Your Perception, My Reality: The Case of Imposed Identity for Multiracial Individuals
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Prior to this exploratory study, issues of multiracial identity development and imposed identity had not been explored in great detail. This study sought to expand the current knowledge base by offering an examination of a) multiracial identity development for different bi/multiracial backgrounds, b) the influence of the perception of race on social interactions (imposed identity), and c) racial identification in the public and private spheres from the perspective of multi-racial individuals. A literature based survey was developed and piloted with an expert panel to increase face and content validity. For the larger study, participants were recruited using snowball and convenience sampling. Forty-five participants provided in-depth interviews and an additional 166 completed the online version of the survey. Respondents were primarily female (n = 132; 83%), 26-30 years old (n = 37; 23%), from the South (n = 57; 36%), unmarried (n = 106; 67%), childless (n = 97, 63%) and reported a yearly household income of over $95,001 (n = 36; 24%). Findings from this study support identity development literature as respondents indicated family members were most responsible for their perceptions of race, even in mixed-raced families. Respondents also indicated they had experienced imposed identity based on what others believed their race to be. Perceptions of power influenced whether or not respondents corrected others' mistaken assumptions. Additionally, respondents indicated their belief that, despite their variances in skin tone, we do not live in a color-blind society, despite widely spread claims that we live in a post-racial society. Further, respondents indicated racial cues (such as skin tone, hair texture, facial structure) are still used to categorize people according to race. Qualitative data provided specific examples of when and how multiracial respondents had experienced racism and/or benefitted from others' beliefs about their race based on skin tone alone. For example, one bi-racial respondent indicated he was placed in advanced classes in high school because he appeared as only Asian, while another indicated his race was questioned at a government agency because of how he looked, but had never experienced that problem when conducting the same business with his White mother present.
Boutte-Heiniluoma, Nichole (2012). Your Perception, My Reality: The Case of Imposed Identity for Multiracial Individuals. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from
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