makers around the world. In many multicultural societies, individuals of mixed ancestry are identifying outside of traditional racial categories, posing a challenge to systems of racial classification, and to sociological understandings of race. Singapore and New Zealand illustrate the complex relationship between state categorization and individual identities. Both countries are diverse, with high rates of intermarriage, and a legacy of colonial racial organization. However, New Zealand’s emphasis on voluntary, fluid ethnic identity and Singapore’s fixed four-race framework provide key points of contrast. Each represents the opposite end of the spectrum in addressing “mixed race”: multiple ethnic options have been recognized in New Zealand for several decades, while symbolic recognition is now being implemented in Singapore.

This research explores histories of racial formation in New Zealand and Singapore, focusing on narratives of racial formation. The project examines two simultaneous processes: how individuals of mixed heritage negotiate identities within a racially structured framework, and why—how racial classification has affected this over time. Using a narrative lens, state-level narratives of racial formation are juxtaposed with individual narratives of identity. “Mixedness” is then approached from a different angle, moving away from classifications of identity, towards a characterization of narratives of reinforcement, accommodation, transcendence and subversion.

Drawing on a series of 40 interviews, this research found similarities and differences across the two contexts. In Singapore, against a racialized framework with significant material consequences, top-down changes sought to symbolically acknowledge mixedness, without upsetting the multiracial balance. In New Zealand, state efforts to remove “race” from public discourse allow ethnicity to be understood more flexibly, yet this has not always translated easily to everyday life. For individuals in Singapore, narratives were shaped by a racialized background, as they located themselves within pervasive racial structures. In New Zealand, stories were positioned against a dual narrative of fluidity and racialization, reflected in narratives that embraced ambiguity while referring back to racialized categories.

The four narrative characterizations illustrated the diversity of stories within each context, yet highlighted certain patterns. Narratives of transcendence were present in both countries, illustrating how historical racialization can be rejected. Narratives of accommodation were more common in New Zealand, as the dissonance between public and private understandings of mixedness was less stark. Narratives of reinforcement were more frequently seen in Singapore, mirroring colonial/post-colonial projects of racial formation in which personal stories were located. Narratives of subversion were present in both countries, but were more common in New Zealand, where subversion required less conscious effort.

Overall, this research drew out how identity can diverge from official classification, as individuals worked to navigate difference at an everyday level. State acknowledgements of mixedness served to highlight the continued dissonance between fluid identities and fixed racial categories, as well as the unique balance of racialized choice and constraint in Singapore and in New Zealand. Personal narratives revealed the creative ways in which people crossed boundaries, and the everyday negotiations between classification, heritage, and experience in living mixed identities.

Read the entire dissertation here.

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Mixed Experiences: Growing up mixed race – mental health and well-being

Posted in Books, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Monographs, Social Science, Social Work, United Kingdom on 2014-02-23 19:46Z by Steven

Mixed Experiences: Growing up mixed race – mental health and well-being

National Children’s Bureau
February 2014
96 pages
ISBN: 9781909391161

Dinah Morley and Cathy Street

Mixed race is the fastest growing population group of children and young people in England and Wales. The diversity of the mixed race group’s does not allow for a one-size-fits-all assessment of needs, and this is the challenge for practitioners.

This guide offers practitioners an insight into the experiences of racism, discrimination and identity confusion that mixed race children and young people encounter. With a focus on mental health, it discusses the policy context and considers the learning from projects and local services that have targeted mixed race children, young people and families.

It will be of value to all practitioners working with children and young people, especially those in the mental health field, and also in health more generally, early years services, social care, education, youth justice and the voluntary sector.

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Who Gets to Be A POC?: Self-Identifying & Privilege

Posted in Articles, Arts, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, United States on 2014-02-17 17:02Z by Steven

Who Gets to Be A POC?: Self-Identifying & Privilege

Mixed Dreams: towards a radical multiracial/ethnic movement

Nicole Nfonoyim de Hara

This post is in response to a great question a friend asked about how the wonderful new book (1)ne Drop:Shifting the Lens on Race by Dr. Yaba Blay and Noelle Théard, featuring portraits of individuals who identify as “Black” speaks to an article entitled “4 Ways to Push Back on Your Privilege” by one of my favorite bloggers, Mia McKenzie (aka Black Girl Dangerous). Many portraits in (1)ne Drop may raise a few eyebrows. Take the portrait of ‘Zun Lee’ on the right. He says:

“When I applied to grad school or for jobs, all of a sudden the boxes come up. I had to make a choice, so for the first time, I checked ‘Black.’ And I didn’t think long about it because for me, it was based on personal circumstance. I just chose the box that I felt most at home with because I didn’t relate to any of the other options. From then on, if I were asked, I would answer, ‘I’m Black.’ Of course, people told me I couldn’t do that — that I couldn’t choose that box. But I had spent all of my life being pushed away by people. In Germany, I wasn’t even given the option to check anything because I wasn’t welcomed there. I had no box. For the first time, I was being given the option to identify myself. Now I had a box, and I was happy in that little box.”

Is it okay for Zun Lee to identify as black? He doesn’t self-identify in his quote as “Asian.” Should we, the viewers and readers see him and insist that he must be “Asian” or at the very least “not black?”…

Read the entire article here.

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Race as freedom: how Cedric Dover and Barack Obama became black

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Asian Diaspora, Barack Obama, Biography, History, Identity Development/Psychology, United States on 2014-02-15 21:03Z by Steven

Race as freedom: how Cedric Dover and Barack Obama became black

Ethnic and Racial Studies
Volume 37, Issue 2
pages 222-240
DOI: 10.1080/01419870.2012.715661

Nico Slate, Assistant Professor of History
Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Born across racial lines, Cedric Dover and Barack Obama both came to identify with the African American community. By contrasting the lives and ideas of two mixed-race individuals, one born in Calcutta and the other in Hawaii, this article examines cosmopolitanism, racial formation and the promise of the ‘post-racial’. A ‘Eurasian’ intellectual born in Calcutta in 1904, Dover developed a coloured cosmopolitanism that mirrors in revealing ways Obama’s approach to race. Both men embraced blackness while transcending the boundaries of race and nation. Dover and Obama developed a conception of race as freedom—not freedom from race or of a particular race, but the freedom to embrace race without sacrificing other affiliations.

We must be both “racial” and anti-racial at the same time, which really means that nationalism and internationalism must be combined in the same philosophy. Cedric Dover (1947, 222)

I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles and cousins of every race and every hue, scattered across three continents, and for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible. Barack Obama (2008)

Born a Eurasian in Calcutta in 1904. Cedric Dover died in England in 1961 a ‘coloured’ man. Born to a white mother in Hawaii in 1961 and raised partially in Indonesia. Barack Obama became the first African…

Read or purchase the article here.

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Help Out a New Study Looking at Sharing Preferences for Biracial Children!

Posted in Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, United States, Wanted/Research Requests/Call for Papers on 2014-02-07 01:34Z by Steven

Help Out a New Study Looking at Sharing Preferences for Biracial Children!

Tufts University

Sarah Gaither, M.S.
Social Psychology Ph.D. Candidate
Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts

Do you have a child (age 3-8 years) that is either biracial Black/White or biracial Asian/White and live in the Boston area? We have a new study looking at sharing preferences in mixed-race kids!

We are running an in-lab psychology study looking at learning and sharing preferences of mixed-race children at Tufts University in Medford which takes around 30 minutes to complete! We can arrange for free parking if needed and your child will also get some cool stickers to take home. Plus you will be helping out one of the first studies involving biracial children!

If you are interested or want more information, please email us at and mention the study name: “Biracial Sharing Study.”

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Research Project on “Mixed Race” Identity: Call for Edmonton, Canada Area Participants

Posted in Canada, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Social Science, Wanted/Research Requests/Call for Papers on 2014-02-01 14:22Z by Steven

Research Project on “Mixed Race” Identity: Call for Edmonton, Canada Area Participants

University of Alberta
Edmonton, Canada

Jillian Paragg, Ph.D. Student
Department of Sociology

Are you of mixed racial background? Do you/have you identified as “mixed race”, “multiracial”, or with other “mixed” self-identifications (i.e. biracial, mulatto, eurasian, happa, creole etc.)? Do other people identify you as “mixed”?

I am looking for residents in the Edmonton area to participate in life story interviews who:

  • are 40-60 years of age
  • are of mixed racial parentage
  • were born in Canada or have been in Canada since the 1970s

I am conducting a project on mixed race identity for my doctoral dissertation in the Department of Sociology at the University of Alberta. The purpose of the project is to explore respondents’ experiences growing up and living as “mixed race” during the multicultural era in Canada.

Interviews will involve a minimum of two sittings, each taking at least 1 to 1.5 hours – for a total time commitment of 2 to 3 hours.

If you would like to be part of this study or have questions, please contact (by March at the latest). This project is supervised by Dr. Sara Dorow, who can be contacted at Please feel free to pass this call for participants on to anyone in the Edmonton area who may be interested in participating.

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