Mixed Race in the Age of Mrs. O

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...written with Marcia A. Dawkins, Ph.D.

...pics borrowed from Mrs.O and New York Times websites

This study is designed to examine how mixed race identity is formulated and discussed by young adults in the United States. An intensely interdisciplinary project, we begin by discussing racial mixedness and identity “with a twist” as they pertain, not to President Obama but, to First Lady Michelle Obama. Self-identified as and accepted as “Black,” her mixed race ancestry is the subject of recent scrutiny.

We begin by drawing on theories from Communication, Law, History and Critical Mixed Race Studies to engage this race/mixed race paradox (Pabst, 2003). In particular, we contextualize our project within the broader contemporary discourses and definitions of race, mixed race, and post-race. We then share the results from an open-ended survey of approximately 300 college age respondents who describe the first time they realized they were a race and how, if at all, they were affected by this realization.

We conclude by summarizing survey results, focusing especially on the approximately 177 respondents who described themselves monoracially but with some mixed race ancestry. Results suggest the need to move beyond biracial black/white stages of biracial identity formation outlined by Nance and Foeman (2002): racial awareness, coping, identity emergence, and maintenance. Emergent themes yield hypotheses with implications for future research and action. Case in point: U.S. involvement in wars in the Middle East has profound implications for both status of Arab Americans and the “mixed” children of people of Arab descent and other Americans.