“Where Do I Fit?”
How identity can be a complex issue for people of multiracial backgrounds
By Mike Chee
Race in America has always been, and continues to be, a complex issue. Yet, most of the country’s discussion around race is still framed in sweeping terms. Broad definitions like Black, White, Asian, and Latinx, are a few examples of the way we define racial identity in America. These identities may work for many, but they reflect a monoracial view of race where individuals are expected to fit within one particular group. For people (including myself) who identify as biracial, multiracial, or mixed race, trying to fit in with a monoracial society can be challenging and at times invalidating.
Monoracial and Multiracial Views on Race
The term “monoracial” refers to a person who identifies with a single race. Monoracial definitions around race work for some people but they do little to reflect the reality of America where millions of people identify with more than just one racial group. Where do individuals with connections to multiple racial groups fit in a monoracial society? In contrast, a multiracial perspective around race acknowledges that many people identify with multiple racial groups.
A Growing Portion of the US
In 2000, the U.S. Census allowed people to check more than one racial category for the first time. By the 2010 Census, 9 million people (2.9% of the population) identified as multiracial, and today, America’s multiracial population is growing three times faster than the general population. By 2050, multiracial individuals are expected to make up 20% of the country.
Why Identity Matters
For people of multiracial backgrounds, identity can be especially important. Understanding how a person identifies can provide more insight than having them define themselves in a racial context.
Choosing for Ourselves
Identity also gives a person the power to define who they are. It puts greater focus on how one acknowledges themselves and less focus on how society does. People may have their own assumptions about how a multiracial person may identify, but it is important to actually ask that person if it is even relevant at all.
A Chance to Be Flexible
Multiracial identity is flexible and different for everybody. People within the same family can identify differently: one sibling may identify more with one culture while another sibling may not, and that’s ok! A person’s identity is constantly being formed, and nobody should expect someone to have a static view of who they are.
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Rousseau Anderson, Celia. (2015). What are you? A CRT perspective on the experiences of mixed race persons in ‘post-racial’ America. Race. 18. 10.1080/13613324.2014.911160.