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The influence of K-12 schooling on the identity development of multiethnic students Mohan, Erica 2010

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THE INFLUENCE OF K-12 SCHOOLING ON THE IDENTITY DEVELOPMENT OF MULTIETHNIC STUDENTS  by Erica Mohan B.A., Carleton College, 2000 M.Ed., The University of British Columbia, 2003  A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY in THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES (Educational Studies)  THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA (Vancouver) April 2010  © Erica Mohan, 2010  ABSTRACT This study examined the influence of K-12 schooling on the racial and ethnic identity development of 23 self-identified multiethnic students attending high schools across the San Francisco Bay Area. All of the students participated in a semi-structured interview, nine participated in one of two focus groups, and five completed a writing activity. I approached this study with a postpositivist realist conception of identity (Mohanty, 2000; Moya, 2000a/b) that takes seriously the fluidity and complexity of identities as well as their epistemic and real-world significance. In defining racial and ethnic identity formation, I borrowed Tatum’s (1997) understanding of it as “the process of defining for oneself the personal significance and social meaning of belonging to a particular racial [and/or ethnic] group” (p. 16). The findings from this study indicate that the formal aspects of schooling (e.g., curriculum and diversity education initiatives) rarely directly influence the racial and ethnic identity development of multiethnic students. They do, however, shape all students’ racial and ethnic understandings and ideologies, which in turn shape the informal aspects of schooling (e.g., interactions with peers and racial and ethnic divisions within the student body) which exert direct influence over multiethnic students’ experiences and identities. Of course, schooling is not alone in shaping the racial and ethnic understandings and ideologies of the general student body; other influences such as family and neighborhood context cannot be discounted. Nevertheless, the findings indicate that schools are sites of negotiation, that these negotiations influence multiethnic students’ identities, and that these negotiations occur in the context of, and are shaped by, both formal and informal aspects of schooling, including, but not limited to, school demographics, curricula, race and ethnicity-based student organizations, and interactions between all members of the school community. Based on the findings, it is recommended that educators infuse the curriculum and classroom discussions with issues of race, ethnicity, multiethnicity, and difference; actively engage in the process of complicating, contesting, and deconstructing racial and ethnic categories and their classificatory power; and end the silence regarding multiethnicity in schools and ensure its authentic inclusion in the curriculum.  ii  TABLE OF CONTENTS ABSTRACT ....................................................................................................................... ii TABLE OF CONTENTS ................................................................................................ iii LIST OF TABLES .......................................................................................................... vii ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS .......................................................................................... viii CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION ............................................................................. 1 Context ....................................................................................................................................... 2 Problem Statement and Purpose ............................................................................................. 6 Research Questions and Methods ............................................................................................ 8 Definitions .................................................................................................................................. 8 Schooling vs. Education........................................................................................................................ 9 Race, Ethnicity, and Multiethnicity ...................................................................................................... 9  Limitations and Delimitations ................................................................................................ 14 Overview of the Dissertation .................................................................................................. 15 Significance of the Study ........................................................................................................ 17  CHAPTER TWO: CONCEPTUAL AND THEORETICAL FRAMING OF IDENTITY ....................................................................................................................... 19 An Essentialist Approach to Identity .................................................................................................. 25 Postmodern and Poststructural Approaches to Identity ...................................................................... 26 A Postpositivist Realist Approach to Identity ..................................................................................... 27 A Theory of Multiplicity ..................................................................................................................... 35  Conclusion................................................................................................................................ 40  CHAPTER THREE: REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE.......................................... 42 Section I: Multiethnic Identity Development........................................................................ 44 Section II: Problem, Equivalent, and Variant Approaches to Multiethnic Identity ......... 51 Problem Approaches to Multiethnic Identity ...................................................................................... 51 Equivalent and Variant Approaches to Multiethnic Identity............................................................... 53  Section III: Schooling and Student Identity Construction .................................................. 57 Overview of Multicultural and Antiracism Education ........................................................................ 60 Critiques of Multicultural and Antiracism Education......................................................................... 63  Section IV: The K-12 Schooling Experiences of Multiethnic Students .............................. 67 Section V: Integrating the Literature .................................................................................... 73  CHAPTER FOUR: METHODOLOGY ....................................................................... 78 Participant and Site Selection ........................................................................................ 79 Research Procedures ...................................................................................................... 81 Semi-Structured Interviews ................................................................................................... 82 Focus Groups ........................................................................................................................... 84  iii  Writing Activity....................................................................................................................... 86  Data Analysis and Presentation ..................................................................................... 87 Starting Points ......................................................................................................................... 88 Generating Participant Profiles ............................................................................................. 89 Analysis of the Data Relating to K-12 Schooling Experiences ............................................ 90  The Complexities of Researching Multiethnic Identities ............................................ 93 Self as Research “Instrument” ...................................................................................... 99 Insider/Outsider Research.................................................................................................... 100 Self as Insider/Outsider ........................................................................................................ 103 Additional Methodological Considerations ........................................................................ 109  Conclusion ..................................................................................................................... 112 CHAPTER FIVE: PARTICIPANT PROFILES ....................................................... 114 Jill ........................................................................................................................................... 114 Mialany .................................................................................................................................. 117 Dana ....................................................................................................................................... 119 Andrea .................................................................................................................................... 123 Anthony .................................................................................................................................. 125 Frank ...................................................................................................................................... 127 Jasmine................................................................................................................................... 128 David ...................................................................................................................................... 131 Cara ........................................................................................................................................ 133 Amaya .................................................................................................................................... 135 Raya ........................................................................................................................................ 138 Barry ...................................................................................................................................... 140 Christina ................................................................................................................................ 142 Kendra ................................................................................................................................... 143 Renee ...................................................................................................................................... 145 Jen........................................................................................................................................... 146 Hip Hapa ................................................................................................................................ 147 Kelley ...................................................................................................................................... 150 Josh ......................................................................................................................................... 153 Jordan .................................................................................................................................... 155 Anne ....................................................................................................................................... 157 Hannah ................................................................................................................................... 159  iv  Marie ...................................................................................................................................... 161 Discussion............................................................................................................................... 163  CHAPTER SIX: PARTICIPANTS’ EXPERIENCES AND PERCEPTIONS OF THE FORMAL ASPECTS OF K-12 SCHOOLING ................................................. 169 Documentation of Racial and Ethnic Identities.................................................................. 170 Race and Ethnicity-Based Student Organizations ............................................................. 173 Relationships and Interactions with Teachers and Administrators ................................. 179 Specific Lessons, Projects, and Classroom Activities......................................................... 183 (Not) Learning about Multiethnicity ................................................................................... 185 (Not) Learning about Race and Ethnicity ........................................................................... 188 Diversity Education Initiatives............................................................................................. 194 Integrating the Data .............................................................................................................. 205  CHAPTER SEVEN: PARTICIPANTS’ EXPERIENCES AND PERCEPTIONS OF THE INFORMAL ASPECTS OF K-12 SCHOOLING ............................................ 213 School Diversity ..................................................................................................................... 213 Friendships ............................................................................................................................ 220 Diverse Friendship Networks and Boundary Crossing ..................................................... 220 Friends with Similar Identities and Heritages.................................................................... 224 Stereotypes ............................................................................................................................. 226 Challenged Identities ............................................................................................................ 232 Racial Tension at School....................................................................................................... 237 Integrating the Data .............................................................................................................. 239  CHAPTER EIGHT: PARTICIPANTS’ BROADER REFLECTIONS ON SCHOOLING AND RECOMMENDATIONS FOR EDUCATORS ....................... 244 Participant Perspectives ....................................................................................................... 245 Integrating the Data .............................................................................................................. 266 Correcting a “Blindness” Towards Multiethnic Students ..................................................................267 Talking About Race (and Ethnicity and Multiethnicity) ....................................................................268 Specifically Addressing Multiethnicity..............................................................................................269 Getting an Early Start.........................................................................................................................270 We All Have Similar “Needs” ...........................................................................................................271 A Desire for Awareness and Understanding ......................................................................................273  CHAPTER NINE: CONCLUSION............................................................................. 277 Research Questions and Findings ........................................................................................ 277 Implications and Recommendations for Educators ........................................................... 283 Future Research Directions.................................................................................................. 288 Reflections on the Research Methodology .......................................................................... 290  v  Reflections on a Postpositivist Realist Framing of Identity............................................... 294 Concluding Thoughts ............................................................................................................ 298  REFERENCES.............................................................................................................. 300 APPENDICES ............................................................................................................... 314 Appendix I – Semi-Structured Interview Protocol ............................................................ 314 Appendix II – Writing Activity Prompt .............................................................................. 316 Appendix III - Maria Root's 50 Experiences of Racially Mixed People........................... 317 Appendix IV – Behavioral Research Ethics Board Certificate of Approval ................... 321  vi  LIST OF TABLES Table 1……………………………………………………………………………...……84  vii  ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I am tremendously grateful to all of the students who took time from their busy schedules to share their thoughts, stories, and experiences with me. I truly appreciate their thoughtful engagement with the research questions and I hope that I have done justice to the richness of their interviews, focus groups, and writing activities. I am also grateful to iPride for its assistance in contacting research participants and to Corissa Stobing, Lori MacDonald, and Gavin Kermode for their invaluable support of this project. This research, of course, would not have been possible without the guidance and encouragement provided by my supervisory committee: Carolyn Shields, Kogila AdamMoodley, and Jennifer Chan. I am particularly grateful to Carolyn for her constant support and thoughtful mentorship through all stages of my doctoral studies. I also thank Lisa Loutzenheiser for supervising one of my qualifying exams and Daniel Vokey and Jean Barman for their generosity of time and guidance. Within a month of beginning my graduate studies at UBC, I met and became good friends with (now Dr.) Mark Edwards. During weekly conversations en route to a research site, Mark offered much invaluable advice for the rookie graduate student and often reminded me that the pursuit of a graduate degree is a journey and not simply a race to the finish line. During this journey, I have had the immense fortune of being surrounded by supportive friends, family, and colleagues who have constantly motivated me, helped me to keep things in perspective, never (to my knowledge) lost confidence in me, suffered through endless conversations about my research, and provided much needed study breaks. I am immensely grateful to each one of you for your friendship and support. I am especially grateful to the Mumicks for providing a home, Indian food, and  viii  great company when I needed them most during my studies in Vancouver; to Uncle Johnny for the regular study breaks and stimulating conversations during the lonely days spent at my computer; to my comrades in the academy, AJ, Jess, Kristina, Nada, and Jude, for their willingness to commiserate and inspire as needed; and to Martha and Katie who, in their own unique ways, made sure I never lost sight of life beyond the university. I’ve always found public displays of emotion (and particularly my own) somewhat embarrassing and uncomfortable, so it is perhaps not surprising that I have found writing these acknowledgements so difficult. (Who would have thought that the “Acknowledgements” would be one of the more challenging sections of the dissertation to write!). The truth is, as I reflect on the people who have encouraged and supported me on this journey, and without whose assistance this dissertation would not have been possible, I am overwhelmed by feelings of gratitude and love. This is particularly true as I reflect on the love and support of my family. Mommy, you are the consummate feminist (the lipstick, the three-inch heels, they’re not fooling anyone); thank you for teaching me the value of an education and instilling in me the drive and enthusiasm to pursue a PhD. You cheered me on when my energy wilted and I doubted myself, and your ongoing support and encouragement kept me optimistic, determined, and excited about this enormous undertaking. Daddy, thank you for your 24 hour, round the clock availability. Likewise, thank you for somehow being exactly what I needed, when I needed it: tech support when the printer failed (right, check paper), sounding board as I developed my ideas aloud, friend when I simply needed to talk. Mommy is right, she found us the perfect dad. And Nina, there’s a reason you’re doing creative writing. Good luck with the degree. Only you could convince me that soliloquy has a place in academic writing and  ix  that “Dude, Where’s My Theory?” is a timely and completely acceptable title for a Master’s level paper. And no, I won’t forget that I owe you lots and lots of proofreading when you write your thesis! Adrian, for you I am grateful everyday and I dedicate this dissertation to you.  x  CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION I have been told that I am exotic, interesting, and lucky to have been exposed to two different cultures (“You get the best of both worlds, Erica”). Yet, I have also been told that I have “confused genes” and that I will live a “conflicted life.” I have been asked more times than I can count if I am adopted, others often “remind” me how lucky I am that I can “pass” as White, and my knowledge and experiences of Indian culture have been tested, evaluated, and measured continuously by friends, strangers, and even a few teachers. Questions I am often presented with include: “Do you eat Indian food at home?” “Do you speak Hindi?” “Is your family Hindu?” and “Have you been to India?” Each time I am presented with such questions, I wonder if visibly [insert racial or ethnic group here] individuals get asked similar questions in such a challenging way. I also remember how I felt when an(other) Indian student in my high school said, “You aren’t really Indian, Erica.” Throughout my life, it seems that many of my friends, classmates, teachers, and even some family members and strangers have had trouble deciding where I “belong,” could not reconcile the differences between their perceptions of me and my identity, and have felt the need to impose their racial and ethnic understandings on me. Given the interactive nature of identity development, comments and experiences such as these were not without consequence for my sense of self and belonging. It wasn’t until I arrived at graduate school and started studying multicultural and antiracist education that I began to seriously interrogate some of these experiences from an educational perspective. From this, numerous questions emerged. Would my experiences have been different if people had known more about multiethnicity or if it had been included in the curriculum? How might my experiences have been different if  1  schools developed different approaches to studying racial and ethnic diversity? What can schools do to be more inclusive of their multiethnic students and support their identity development? What new understandings of race, ethnicity, multiethnicity, and identity are required to more accurately reflect the experiences of students in today’s schools? Have other multiethnic students had experiences similar to mine? These questions, among others, are what brought me to this study, which seeks to understand the perceived influence of K-12 schooling experiences on the identity construction of self-identified multiethnic students. Context This study may not have been possible, and quite certainly would have yielded significantly different findings, had it been conducted at any other time in American history. Just over 40 years ago, prior to the United States Supreme Court’s 1967 ruling in Loving v. Virginia, anti-miscegenation laws prevented mixed race couples (particularly Black-White couples) from marrying. Prior to that, until the Supreme Court’s 1954 ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, racial segregation in American public schools was legally permissible. Even after Brown, Jim Crow laws and official racial segregation remained in place for another decade while the “one drop rule” meant that anyone with Black ancestry was considered Black. Other attacks on racial integration in the history of the United States include, but certainly are not limited to, the internment of approximately 110,000 Japanese individuals during WWII, California’s 1905 prohibition on marriages between Caucasians and “Mongolians,” and the westward relocation of Native Americans to isolated lands.  2  Although certainly the United States has not yet achieved racial equality, race relations have changed dramatically in the past 50 years and such egregious attacks on fundamental freedoms (at least within our national borders) have greatly diminished. Fifty years ago, multicultural education had not yet emerged as an approach to better serve minoritized students in schools; many of today’s technological advances facilitating and encouraging the movement of information, consumer goods, cultural artifacts, and people around the globe had not yet been achieved; and the biological underpinnings of race remained largely intact. Just over a decade ago, individuals were not yet allowed to select more than one racial category on the US Census and official school forms, Tiger Woods was not yet publically asserting a multiethnic identity, and the US had not yet elected a multiethnic president. Indeed, this study is situated in a specific moment in history marked by much higher levels of recognition, support, and acceptance of multiethnic individuals than in the past. Moreover, this context is changing rapidly, so much so that “research findings from 15 to 20 years ago may not be replicable or as relevant to persons who are of mixed race in their early twenties” (Root, 2003b, p. 121). Today, celebrities, professional athletes, and politicians like Tiger Woods, Halle Berry, Paula Abdul, Vanessa Hudgens, and Barack Obama have increased the prominence of multiethnicity in both the media and the public consciousness. Tiger Woods, for example, discussed his multiethnic identity on the Oprah Winfrey Show, calling himself Cablinasian (to represent his Caucasian, Black, American Indian, Thai, and Chinese heritage) (see Hollinger, 2004). Scholars and authors such as Arboleda (1998), Basu (2007), Camper (1994), Ifekwunigwe (2004), Krebs (1999), Kwan & Speirs (2004), Renn (2008), Rockquemore and Brunsma (2002), Rockquemore and Laszloffy  3  (2005), Root (1992b, 1996b), Schwartz (1998), Wallace (2004), Wardle (1996, 1998, 2004), Wilson (1987), Winters and DeBose (2003), and Zack (1993, 1995), to name but a few, have contributed to a substantial increase in the research and literature related to multiethnicity. With the help of organizations like iPride and the Interracial Family Circle, multiethnic families can, in at least some parts of North America, connect in a supportive community. Resources and information related to multiethnicity are now readily available via websites such as those hosted by MAVIN, the Mixed Heritage Center, and the Association of MultiEthnic Americans. And, thanks to programs like iPride’s Multiethnic Education Program, educators can benefit from resources, training, and support as they strive to be responsive to, and supportive of, the educational experiences of their multiethnic students. It is fair to say, then, that in manifold ways and myriad settings, multiethnicity is receiving long overdue attention and acceptance, so much so that we now often hear of the “multiracial/multiethnic movement.” Largely in response to the campaigning of multiethnic individuals, the 2000 U.S. Census was the first to allow individuals to indicate identification with more than one racial group. U.S. Census Bureau estimates from July 2007 indicate that nearly 2.5% of the California population is, in the Bureau’s terms, multiracial. Similar estimates were reported for Nevada, Oregon, and Washington, and much higher percentages were reported for Oklahoma (4%), Alaska (4.7%), and Hawaii (18.6%) (Stuckey, 2008). Given that the Census counts only those who identify with more than one racial group, these numbers do not include those who identify with multiple ethnicities; the fractions identifying as multiethnic would likely be considerably greater. Although already significant, these statistics should be even more compelling for educators when we  4  consider the distribution of multiethnic individuals by age. According to a report based on findings from the 2000 Census, “People who reported more than one race were more likely to be under age 18 than those reporting only one race .…Of the 6.8 million people in the Two [sic] or more races population [category], 42 percent were under 18” (Jones & Smith, 2001, p. 9). Based on these numbers, we can assert confidently that a large percentage of the students in our schools are multiethnic, and logic dictates that their numbers will increase with time. Clearly, then, this research emerges from a changing context marked by increasing recognition of and interest in multiethnicity and the experiences of multiethnic individuals. Moreover, we cannot deny that multiethnic individuals and couples do not face the same legal and social impediments they once did, that attacks on racial and ethnic integration are not as overt or pervasive as they once were, and that some progress has been made towards racial and ethnic equality in the United States. Given these changes, it may perhaps be tempting to sit back and celebrate the achievements and progress realized to date, yet they should not be allowed to obscure the fact that much remains to be done. In fact, these achievements are, I would argue, best viewed as evidence that additional progress is possible. We must also bear in mind that increased recognition of and interest in multiethnic individuals and their experiences is not a substitute for deep understanding. Indeed, our understanding of the experiences and identity construction of multiethnic individuals remains limited (Shih & Sanchez, 2005; 2009). If we are to achieve the sort of deep understanding of the experiences of multiethnic individuals that may more appropriately inform future policy, practice, and  5  relationships, we cannot be satisfied with mere recognition and interest. Rather, we must undertake genuine inquiry into the experiences of multiethnic individuals and the effects of current policies, practice, and social relations on those experiences. More broadly, if we are sincere about our desire for equity, social justice, and a society in which racial and ethnic identities are not determinants of opportunity or life chances, we must continue to interrogate the constructs of race and ethnicity and the ways in which racial and ethnic ideologies and categories operate in the lives of individuals. This research, in examining the identity construction of multiethnic students as influenced by their K-12 schooling experiences, seeks such deep understanding, and, it is hoped, may serve as the basis for more informed educational policy and practice. Problem Statement and Purpose It is widely believed that schools play a significant role in students’ racial and ethnic identity development (see, for example, Castenell & Pinar, 1993; Dolby, 2000; Gay, 1994; Kincheloe & Steinberg, 1997; Nieto, 2000; Yon, 2000) and prior research links students’ racial and ethnic identities to academic self-esteem and educational aspirations and outcomes (see, for example, Zirkel, 2008). Thus, many educators and researchers have turned their attention to educational methods for supporting the identity development of students, and in particular, the racial and ethnic identity development of minoritized students. Such efforts most often take the form of multicultural and antiracist education programs—initiatives frequently critiqued for their tendency to perpetuate rigid, essentialist, and static understandings of race and ethnicity and to reinforce the boundaries constructed between racial and ethnic categories (see, for example, CruzJanzen, 1997; Dolby, 2000; Gosine, 2002). Based on these critiques, it is often assumed  6  that contemporary approaches to diversity education marginalize multiethnic students and fail to support their racial and ethnic identity development (see, for example, Calore, 2008; Cruz-Janzen, 1997; Wardle, 1996, 2000a, 2004). Although such assumptions abound in educational literature, and despite the growing body of research and literature attending to the experiences and identity construction of multiethnic individuals, there is very little empirical research that examines the influence of schooling experiences on multiethnic students’ identity construction processes—processes understood as differing from those of monoethnic individuals in significant ways. There is, in other words, a significant gap in the research on multiethnic students and their identity development—a gap that this research begins to fill. The purpose of this qualitative inquiry was to gain a deep understanding of the K12 schooling experiences of multiethnic students and the perceived influence of these experiences on their racial and ethnic identity development. More specifically, I sought to examine the influence of school curriculum, policies, practices, social structures, and patterns of behavior on the perceptions of 23 multiethnic high school students in relation to questions of self, identity, and belonging. At the same time, I have endeavored to identify ways in which schools might be more inclusive and supportive of their multiethnic students. Multiethnic students’ voices should be heard as we attempt to overcome the limited, rigid, and impoverished understandings of race, ethnicity, and diversity that pervade contemporary schooling. Without efforts to fill the significant gaps in educational research about such students, attempts to develop more inclusive and less essentializing policies and practices regarding race and ethnicity cannot hope to succeed.  7  Research Questions and Methods The central research question for this study is: in what ways does K-12 schooling influence the racial and ethnic identity construction of multiethnic students? Related questions include: in what ways do school initiatives such as multicultural and antiracism education influence their identity development processes? What other aspects of K-12 schooling (i.e. the curriculum, peer networks and friendships, the racial and ethnic makeup of the school, extra-curricular activities, and student organizations) influence the racial and ethnic identity construction of multiethnic students? How might K-12 schools become more inclusive of, and better support the identity development of, multiethnic students? In seeking answers to these questions, I interviewed 23 self-identified multiethnic high school students drawn from eight schools across the San Francisco Bay Area. During semi-structured interviews, participants and I explored their racial and ethnic identity construction processes and the various factors influencing these processes, with a focus on their K-12 schooling experiences. All participants were invited to join optional focus groups and to complete an optional writing activity. Definitions In this section, I make clear my understanding and use of such terms as schooling, race, ethnicity, and multiethnicity—terms upon whose meanings there is seldom agreement.  8  Schooling vs. Education In much educational literature, the term “education” is preferred to “schooling,” as the former is seen to connote a process that takes place over one’s lifetime, in many different venues, both formally and informally, and is related to a broad range of topics and subjects. I quite intentionally, however, favor the terms “schooling” and “schooling experiences” throughout this study. I have done so because I believe that education is not confined to what one learns either formally or informally in schools and because my focus is specifically on, for example, the lessons and activities that occur in schools; the social interactions that take place between students in a classroom, in the hallways, in the cafeterias, on the lawns; the relationships between staff members and students; the explicit and implicit knowledge that students learn from their teachers, administrators, and classmates; and the school-based organizations and activities that students are invited to join or from which they are excluded. In short, my focus is on the broad range of lessons, activities, and interactions that take place in schools and the perceived influence of these on the identity construction of multiethnic students. Race, Ethnicity, and Multiethnicity Before discussing my definition and use of the term multiethnic, it is worth exploring the definitions of race and ethnicity I use, and my understanding of the relationship between these two constructs. As I understand it, “race” is a concept that European expansionists devised, based on observations of physical variations, to create a system of color-coded hierarchy, which became “a strategy for dividing, ranking, and  9  controlling colonized people” (American Anthropological Association, 1998, ¶ 7). More recently, the notion that humans can be organized into biologically discrete groups has lost credence. The more common perspective held by social scientists today is that race has “no empirical validity or scientific merit. It exists instead as a social construction that is manipulated to define and reinforce the unequal relations between dominant and subordinate groups” (Fleras & Elliott, 2003, p. 386). In describing the instability of race’s meaning and racial categories themselves, Omi and Winant explain that “the meaning of race is defined and contested throughout society, in both collective action and personal practice. In the process, racial categories themselves are formed, transformed, destroyed and re-formed” (1986, p. 61). Despite the instability of race’s meaning, efforts to subvert this dubious concept, and the transformation and re-formation of racial categories, race and racial ideologies continue to hold real-life consequences—both positive and negative depending on where one is situated in the racial hierarchy—for individuals both in the United States and abroad. Thus, to adopt a color-blind approach that fails to acknowledge the very real material, social, and political inequities that result from racist ideologies (based on fictitious notions of race) precludes the sort of meaningful engagement that might actually pose a challenge to racism, racial ideologies, and the very notion of race. Arbitrary and unsound as racial categories are, to ignore them is not to deconstruct them. Although the terms race and ethnicity are often used interchangeably, and although I believe that the two concepts are closely related and that the distinction between them is blurred, the two are not synonymous. Giddens, Duneier, and Applebaum describe ethnicity in the following way:  10  Cultural values and norms that distinguish the members of a given group from others. An ethnic group is one whose members share a distinct awareness of a common cultural identity, separating them from other groups. In virtually all societies, ethnic differences are associated with variations in power and material wealth. Where ethnic differences are also racial, such divisions are sometimes especially pronounced. (2005, p. A6) Using this as a definition of ethnicity, we begin to see some of the similarities between the constructs of race and ethnicity: they are often experienced in similar ways (especially as such experiences relate to power and privilege) and they are both, at their core, essentially concerned with distinctions between and the grouping of individuals. These and other similarities between these two constructs significantly influenced my definition of the term multiethnic and my decision to examine the experiences of multiethnic (as opposed to multiracial) students. Throughout this research, I use the term multiethnic instead of multiracial, mixed race, biracial, mixed origin, mixed ethnicity, children of mixed parentage, of blended background, ethnoracially mixed, and a variety of other possible terms—terms that are often employed by study participants to describe their heritage and that are frequently found within the related literature. All of these terms are problematic and reinforce the misconception that there exist biologically defined “pure” races and discrete ethnicities. They are not, though, used and defined in the same way by all researchers. In most of the related research, the terms multiracial and biracial are favored and typically refer to children of parents representing two or more racial categories (as delineated by the Census Bureau). In this study, I expand this focus to include children of parents who may be racially similar, but who represent different ethnicities. Under this conception, the child of a Chinese mother and a Japanese father is considered multiethnic, as is the child of an Afro-Caribbean mother and an African father.  11  The decision to define multiethnicity in this way is not based on an inaccurate conflation of race and ethnicity or the impact they have on the lives of individuals, but a desire to blur the distinction between them. In fact, as Hall argues, this distinction is already blurred. Biological racism privileges markers like skin colour, but those signifiers have always been used, by discursive extension, to connote social and cultural differences…The biological referent is therefore never wholly absent from discourses of ethnicity, though it is more indirect. The more “ethnicity” matters, the more its characteristics are represented as relatively fixed, inherent within a group, transmitted from generation to generation, not just by culture and education, but by biological inheritance, stabilized above all by kinship and endogamous marriage rules that ensure that the ethnic group remains genetically, and therefore culturally “pure”. (Hall, 2000, cited in Gunaratnam, 2003, p. 4) The strength of Hall’s argument can best be demonstrated through an examination of my own experiences. When I make claims to my Indian heritage such claims are challenged, primarily, because of my physical appearance (i.e. my perceived race). However, these challenges are aimed at my cultural practices and preferences (ethnicity), such as “Do you eat Indian food?” or “Are you Hindu?” or “Do you enjoy Bollywood movies?” To excessively differentiate between race and ethnicity would be to miss the significant “interrelations between the two ‘registers’ of biology and culture in processes of giving ‘race’ and ethnicity meaning and bringing them to life in the social world” (Gunaratnam, 2003, p. 5). Therefore, as it is used here, multiethnicity encompasses “biological ancestry as well as cultural and contextual influences that shape values, attitudes, and behaviors” (Greene, 2004, p. 115). While sharing my research at the most recent meeting of the American Educational Research Association, an audience member took exception to my use of the term multiethnic as it, she felt, downplays race and racism. She argued that researchers  12  should centralize race in their work as a more insidious construct than ethnicity if they hope to effectively challenge racism. As should be clear, I believe that this individual underestimates the interrelations between these two constructs. Moreover, I believe that any successful challenge to racism in contemporary American society will require additional focus on the ways in which cultural differences are mobilized to leave intact racial hierarchies and persistent inequities. This perspective was shaped in large part by Bonilla-Silva (2003) who argued that those with a vested interest in maintaining the racial status quo have developed new strategies for doing so, the manifestation of which he terms “color-blind racism.” This ‘new’ variety of racism, unlike the overt forms of the Jim Crow era which drew explicitly on notions of biological and moral inferiority, rationalizes racial inequality through nonracial dynamics such as market outcomes and cultural limitations. Despite representing a shift away from the unconcealed, unabashed racism of yesteryears, Bonilla-Silva argues that, “this new ideology has become a formidable political tool for the maintenance of the racial order” (p. 3). The ideology of color-blind racism relies on four central frames, namely abstract liberalism, naturalization, cultural racism, and minimization of racism. Of particular interest here is the frame of cultural racism, described by Bonilla-Silva as “a frame that relies on culturally based arguments such as ‘Mexicans do not put much emphasis on education’ or ‘Blacks have too many babies’ to explain the standing of minorities in society” (p. 28). As cultural differences (as opposed to biological differences) are increasingly relied upon to defend persistent racial inequities, to consistently privilege race in one’s research neglects the relationship  13  between race and ethnicity and potentially undermines one’s efforts to challenge the racial status quo. As should be apparent, I recognize that different individuals and groups experience racial and ethnic categories differently and that these categories too often determine who gets what in American society. Why, then, group all multiethnic individuals together in this study? Indeed, elsewhere I have questioned the extent to which a single multiethnic population, with members who identify as such, actually exists and can be studied (Mohan & Venzant Chambers, 2009). Nevertheless, for several reasons described in greater detail in Chapters Three and Four, for the purposes of this study, individuals with diverse racial and ethnic heritage combinations were invited to participate. Briefly, this decision was based, in part, on the fact that as multiethnicity garners increased attention, there is often (but certainly not always) a tendency to depict the multiethnic “population” in broad strokes regardless of the racial and ethnic heritages they represent. This is true of media accounts, much of the related educational literature, organizations serving the multiethnic community, and other writings about multiethnicity. Moreover, I believe it is worth discerning if multiethnic students share common experiences related to straddling or crossing racial and ethnic borders, regardless of which races or ethnicities the borders segregate, and if these experiences hold implications for educators. Limitations and Delimitations Most of the limitations and delimitations of this study are addressed in Chapter Four. Those not addressed elsewhere are included here. This study only drew participants from schools in the San Francisco Bay Area, and thus neglects possible significant  14  regional differences within the state and across the country. However, because this study drew participants from public, private, inner-city, suburban, large, small, racially and ethnically diverse, and more homogeneous schools, where commonalities exist between participants’ experiences and perceptions, we may feel confident generalizing from them. Any conclusions drawn from this study are also made with an awareness that all participants self-identified as multiethnic and volunteered to participate in this study. Accordingly, this study does not include participants whom I or others might consider multiethnic but who do not identify as such. Overview of the Dissertation Still requiring explanation is my understanding of identity and identity construction. This is the purpose of Chapter Two. I enter this study with a postpositivist realist conception of identities, as developed by Mohanty (1997, 2000) and expanded in Moya and Hames-García (2000). This conception is positioned between essentialism and post-modernism, neither of which I find capable of dealing with the fluidity and complexity of identities as well as their epistemic and real-world significance. Central to this conception of identity are the causal relationship between one’s social identities and experiences and the cognitive component of experience that can help us to better understand our social positions and identities. This postpositivist realist approach serves as my starting point for a study of multiethnic identities. That is, I enter such a study with an acknowledgement of objective social structures and their consequences for groups and individuals, yet I do not accept a monolithic approach to identities that fails to recognize their variability, instability, and inconsistencies. Furthermore, I believe that interrogating identity categories and people’s experiences of them will not necessarily produce wholly  15  accurate or indisputable “facts,” but that we can come to better understand the social conditions that shape our experiences and the influence of these experiences on our identities through such a study. The purpose of Chapter Three is to situate my study in relation to the existing literature regarding multiethnic identities and the K-12 schooling experiences of multiethnic students—literature to which, in many ways, this study is a response. The literature review is divided into five sections, which, together, contribute to the rationale for this research, inform the research design, and provide the educational context for the study. In Section I, I examine empirical investigations of multiethnic identities and their formation and link the findings of prior research to the design of this study. Section II also examines research regarding multiethnic identity construction, but with a focus on the outcomes of the identity construction processes for individuals. Section III focuses on literature addressing the influence of K-12 schooling on students’ identity construction, as well as literature related to multicultural and antiracism education. Section IV examines the body of literature more narrowly focused on the K-12 schooling experiences of multiethnic students. Finally, Section V integrates the literature and research reviewed in Sections I-IV and highlights gaps in our understanding regarding the identity construction and K-12 schooling of multiethnic students. Chapter Four provides a description of this study’s methodology. There, I review the steps taken to access and interpret the experiences and perceptions of research participants. I explore the methodological complexities of conducting research with and for multiethnic individuals and share my responses to these complexities. I also interrogate my role as the primary research “instrument” for this study, including the  16  perceived influence of my identity on the research situation, as well as the biases, assumptions, and perspectives with which I entered this study and how I attempted to mitigate their impact. Chapters Five, Six, Seven, and Eight comprise presentations and discussions of the data. In Chapter Five, I present profiles of each participant—profiles which are needed to properly situate the influence of participants’ K-12 schooling experiences within the broader context of other influences on their identities. Chapters Six and Seven examine participants’ experiences and perceptions of the formal and informal aspects of K-12 schooling respectively. In Chapter Eight, I present and discuss the data related to participants’ general reflections on K-12 schooling and their recommendations for educators. In Chapter Nine, the final chapter, I summarize the study, address the research questions in light of the literature and my findings, reflect on the study’s methodology and the insights offered by a postpositivist realist conception of identity, and identify implications and recommendations for educators based on the research findings. Chapter Nine also includes a discussion of future research directions emerging from this study. Significance of the Study As discussed, this study emerges from a context marked by an increasing recognition of multiethnic individuals and a rising interest in their social, educational, and personal experiences. This context is also characterized by a growing number of multiethnic students in today’s schools, about whose experiences there is very little empirical research. This study, therefore, is both timely and contributes to a growing, but still incomplete, body of literature related to the racial and ethnic identity development  17  and experiences of multiethnic individuals. This study also contributes in important ways to contemporary educational research and our understanding of multiethnic identity formation. Through the exploration of multiethnic students’ racial and ethnic identity development as influenced by K-12 schooling, it provides a starting point for educators concerned about the personal, academic, and social experiences of their multiethnic students. It may also help educators better understand the impact of K-12 schooling on the racial and ethnic identity development processes of multiethnic students. Additionally, it identifies ways in which schools might become more inclusive of their multiethnic students and better support their personal, academic, and social experiences. The study’s significance is that it offers deep understanding of participants’ experiences and identifies implications that have the potential to inform educational policy and practice.  18  CHAPTER TWO: CONCEPTUAL AND THEORETICAL FRAMING OF IDENTITY Identity lies at the heart of this study, which seeks to determine the influence of K-12 schooling on participants’ racial and ethnic identity development. Before this question can be researched, however, many others must be answered: What do I mean by identity? What theories inform my understanding of identity? What processes are implied by identity construction? And even, why do identities matter? In what follows, I answer these questions, mapping out a theoretical framing for my understanding of identities, how they are constructed, and the factors influencing them. Identity has been described as “one of the most discussed and contentious issues in both the social sciences and society at large” (Gosine, 2002, p. 81), “one of the most urgent—as well as hotly disputed—topics in literary and cultural studies” (Moya, 2000a, p. 1), and as “the fundamental question of philosophy from Socrates’s ‘Know thyself!’ through countless other masters down to Freud” (Maalouf, 1996/2000, p. 9). Given the significance of identity, as described by Moya below, it is not surprising that identity, and attempts to understand its meaning and development, persist in capturing the attention of so many from such disparate disciplines. The significance of identity depends partly on the fact that goods and resources are still distributed according to identity categories. Who we are—that is, who we perceive ourselves or are perceived by others to be— will significantly affect our life chances: where we can live, whom we will marry (or whether we can marry), and what kinds of educational and employment opportunities will be available to us.…Moreover, identities have consequences for the kinds of associations human beings form (such as white supremacist churches along the lines of Christian Identity) and the sorts of activities they engage in (such as blowing up federal buildings or shooting random nonwhite or Jewish people). (Moya, 2000a, pp. 8-9)  19  Indeed, there is little disagreement over the significance of identities, either for individuals and societies. And yet, while the importance of identity is agreed upon, there is no clear, widely accepted definition of identity, no single conception embraced by all disciplines. Likewise, the term identity is invoked in numerous and distinct ways. We often hear, for example, references to identity politics, especially as they relate to certain aspects of identity such as race, class, gender, sexuality, or nationality. Used in this way, identity refers to a sense of group membership or solidarity with individuals with whom one shares a common socio-politically salient identity. Thus, we often find discussions of particular types of identities, such as racial identity, national identity, or sexual identity. Identity may also refer broadly to an individual’s sense of self, or as Maalouf (1996/2003) says, “what prevents me from being identical to anybody else” (p. 10). Here, identity is often linked to related notions of self-concept, self-esteem, and cultural knowledge or pride. We frequently hear warnings against identity theft and the need to protect one’s identity. In these instances, identity is used in reference to the market place and is linked to personal financial data. We also find instances in which “identity” is used as a noun or as a verb. Yon, for example, distinguished between identity conceptualized as a category announcing who we are or as “a process of making identifications, a process that is continuous and incomplete” (2000, p. 13). How, then, is identity used here? In what follows, I outline the postpositivist realist approach to identity with which I entered this study. However, I first make clear some of the basic tenets of my understanding of identity and identity construction processes. Drawing on the work of Barth (1969), Jenkins (2003) describes identity development as consisting primarily of two processes. The first process is one of internal  20  definition in which individuals, either individually or collectively with others, develop a self-definition of their identity. In the second process—external definition—individuals are assigned an identity by others, which may or may not coincide with the self-definition of the individual. According to Jenkins, “It is in the meeting of internal and external definition that identity, whether social or personal, is created” (2003, p. 61). Reflecting a similar understanding of the interactive nature of identity formation, Erikson (1968) explains, In psychological terms, identity formation employs a process of simultaneous reflection and observation, a process taking place on all levels of mental functioning, by which the individual judges himself in light of what he perceives to be the way in which others judge him in comparison to themselves and to a typology significant to them; while he judges their way of judging him in light of how he perceives himself in comparison to them and to types that have become relevant to him. (cited in Tatum, 1997, p. 19) Likewise, Tatum (1997) discusses the “looking glass self” (Cooley, 1902) or the notion that how we see ourselves is inextricably linked to how others see us and, therefore, treat us. As she says, “Who am I? The answer depends in large part on who the world around me says I am” (1997, p. 18). That identities are constructed by individuals, not in isolation but though inherently social processes involving interaction with and responding to the influences of others is widely accepted by both those approaching identity from a psychological development perspective and those who approach identity from the social sciences. Although above I have cited Erikson, a well known psychoanalytic theorist, my thinking about identity is more influenced by understandings emerging from the social sciences than by those theories stemming from developmental psychology and psychoanalysis. I am mindful of the fact that how we think about and experience our  21  identities is, in part, tied to our cognitive and emotional development, but here my thinking is more fully informed by non-linear theories of identity that emphasize their fluidity and the influence of ecological factors. At the center of my conceptualization of identity lie notions of relationship and interaction. I am particularly persuaded by the idea that identities emerge through processes of negotiation and reconciliation between how one conceives of herself and the identities assigned to or imposed on her by others—assigned identities which in turn shape her relationships with others and her experiences stemming from these relationships, especially as they relate to notions of inclusion and exclusion. Appiah (2005) calls these imposed identities “labels.” As he explains, “Once labels are applied to people, ideas about people who fit the label come to have social and psychological effects. In particular, these ideas shape the ways people conceive of themselves and their projects” (p. 66). For labels to function in this way, Appiah notes, we must have a social conception of the group to which a label refers “so that some people are recognized as members of the group,” some people must identify as members of the group, and some people must be treated as members of the group (p. 67). Thus, the label “woman,” functions to influence our individual identities only in so far as we have a basic shared understanding of what it means to be a woman, others self-identify as women, and those identified as women are sometimes treated as women. As Appiah (2005) notes, these labels or imposed identities often correlate to prominent social categories such as race, class, gender, sexuality, and ethnicity. To return to the notion of a “looking glass self,” the way we are treated, our relationships and experiences, what the world says we are, and thus, our identities, often reflect and are  22  shaped by the most visible and socio-politically salient dimensions of identity, including, but not limited to, race, class, gender, sexuality, ability, religion, location, nationality, appearance, age, and education. These social categories, none of which is always experienced in isolation, “blend, constantly and differently, expanding one another and mutually constituting one another’s meanings” (Hames-García, 2000, p. 106). And, of course, the meaning attached to these labels and thus the nature of their influence on our identities are shaped by social and political contexts and are rooted in history. Thus, in saying that our identities emerge through constant negotiation between our internal selfperceptions and external identities assigned to us, we must keep in mind that our selfperceptions and others’ perceptions of us are shaped by numerous dimensions, dimensions that are not static but are rooted in history and given meaning in our particular social and political contexts. In other words, our identities are shaped by our own and others’ understanding of what it means to be, for example, a woman or a man, heterosexual or homosexual, and Christian or Buddhist, and the meaning attached to these labels—understandings and meanings that vary in different contexts. As previously discussed, identity is invoked in numerous ways, including in reference to a sense of group membership or solidarity with individuals with whom one shares a common socio-politically salient identity. Although nationality, for example, may be a significant element of one’s identity, it is unlikely, however, to capture its entirety. In other words, few people are likely to describe themselves in terms of just one aspect of their identity while neglecting all other dimensions. Nevertheless, there are certain dimensions of identity, dimensions that often play a determining role in our experiences and relationships, worthy of additional attention. For example, race is often  23  singled out as a central aspect of an individual’s identity, as race mediates so many other experiences we may have—as a student, or a mother, or an immigrant. While not ignoring the impact of other socio-politically salient dimensions of identity, as the focus of this study is multiethnic identities, I briefly explain here my understanding of racial and ethnic identities. In defining racial and ethnic identity formation, I borrow Tatum’s understanding of it as “the process of defining for oneself the personal significance and social meaning of belonging to a particular racial [and/or ethnic] group” (1997, p. 16).1 Tatum’s conception of racial and ethnic identity emphasizes the personal meaning and importance attached to identifying with a racial or ethnic group and acknowledges that “the salience of particular aspects of our identity varies at different moments in our lives” (p. 20). Thus, the importance one attaches to her racial or ethnic identity is likely to vary with time and context. It should be clear at this point that identities conceptualized in this way are neither fixed nor stable. Quite obviously, there are some dimensions of our identities, for example those related to location, age, familial roles, or occupation, that are likely to change over time and thus shape our identities in different ways. Likewise, the meaning and significance attached to those dimensions of identity often thought of as being more constant (but certainly not always so), such as race, gender, class, or sexuality, are likely to change according to context. Furthermore, as our own thinking about the multiple dimensions of our identities shifts, as the experiences and relationships stemming from 1  Although Tatum specifically addresses racial identity development and acknowledges the differences between racial identity and ethnic identity, I nevertheless expand her understanding of racial identity development to include ethnic identity development. This does not reflect a conflation of race and ethnicity but a recognition that significance and meaning are often attached to membership in both racial and ethnic groups.  24  both imposed and self-assigned identities change, and as we interpret and reinterpret experiences and relationships influenced by our identities, our identities are likely to shift and transform. Given the preceding, we may wonder how one could ever set out to study identities and the factors influencing them. The answer to this question lies, in large part, in the epistemological stance with which one approaches the study of identities. In what follows, I briefly outline and critique two theoretical understandings of identity—those often labeled as essentialist and associated with identity politics and those most often characterized as stemming from postmodernist/poststructuralist perspectives. I then outline the postpositivist realist conception of identity with which I entered this study. This conception is both consistent with and reflects the foregoing understandings of identity. Here, I draw heavily on the work of Mohanty (2000) and Moya (2000a/b) who developed this framework as a means of transcending the opposition constructed between essentialist and postmodernist approaches to identity. Finally, I take a closer look at Hames-García’s (2000) postpositivist realist approach to the multiplicity of identities. An Essentialist Approach to Identity An essentialist approach to understanding identities posits that “individuals or groups have an immutable and discoverable ‘essence’ – a basic, unvariable, and presocial nature,” which determines their cultural identity (Moya, 2000a, p. 7). Such an approach is frequently applied to various categories of identity including race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class, and, when employed in the research process to advance the interests of a particular group of individuals, is often termed “identity politics.” As a method for understanding identities, essentialism has been criticized for its “tendency to posit one  25  aspect of identity (say, gender) as the sole cause or determinant constituting the social meanings of an individual’s experience” and its disregard for the “instability and internal heterogeneity of identity categories” (Moya, 2000a, p. 3). Likewise, essentialism is critiqued for neglecting the ways in which identities are constituted by “variegated social categories that are in a constant state of production and negotiation with other forms of difference, and within specific social, historical and interactional arenas, whilst also serving to constitute the arenas” (Gunaratnam, 2003, p. 32). In other words, because identities are neither predictable nor stable but rather are in a constant state of construction and negotiation, essentialism is said to be a deficient approach for it fails to capture (or neglects to acknowledge) the complexity, variability, and fluidity of identities. Postmodern and Poststructural Approaches to Identity Embracing such critiques of essentialism, and in an effort to posit an alternative approach to understanding identities, postmodernist and poststructuralist theorists tend towards an absolute deconstruction of identity and the idea of a knowable self. As Moya (2000a) explains, Instead of asking how we know who we are, post-structuralist-inspired critics are inclined to suggest that we cannot know; rather than investigate the nature of the self, they are likely to suggest that it has no nature….Because subjects exist only in relation to ever-evolving webs of signification and because they constantly differ from themselves as time passes and meanings change, the self—as a unified, stable, and knowable entity existing prior to or outside language—is merely a fiction of language, an effect of discourse. (p. 6) Or, as Kumar explains in his analysis of the post-modern condition, “identity is not unitary or essential, it is fluid and shifting, fed by multiple sources and taking multiple forms (there is no such thing as ‘woman’ or ‘black’)” (1997, p. 98). We can quickly see  26  the dilemma posed by a postmodern perspective for anyone seeking to understand any aspect or consequence of identities: How can one examine and evaluate the political, social, economic, and personal implications of identity categories which have been so comprehensively deconstructed as to elude scrutiny? Moreover, how can we examine the factors influencing, for example, the racial identities of Black urban youth when the very notions of “Black,” “urban” and “youth” have been so thoroughly challenged? The researcher of racial and ethnic identities, therefore, may find herself in a precarious position between two approaches to the study of identities that have been positioned in opposition to each other, and neither of which “has proved adequate to the task of explaining the social, political, and epistemic significance of identities” (Moya, 2000a, p. 10). According to Mohanty (2000), “Both the essentialism of identity politics and the skepticism of the postmodernist position seriously underread the real epistemic and political complexities of our social and cultural identities” (p. 43). For that reason, I am drawn to an alternative approach, that of postpositivist realism. A Postpositivist Realist Approach to Identity Here, drawing primarily on the work of Moya (2000a/b) and Mohanty (2000), I provide a detailed overview of their way through this dispute, which is intended to “reclaim identity” through the development of a postpositivist realist theory of identity. While I draw almost exclusively on the works of Moya (2000a/b) and Mohanty (2000), it should be noted that Roman (1993) presents a comparable approach which she terms socially contested realism. Mohanty, who first put forward the postpositivist realist theory of identity in 1993, provides the following proposal for theorizing identities:  27  [W]e need to explore the possibility of a theoretical understanding of social and cultural identity in terms of objective social location. To do so, we need a cognitivist conception of experience…a conception that will allow for both legitimate and illegitimate experience, enabling us to see experience as a source of both real knowledge and social mystification. Both the knowledge and the mystification are, however, open to analysis on the basis of empirical information about our social situation and a theoretical account of our current social and political arrangements. (2000, p. 43) We cannot fully understand Mohanty’s proposal for theorizing identities presented here without examining the epistemic status he attributes to experiences stemming from one’s social location and their role in the construction of one’s identity. By way of explanation, Mohanty (2000) states that [E]xperience, properly interpreted, can yield reliable and genuine knowledge, just as it can point up instances and sources of real mystification.…It is on the basis of this revised understanding of experience that we can construct a realist theory of social or cultural identity, in which experiences would not serve as foundations because of their self-evident authenticity but would provide some of the raw material with which we construct identities. (p. 32) Mohanty acknowledges that experience is not self evident nor always a reliable source of knowledge, however, “we do and can learn or discover something about the reality that shapes our experience” (Hau, 2000, p. 157). The argument is that there is a cognitive component to experience, in that experience involves “a range of processes of organizing information, processes that, like all cognitive activities, involve constant reinterpretation, reevaluation, and adjudication” (Hau, 2000, p. 156). Thus, through an interpretation and reinterpretation of experiences, we can come to better understand both our social positions and our identities. The foregoing ideas are best captured in the six claims of a postpositivist realist theory of identity provided by Moya (2000b). As the focus of this study is multiethnic  28  identities, I attempt to describe and clarify these claims through examples related to multiethnic identities. 1. “The different social categories (such as gender, race, class, and sexuality) that together constitute an individual’s social location are causally related to the experiences she will have” (p. 81). Here it is important to highlight two aspects of this claim. First, Moya draws our attention to the fact that social categories together influence an individual’s experience. Hence, the experiences of a wealthy White woman are very likely to differ from those of an economically disadvantaged White woman. Second, Moya notes, the significance and influence of social categories vary according to context: To appreciate the structural causality of the experiences of any given individual, we must take into account the mutual interaction of all the relevant social categories that constitute her social location and situate them within the particular social, cultural, and historical matrix in which she exists. (p. 82) Thus, it is problematic, and likely to lead to inaccurate assumptions, to think of one’s multiethnic identity without consideration of the other aspects of her identity (such as class or sexuality) and how the experience, and thus influence, of each of these aspects is determined by her particular social, political, and historical context. Moreover, it is important to keep in mind that as one’s context changes, so too will her experiences. 2. “An individual’s experiences will influence, but not entirely determine, the formation of her cultural identity” (p. 82). Of particular importance here is that fact that different individuals of the same social group may interpret their experiences stemming from membership in that social group differently. In other words, it is not one’s experiences alone, but her interpretation of those experiences (which differ for each individual), that will most influence her identity. As Moya explains, “the kinds of identities [individuals] construct for themselves  29  will both condition and be conditioned by the kinds of interpretations they give to the experiences they have” (p. 82). Here, I will use as an example a common experience shared by me and my sister. When we assert a White/East Indian multiethnic identity, we are often confronted with questions about our connection to and experiences with Indian culture such as “Do you eat Indian food” or “Have you been to India?” or “Do you speak Hindi?” Whereas I may interpret these questions as someone taking a kind interest in my heritage (“Wow, she thinks I am interesting!”), my sister may interpret them as challenges to her identity (“This person is testing how Indian I am”). Based on such interpretations, I may see myself as special, interesting, and a true member of the Indian community, whereas my sister may see herself as the victim of rigid racial and ethnic categories and her sense of identity as a member of the Indian community may be challenged and thus altered. 3. “There is a cognitive component to identity that allows for the possibility of error and of accuracy in interpreting the things that happen to us” (p. 83). Here, Moya draws our attention to the fact that our personal experiences may be interpreted and reinterpreted in light of new experiences and knowledge and that these interpretations (see Claim 2) will largely determine their influence on our identities. Thus, an individual may reinterpret her previous experiences of being coded as Black, perhaps with more accuracy, in light of new knowledge about the history of racism against Blacks. As Moya explains, “it is a feature of theoretically mediated experience that one person’s understanding of the same situation may undergo revision over the course of time, thus rendering her subsequent interpretations of that situation more or less accurate” (p. 83). Returning to the previous example of questions regarding my experiences with and knowledge of Indian culture, after learning about the ways in which  30  racial and ethnic categories have been mobilized for purposes of sorting and domination and the mechanisms used to reinforce the boundaries between racial and ethnic groups, I may reinterpret these questions and my experience, reinterpretations which may in turn influence my sense of identity. 4. “Some identities, because they can more adequately account for the social categories constituting an individual’s social location, have greater epistemic value than some others that the same individual might claim” (pp. 83-84). Using her own identity as an example, Moya explains that her identity as a Chicana may grant her “knowledge about the world that is ‘truer,’ and more ‘objective,’ than an alternative identity [she] might claim as either a ‘Mexican,’ a ‘Hispanic,’ or an ‘American’” in that a Chicana identity may more accurately reflect other salient aspects of her social identity such as, for example, her “Indian Blood,” her “Mexican cultural heritage,” her “political awareness,” and her “disadvantaged position in a hierarchically organized society arranged according to categories of class, race, gender, and sexuality” (pp. 84-5). Here, I am reminded of debates regarding how multiethnic individuals should identify. Take, for example, US President Barack Obama. Although he certainly does not disavow his multiethnic heritage, many have argued that because he is phenotypically Black, an identity as Black or African American may more accurately reflect structures of racism and discrimination of which he is likely to have been a victim. Indeed, Obama himself recently said “I identify as African-American — that's how I'm treated and that's how I'm viewed. I'm proud of it” (“Obama’s True Colors,” 2008). Thus, an African American identity may more adequately reflect the social categories that have determined Obama’s social location than a multiracial identity.  31  5. “Our ability to understand fundamental aspects of our world will depend on our ability to acknowledge and understand the social, political, economic, and epistemic consequences of our social location” (p. 85). Here, Moya is emphasizing the need to acknowledge and interrogate how the very real social categories such as race, class, gender, and sexuality determine our social locations, and the influence of these social locations on our identities. In other words, we can more accurately understand and construct our identities when we take into account the social, political, economic, and epistemic consequences of our social locations. To return to the example of Barack Obama, it is problematic to consider his rise to the White House as “the first Black president” (“Obama’s True Colors,” 2008) without taking into account those factors that also constitute his social location. Certainly Obama benefits from being heterosexual in a heteronormative society. Surely being male is advantageous in a political landscape dominated by men. And, it is fair to assume that Obama’s White cultural capital imparted by his White mother proves valuable in a society still marked by persistent racism—racism increasingly based on cultural differences (Bonilla-Silva, 2003). Thus, by focusing on Obama’s race and ignoring the other factors that determine his social location, we misread fundamental aspects of American society. 6. “Oppositional struggle is fundamental to our ability to understand the world more accurately” (p. 86). The sixth claim is premised on the argument that, in dismantling dominant ideologies, oppositional struggles may lead to greater objectivity. As Moya explains, “the ‘alternative constructions and accounts’ generated through oppositional struggle provide new ways of looking at our world that always complicate and often challenge dominant conceptions of what is ‘right,’ ‘true,’ and ‘beautiful’” (p. 86). Examples of oppositional struggle, as they relate to multiethnic individuals, that helped to expose racist dynamics  32  in the United States include efforts to challenge the “one-drop rule” and antimiscegenation laws. Tatum describes the “one-drop rule” as follows: “in both legal and social practice, anyone with any known African ancestry (no matter how far back in the family lineage) was considered Black, while only those without any trace of known African ancestry were called Whites” (1997, p. 169). This rule served as a means to protect the “purity” of the White race and reinforce the boundaries between racial categories. In part, through the struggles of multiethnic individuals to challenge the “onedrop rule” and to have the option to more accurately identify themselves, the racist underpinning of this rule and the ways in which it was used to dominate and exploit were exposed. Reading these “claims” of a postpositivist realist theory of identity, and in particular the final claim, one gets the sense that its proponents are treading close to a more objective/positivist approach to identity. To reconcile this near contradiction, the notion of fallibility is introduced. In Moya’s words, Realists…do not shy away from making truth claims, but…they understand those claims to be “fallibilistic”—that is, like even the best discoveries of the natural sciences, open to revision on the basis of new or relevant information. In fact, it is realists’ willingness to admit the (in principle, endless) possibility of error in the quest for knowledge that enables them to avoid positivist assumptions about certainty and unrevisability that inform the (postmodernist) skeptic’s doubts about the possibility of arriving at a more accurate account of the world. (2000a, p. 13) Although written into most of the six claims discussed above, this notion of fallibility is most evident in claim three that “there is a cognitive component to identity that allows for the possibility of error and of accuracy in interpreting the things that happen to us” (2000b, p. 83). Thus, as Moya explains, “identities are subject to multiple determinations  33  and to a continual process of verification” and that “it is in this process of verification that identities can (and often are) contested and that they can (and often do) change” (2000b, p. 84). As it relates to this research and my own understanding of identities, the strength of a postpositivist realist theory of identity is that it provides a way, not around, but through, the precarious binary opposition constructed between essentialist and postmodern conceptions of identity. By acknowledging the consequences of identity categories without essentializing them and paving the way for an analysis of such categories without making claims to absolute certainty or accuracy, postpositivist realism attempts to reclaim identity from the epistemological quagmire in which it was stuck. This postpositivist realist understanding of identity has shaped this study in several ways. For example, while I focus on the racial and ethnic heritages of participants and the ways in which these heritages have shaped their experiences and identities, I am mindful of and attentive to the influence of other aspects of their identities such as gender, class, religion, and location. Moreover, I do not claim to capture the Truth about the experiences and identities of multiethnic students. Rather, I seek to better understand their perceptions (i.e. interpretations) of their experiences and the ways they believe, at a given moment in time, those experiences have shaped their identities. I am also mindful of the ways in which racial and ethnic categories have been constructed and mobilized in the United States, and I believe that an examination of the influence of these categories on individuals’ experiences and identities can help us to understand the ways in which they function. Thus, in interviewing students, I sought to learn about their identities and  34  experiences, but I also sought to gain knowledge about the societies in which they live, and in particular, their schooling contexts. A Theory of Multiplicity Since I am concerned primarily with multiethnic identities, identities which are often assumed to be more “complicated” and that challenge fixed notions of racial and ethnic categories, an examination of how postpositivist realism approaches the multiplicity of identities is needed. In what follows, I provide an overview of HamesGarcía’s (2000) conception of multiplicity as well as the challenges (understood as “restrictions”) that impede its realization. In other words, his theorization of multiplicity is more of an ideal model than a reflection of the lived experiences of individuals. I spend considerable time reviewing this approach, as his notion of restrictions and how they operate on the experiences and identities of individuals has proven particularly useful for understanding the responses of some research participants. Hames-García (2000) provides the following starting point for understanding the ways in which postpositivist realism conceptualizes the relationships between multiple social group memberships: Politically salient aspects of the self, such as race, ethnicity, sexuality, gender, and class, link and imbricate themselves in fundamental ways. These various categories of social identity do not, therefore, comprise essentially separate “axes” that occasionally “intersect.” They do not simply intersect but blend, constantly and differently, like the colors of a photograph. (p. 103) Using the example of Henry Rios, a gay Chicano lawyer who is the main character in Michael Nava’s 1992 novel The Hidden Law, Hames-García argues that in order to understand Henry’s experiences, we should not focus separately on his gay identity and  35  his Chicano identity, but rather the ways in which they mutually constitute each other’s meaning. To interrogate each identity separately would “presuppose a preracialized (nonracial) sexual identity or essence that then intersects a presexualized (nonsexual) racial identity or essence” (p. 106). As Hames-García explains, “the crucial error…comes from asking how separate identities come to ‘intersect,’ instead of starting from the presumption of mutual constitution” (p. 106). Certainly this approach captures the complexity of how identity categories can be understood as constructed and negotiated, and takes into account “the mutual imbrication of politically salient categories, such as race, ethnicity, sexuality, gender, and class” (p. 106). However, as Hames-García argues, identities are not always experienced according to this conception of multiplicity because “this multiplicity of the self becomes obscured through the logic of domination to which the self becomes subjected” (p. 104). That is, Hames-García acknowledges that “social actors do not arbitrarily or freely select the signifiers of race and ethnicity or create them themselves” (De Andrade, 2000, p. 272). Developing a notion of restriction through which individuals are subjected to misrepresentation and misunderstanding, he argues that a “person’s ‘identity’ is reduced to and understood exclusively in terms of that aspect of her or his self with the most political salience” (p. 104). Thus, Hames-García, in reference to Black women, gay Chicanos, and Asian American lesbians states that “their political interests…often appear opaque insofar as they differ from those of the hegemonic members of the politically salient groups to which they belong” (p. 104). Hames-García explains the difference between “transparent” and “opaque” interests and how they are influenced by restrictions in the following way:  36  Those whose interests conform largely to…dominant constructions of their identity might be said to have “transparent” interests. By contrast, there are those who, possibly by virtue of membership in multiple politically salient groups, often find themselves and their interests distorted by restricted definitions and understandings; their interests, rather than transparent, are “opaque.” I call this process by which individuals come to be misrepresented and misunderstood “restriction.” Thus, a heterosexual, middle-class, white woman’s interests as a woman would be transparent insofar as her interests as a woman are typically taken to represent those of women as a group. (2000, p. 104) Returning to my research focus of multiethnicity, we can imagine how this process of misrepresentation and misunderstanding might operate on individuals with multiple racial or ethnic identities. For example, let us assume that we want to understand the interests of a woman who is the daughter of a Black father and a White mother. Presumably, her interests will depend, in part, on how she is racially identified by others, that is, her experiences stemming from an assigned racial identity based on forces of restriction—an identity that would result, at least in part, from her phenotype and reflect conventional understandings of race. Likewise, her interests will depend on how she racially identifies herself, which will likely be influenced by the identities assigned to her by others. And, of course, this raises questions about which other politically salient groups she belongs to and their hegemonic members. The poststructuralist’s response to such questions is summarized by Hames-García in the following way: The miscomprehension of the reality of multiple group membership by discrete, essentialist categories is what poststructuralism seeks to remedy and to avoid. Rather than provide a solution to the distress of “walking from one of one’s groups to another,” however, poststructuralism increases the sense of homelessness for members with opaque interests. It removes the epistemological ground on which one can claim that one “belongs” in a group (or that someone else does not) and of making normative demands for inclusion, acknowledgement, and legitimacy. (p. 120)  37  How, then, do we avoid this “sense of homelessness” brought on by a poststructuralist conception of identity and avoid monolithic conceptions of identity which lead to restrictions? Drawing on María Lugones’ essay “Purity, Impurity, and Separation” (1994), Hames-García offers an alternative approach to understanding multiplicity. In his words, [Lugones] portrays the act of separating something into pure parts as an act of domination (460). By contrast, she views ‘impurity’ as a way of resisting the social forces of reification. Lugones’s paradigmatic example of impurity (‘curdling’) is mestizaje, or racial mixing, which asserts its impure (undivided) multiplicity and rejects separation into pure, discrete parts (460). Separate and fragmented become ways of seeing others and oneself that facilitate domination and exploitation. The logic of purity views group members with opaque interests (whom she calls “thick” members) as split and fragmented rather than as whole and multiple. The reality of their experiences, interests, and needs becomes obscured because “the interlocking of memberships in oppressed groups is not seen as changing one’s needs, interests, and ways qualitatively in any group but, rather, one’s needs, interests and ways are understood as the addition of those of the transparent members” (474). (2000, p. 120) Returning to my example of a Black-White biracial woman, according to Hames-García, her interests should not be seen in terms of how they differ from Black women or White women, but in terms of how her biracial identity as whole and multiple shapes her interests. In other words, we cannot assume that a Black identity free from the influences of a White identity, or vice versa, will shape her needs, interests, and ways. Rather, we need to acknowledge the influence of the socially constructed categories of Black and White as mutually constituting a biracial or undivided identity, which is further constituted by the influence of other socially constructed identity groupings. This way of conceptualizing multiplicity has several advantages. It escapes the traps of essentialist views of identities which result in fragmentation and rescues identity from the deconstruction of poststructuralism. It also paves the way for a response to  38  Hames-García’s question “How can a critical epistemological realism account for such complexities and contradictions [i.e. multiplicity] and also explain (and facilitate) the expansion of solidarity and group interests in a way that can help to overcome restriction and separation?” (2000, p. 105). Based on this notion of multiplicity, he responds to his own question in the following way: This kind of resistance [to restrictions] is one through which the self grows, transforms, and expands. It counters restriction with expansion, fragmentation with multiplicity, separation with solidarity, and exploitation with transformation. Thus a realist understanding of group membership that takes into account the social structures underlying domination must conceptualize group membership beyond the limits imposed by restriction. In this sense, it must reject ‘the master’s tools,’ the tools of purity and separation, and make connections between, among, and across groups. (p. 126) On theoretical grounds, I cannot fault this conception of multiplicity. However, I question the ability of individuals to construct an identity grounded in such a conception. In what ways do individuals respond to the forces of domination and exploitation that lead to restriction and likewise cause fragmentation and pathologize “impurity”? In other words, this ideal conception of multiplicity relies on the notion that individuals can and do respond to “restriction with expansion, fragmentation with multiplicity, separation with solidarity, and exploitation with transformation” (Hames-García, 2000, p. 126). The crucial question that remains, however, is to what extent does this theory of multiplicity explain, reflect, or help us to understand the lived experiences of individuals with multiple memberships in politically salient social groups? And, more specifically for my current purposes, the lived experiences of multiethnic individuals? Although it is not my intention with this study to evaluate Hames-Garcías theory of how individuals should  39  respond to forces of restriction, my findings offer some insights into the ways in which they do respond to them. Conclusion I have made explicit my understanding of identity and outlined a postpositivist realist approach to identities. This postpositivist realist approach to identities seeks to reclaim identities from the epistemological, ontological, and political quagmire that delegitimated the concept and positioned it as “theoretically incoherent and politically pernicious” (Moya, 2000a, p. 2). Thus, I entered this study with an acknowledgement of existing social structures and their consequences for groups and individuals, yet I do not accept a monolithic approach to identities that fails to recognize their variability, instability, and inconsistencies. Furthermore, I believe that interrogating identity categories and people’s experiences of them will not necessarily produce wholly accurate or indisputable “facts,” but that we can come to better understand the social conditions that shape our experiences through such a study. In addition, I have presented HamesGarcía’s theory of multiplicity (or the “mutual imbrication of politically salient categories”) which offers a model of how individuals might respond to the restrictions that come with multiple memberships in politically salient groups (2000, p. 106). However, as stated, constructing a “whole” or “unfragmented” identity would require one to overcome the influences of restrictions imposed by others. And, as discussed in the next chapter, few agree on how and whether or not multiethnic individuals do so. Finally, I should make perfectly clear the relationship between the theoretical framing of identity presented here and this research study, particularly as it relates to data collection and analysis processes. My intent with this study is not to test the explanatory  40  power of postpositivist realism, nor is it to test the applicability of Hames-García’s theory of multiplicity. Rather, I have presented an overview of a postpositivist realist understanding of identity to make clear my epistemological and theoretical position in relation to the study of multiethnic identities, and I have discussed Hames-Garcías theory of multiplicity to elucidate my understanding of the ways in which conventional notions of race and ethnicity may produce restrictions which are then imposed on multiethnic identities. As Lather (1986), cited in Anderson (1989), argues, critical ethnographers— and I would say all researchers—need to develop a reciprocal relationship between data and theory: Data must be allowed to generate propositions in a dialectical manner that permits use of a priori theoretical frameworks, but which keeps a particular framework from becoming the container into which the data must be poured. (p. 276). (Anderson, 1989, p. 254) Following her advice, the preceding theories did not serve as a vessel for the data; however, they do shape my understanding of multiethnic identities, and thus influenced the research questions and how I set about attempting to answer them (see Chapter Four). Likewise, the research questions and my efforts to answer them were not dictated, but shaped, by the literature reviewed in the next chapter.  41  CHAPTER THREE: REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE The purpose of this chapter is to situate my study in relation to the existing literature regarding multiethnic identities and the K-12 schooling experiences of multiethnic students—literature to which, in many ways, this study is a response. This synthesis of existing literature is divided into five sections, which, together, contribute to the rationale for this research, inform the research design, and provide the educational context for the study. In Section I, I examine empirical investigations of multiethnic identity formation and link their findings to the design of this study. Section II explores perceived consequences of a multiethnic heritage and prevalent views on the impact of multiethnic identity development processes. Section III focuses on literature addressing the influence of K-12 schooling on students’ identity construction, as well as literature related to multicultural and antiracism education. Section IV examines the body of literature more narrowly focused on the K-12 schooling experiences of multiethnic students. Finally, Section V integrates the literature and research reviewed in the previous sections and highlights gaps in our understanding of the identity construction and K-12 schooling of multiethnic students. The past two decades have seen the proliferation of empirical studies and literature related to the identity construction and experiences of multiethnic individuals. Some of these studies were conducted with adults (e.g. Khanna, 2004; Miville, et al., 2005), some with children (e.g. Kerwin, Ponterotto, Jackson, & Harris, 1993), some with adolescents (e.g. Bracey, Bámaca, & Umaña-Taylor, 2004; Doyle, 2006; Herman, 2004; Phinney & Alipuria, 1996; Sheets, 2004), and others with college-age participants (e.g. Basu, 2007; Kelch-Oliver & Leslie, 2006; Phinney & Alipuria, 1996; Renn, 2004a).  42  Several studies focused exclusively on multiethnic women (e.g. Basu, 2007; Comas-Díaz, 1996). Others were limited to an examination of the identities and experiences of individuals of a specific racial or ethnic heritage combination: Baird-Olson (2003) focused on American Indian “mixed-blood” identity, Comas-Díaz (1996) addressed the experiences of LatiNegras with a Caribbean background, Kich (1992) examined the identities of Japanese/White individuals, and Standen (1996) explored the biracial Korean/White experience. Given the history of race relations in the United States, it is not surprising that the majority of these heritage-specific studies have focused on BlackWhite multiethnic individuals (e.g. Brunsma & Rockquemore, 2001; Fryer, Kahn, Levitt, & Spenkuch, 2008; Gibbs and Hines, 1992; Kelch-Oliver & Leslie, 2006; Kerwin, Ponterotto, Jackson, & Harris, 1993; Rockquemore, 2002). Nevertheless, we also find studies with participants representing a broad range of heritage combinations (Basu, 2007; Lopez, 2001; Renn, 2004a; Sheets, 2004). Some researchers have employed qualitative methodologies to examine the identities and experiences of multiethnic individuals (e.g. Kelch-Oliver & Leslie, 2006; Kerwin, Ponterotto, Jackson, & Harris, 1993; Miville, et al., 2005), other studies were quantitative (e.g. Brunsma, 2005; Doyle, 2006; Herman, 2004; Udry, Li, & Hendrickson-Smith, 2003). Various studies reflect developmental understandings of identity construction (Jacobs, 1992; Kich, 1992; Poston, 1990), others approach multiethnic identity construction from a more sociological perspective focusing on social contexts and ecological factors influencing multiethnic identities (Basu, 2007; Renn, 2004a; Root, 1998, 2003b). Among these different types of studies, we find those that focus on specific factors and their influence on multiethnic identities: Brunsma and Rockquemore (2001) examined the influence of physical  43  appearance, Rockquemore (2002) studied the influence of gender, and Sheets (2004) explored the influence of friendships. In addition to these differences, the abovementioned authors employ a broad range of terms to refer to multiethnic individuals, such as mixed-race, biracial, bicultural, biethnic, multiracial, ethno-racially mixed, and a host of other terms.2 Despite differences in terminology, participant selection, and focus among these studies, and between these studies and my own, the research and literature discussed in this chapter was selected because it contributes to our understanding of the identity development processes of multiethnic individuals and provides the backdrop against which the data from this study are best viewed and interpreted. Section I: Multiethnic Identity Development In response to a general neglect of biracial individuals in literature pertaining to identity development and the limitations of previous models of racial identity development when applied to biracial individuals, Poston (1990) proposed one of the earliest and most referenced models of biracial identity development, which consists of the following five developmental stages: personal identity, choice of group categorization, enmeshment/denial, appreciation, and integration. Poston’s (1990) model of biracial identity development is, as he himself admits, “tentative and based on the scant amount of research on biracial individuals and information from support groups that serve this population” (p. 153). Moreover, it implies a predictable progression through discrete developmental stages, yet he identified “the existence of the stages, individuals’  2  Throughout the dissertation, when discussing others’ research, I often adopt their terminology.  44  movement through the stages, and the feelings and attitudes that biracial persons express in each of these stages” as “important areas of investigation” (p. 154). Poston’s model is not based on empirical research, and therefore remains, by his own admission, speculative and tentative. Jacobs (1992), in contrast, proposed a model of biracial identity development based on research and clinical experience with preadolescent biracial (Black-White) children. His research methods included interviews with biracial children and their parents and a variation of the doll-play experiment first developed by Clark and Clark in 1947.3 According to Jacobs, preadolescent biracial children go through three stages of identity development: pre-color constancy, post-color constancy, and biracial identity. Quite similar to that of Jacobs is Kich’s (1982, 1992) three stage model of multiethnic identity development. Kich developed his model based on semi-structured interviews with 15 biracial adults (aged 17 to 60) of White and Japanese heritage. According to Kich, all research participants “progressed through three major stages in the development and continuing resolution of their biracial identity…from a questionable, sometimes devalued sense of self to one where an interracial self-conception is highly valued and secure.” (p. 305). Both Jacobs’ (1992) and Kich’s (1992) models were based on research with individuals of a specific heritage combination and, therefore, may be of limited applicability for individuals of other racial and ethnic backgrounds. Moreover, each model identifies a specific identity that multiethnic individuals will ideally develop and  3  Jacobs used 36 wooden dolls of various skin and hair colors, facial features, heights, and sexes. Biracial children were asked to play with the dolls, match dolls to a stimulus doll, self identify with a doll, identify dolls that resemble their family members, select which dolls they would prefer as a sibling, select which dolls they would prefer to play with, select which dolls they liked the least and most, select which dolls would be the sibling of a light-brown baby doll, and select which doll they would look most like when they grew up (Jacobs, 1992).  45  leaves little room for the possibility of multiple, shifting, and contextual identities. Emerging mostly in the 1990s or earlier, these linear/stage models of multiethnic identity development have more recently given way to non-linear/ecological models that focus less on one’s linear progression through developmental stages and more on the various factors that may influence multiethnic individuals’ identities and the patterns of identity such individuals may adopt at different times and in different contexts. In 1996, for example, Root outlined a model of multiracial identity consisting of four patterns of “border crossing” that may result from an individual’s navigation between the racial and ethnic categories imposed on them by society. The four patterns include: (1) having both feet in both groups…[and] the ability to hold, merge, and respect multiple perspectives simultaneously, (2) the shifting of foreground and background as one crosses between and among social contexts defined by race and ethnicity…Thus one practices situational ethnicity and situational race…in differing contexts, (3) [Sitting] on the border…experiencing it as the central reference point…viewing themselves with a multiracial label, and (4) [Creating] a home in one “camp” [racial or ethnic identity] for an extended period of time and [making] forays into other camps from time to time. (1996a, pp. xxi-xxii) Whereas this earlier work was concerned primarily with the outcomes of the multiethnic identity construction process, in 1998 and 2003, Root outlined an ecological model of multiracial identity development with a theoretical grounding in symbolic interactionism. Here, Root highlighted the influence of macro lenses (e.g., gender, regional history of race relations, class, and generation) and middle lenses/micro lenses (e.g., inherited influences, traits, social environments, and phenotype) in shaping the experiences, and thus identities, of multiracial individuals (1998, 2003b).  46  Based on her research with multiracial college students of various heritage combinations, Renn (1999; 2004a) provided a model of multiracial identity development that builds on Bronfenbrenner’s (1993) ecology model of human development, which, like Root’s (1998, 2003b), emphasizes the influence of environmental factors on one’s identity development.4 Through her research, Renn (2004a) identified five “identity patterns” which include: (1) a monoracial identity, (2) multiple monoracial identities, (3) a multiracial identity, (4) an extraracial identity, and (5) a situational identity. Echoing Root (1996a), Renn emphasized the situational and shifting nature of multiracial identities: “these patterns are not exclusive, nor are they rigid or unchangeable” (2004a, p. 68). Where Renn’s patterns of multiracial identity differs from Root’s (1996a) is in her identification of pattern four (no racial identity by means of deconstructing the category of race) which she attributed, in part, to the college students’ “exposure to theories of deconstruction and the knowledge that race is a construction rather than a biological fact” (2000, pp. 411-412). While Renn (2004a) conducted research with male and female multiracial college students, Basu (2004, 2007) focused on the identities of biracial college women representing multiple heritage combinations. Like Renn (1999, 2004a) and Root (1998, 2003b), Basu highlighted contextual influences on the identity construction of participants. Those influences considered in Basu’s study include, among others, family, friendships, schooling, social barriers, and the media. She concluded, “rather than 4  Bronfenbrenner’s model focuses on the influence of person-environment interactions, which take place in microsystems, mesosystems, exosystems, and macrosystems. The “systems” Renn identified as being most influential on the identity development of multiracial study participants include academic work, friendship groups, social and dating life, and involvement in campus activities (microsystems); peer culture (mesosystem); and family, hometown, and high school (exosystems). Renn found that these systems, together, shaped participants’ ideas about race, culture, and identity (macrosystem).  47  focusing solely on the individual, the results of the study show the importance of considering social context when examining biracial identity” (2004, p. 172). Although not in an attempt to develop a model of multiethnic identity development, through her dissertation research, Lopez (2001) also found strong evidence to support the notion that multiethnic identities are fluid, contextually driven, and influenced by a broad range of factors; as did Wijeyesinghe (2001). A significant difference between the earlier stage models of multiethnic identity development and the more recent ecological models is the “end point” of the multiethnic identity development processes identified. For Poston (1990), arrival at stage five is marked by an integrated sense of identity, and for both Jacobs (1992) and Kich (1992) stage three entails the development of a biracial or bicultural identity. More recent ecological approaches (e.g. Basu, 2007; Lopez, 2001, 2004; Renn, 2004a; Root 1996a, 1998, 2003b), however, do not specify a particular identity that individuals are likely to or ideally will develop, but a variety of patterns of identity or patterns of “border crossing” that individuals may adopt at different times, in different contexts, and according to their unique experiences. It is important to note, however, that the ecological models’ descriptions of the ways in which individuals create spaces for themselves between, within, and outside of conventional racial and ethnic categories may be of limited use for explaining the identity development processes experienced by young individuals. School aged children may not have the confidence and the necessary knowledge pertaining to the socially constructed nature of racial and ethnic categories to adeptly navigate these borders, challenge conventional understandings of race and ethnicity, and assertively claim spaces for themselves. Unequipped with such tools,  48  students’ self-definition of their identity may not hold up to the scrutiny of others. In fact, the ecological models discussed here have emerged from studies conducted with adolescents and adults, with little focus on early and late childhood identity construction experiences. Thus, Wardle’s (1992) model that takes into account ecological influences and how they might be experienced by children with different levels of cognitive and emotional maturity potentially overcomes some of the shortcomings of previously posited linear and non-linear models of multiethnic identity construction (see also Wardle & Cruz-Janzen, 2004).5 Quite likely, the most accurate conclusion to draw is that of Miville, Constantine, Baysden, and So-Lloyd (2005), who state that both developmental and ecological models of multiracial identity development “capture some, though not all, components that make up racial identity for multiracial people” (p. 514). Despite the considerable differences between the studies discussed here and the models of multiethnic identity development emerging from them, several conclusions can nevertheless be drawn. First, the identity construction of multiethnic individuals is widely understood to differ qualitatively from the identity construction of individuals with more homogenous racial and ethnic backgrounds. In other words, there are differences in multiethnic individuals’ identity construction processes that do make a difference. Second, and consistent with the understanding of identity development discussed in the 5  Wardle put forth a model of multiethnic/multiracial identity construction that takes into account developmental stages and ecological influences. The two stages Wardle identified are early childhood and adolescence, his description of which focuses on differences in cognitive development at each stage. Drawing on Bronfenbrenner’s (1979, 1989) ecological model of development, Wardle identified family, group antagonism, minority/lower status context, majority/higher status context, and community as significant factors influencing a child’s progression through the two developmental stages. Although Wardle described his model as both developmental and ecological, it appears to me to be an ecological model that, rather than positing specific developmental stages unique to multiethnic individuals, simply takes into consideration the fact that young children and adolescents are at different stages in their cognitive and emotional development. Accordingly, I believe Wardle’s model is better understood as a variant of the ecological models that, unlike the others, focuses on the identity development of younger multiethnic individuals.  49  previous chapter, implicit in each of the models of multiethnic identity construction is the interactive nature of the identity development process. That is to say, one’s identity development, whether a process of “border crossing” or a progression through developmental stages, is not merely a private endeavor but is one of negotiation between one’s self concept and the perceptions of others—described by Jenkins (2003) as internal and external definitions of one’s identity. Thus, the most recent studies of multiethnic identities tend to have a psychosocial focus and recognize that, although some patterns may be discerned, the multiethnic identity construction process varies considerably between individuals. Third, there is strong evidence to support the notion of multiethnic identities as fluid, contextual, and situational (Basu, 2007; Lopez, 2001, 2004; Renn, 1999, 2004a; Root, 1996a, 1998, 2003b; Wijeyesinghe, 2001). Indeed, as noted previously, most current studies, as well as findings from a pilot study conducted for this research (Mohan, 2007), indicate that the multiethnic identity development process is non-linear and may result in multiple and shifting identities. Finally, it is widely accepted that certain factors have a significant influence on the identity construction of multiethnic individuals. Renn (2008), for example, points out that physical appearance, cultural knowledge, and peer culture are factors permeating the literature related to multiethnic identities, and Root (2003b) states that “virtually all researchers of biracial identity find it important to discuss the influences of phenotype, environment, family environment, and racial awareness” (p. 117). The literature discussed in this section, my analysis of it, and the preceding conclusions, as well as the postpositivist realist framework for understanding identities outlined in the previous chapter, shaped the central research questions for this study and  50  how I set about answering these questions. While acknowledging that individuals, and particularly young individuals, are likely to pass through cognitive and emotional developmental stages, my goal was not to identify specific stages encountered on the path to an “end point” multiethnic identity. Rather, the data collection strategies were designed to better understand the broad range of factors and relationships influencing the development of participants’ racial and ethnic identities and changes to these identities over time and across different contexts. Section II: Problem, Equivalent, and Variant Approaches to Multiethnic Identity A related body of research, rather than attempting to develop models of identity construction, has sought to characterize the consequences of a multiethnic heritage and the impact of multiethnic identity development processes. These processes and lived identities are most often characterized as either more problematic, equivalent to, or different from, and perhaps even “better” than, those of monoethnic individuals (Thornton & Wason, 1995). Problem Approaches to Multiethnic Identity The identity construction of multiethnic individuals is often described as a process fraught with difficulty and confusion. According to Wardle (1998), as a result of the emphasis North American society places on “racial and ethnic identity and affiliation, children of mixed parentage often feel disloyal and confused; they have a sense of not knowing where they belong.” (p. 8). Following a similar line of thought, Wilson (1987) pointed out that the pervasive notion that multiethnic individuals must choose a single race with which to identify stems from the “rigid racial boundaries imposed by our  51  society…[making it] impossible to maintain a dual allegiance to both racial groups.” (p. 7). Moreover, it is often assumed that questions about one’s identity, appearance, cultural legitimacy, family, and so forth will lead to a conflicted sense of identity and emotional and behavioral problems. Thornton described such thinking as the “problem approach” to multiracial identity based on the notion that “the internal struggle for mixed people lies in trying to maintain bonds to incompatible groups” (1996, p. 109). A study conducted by Udry, Li, and Hendrickson-Smith (2003) based on the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) data from 1994-1995, supports this “problem approach” to multiracial identity. According to their findings, “mixed-race adolescents showed higher risk when compared with single-race adolescents on general health questions, school experiences, smoking and drinking, and other risk variables” (2003, p. 1865). The authors pointed out, however, that, despite being higher risk than their single race peers, mixed-race adolescents are nevertheless low risk. Although they could not with certainty attribute these findings to a specific cause, they concluded that “most of the risk items we assessed may be interpreted as related to stress, so we may therefore choose to interpret mixed race as a source of stress” (p. 1869). Further evidence to support this “problem approach” was presented by Fryer, Kahn, Levitt, and Spenkuch (2008). Using the same data set as Udry, Li, and Hendrickson-Smith (2003) (National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) data from 1994-1995) but focusing on the responses of only black-white identified students and comparing them to single-race black and white students, these authors found that “mixed race children engage in substantially more risky/anti-social behavior than either blacks or whites, especially outside of school” (2008, p. 5).  52  Variables identified as depicting risky/anti-social behavior include those taking place in and out of school with the former including “trouble with teachers, trouble paying attention, trouble with homework, trouble with students, effort on schoolwork, skipping school, and never [sic] suspended or expelled” and the latter including “watch TV, drink, smoke, dare, lie to parents, fight, property damage, steal, violent acts, sell drugs, encounter violence, ever sex, ever STD, and ever illegal drug use” (p. 11). The authors argued that their findings were “largely consistent with the ‘marginal man’ hypothesis (Park, 1928, 1931; Stonequist 1935, 1937)” (p. 5) and that “mixed race adolescents – not having a natural peer group – need to engage in more risky behaviors to be accepted” (p. 2). Similarly, in a qualitative study conducted with nine Black-White biracial college-age women, Kelch-Oliver and Leslie (2006) found that among participants “the most prevalent experience was a feeling of being marginal between two cultures” (p. 53) and that “most of the participants felt a sense of not fitting in, belonging, or feeling accepted by either race”(p. 70). Equivalent and Variant Approaches to Multiethnic Identity According to Thornton, the “equivalent approach” to multiracial identity “characterizes mixed racial and monoracial identity formation as an assimilation process with similar outcomes” (1996, p. 109) and posits that “no matter where multiracials start, they end up in the same place, with identities comparable to their monoracial peers” (p. 113). In contrast, the “variant approach,” like the “problem approach” focuses on the uniqueness of multiracial identities, but rather than viewing them as a source of problems, multiethnic identities are understood simply as different if not “better” than monoracial identities. Thornton explained, “the variant and problem approaches describe  53  differences between mixed and homogeneous populations,” but according to the variant view, multiracial individuals “are likely to benefit from being able to draw from and exist in two contrasting worlds” (p. 113). Several studies have attempted, even if not explicitly, to examine the applicability of each of these approaches to understanding multiethnic identities. Kerwin, Ponterotto, Jackson, and Harris (1993), for example, in a qualitative study conducted with nine black/white biracial children and their parents, found that, contrary to “the problems that historically have been conjectured for this population…for all of the respondent children and adolescents, there was no great sense of perceiving themselves as marginal in two cultures” (p. 228). In their quantitative study, Phinney and Alipuria (1996) compared the survey responses of 241 multiethnic/multiracial high school and college students to those of 1,041 of their monoethnic peers. As they explained, We found that multiethnic young people were not at a psychological disadvantage because of their mixed background. A self-esteem measure did not indicate any difference in terms of psychological well-being between multiethnic individuals and their monoethnic peers… Multiethnic individuals are not troubled, marginal people. (p. 152) Reflecting a “variant approach” to multiethnic identities, Phinney and Alipuria went on to point out that, [T]he multiethnic participants were not identical to their monoethnic peers. At least in some cases, multiethnic youths may have an advantage in their inter-group relations; multiethnic male and female high school students with one Black parent and multiethnic males with one Latino parent had more positive attitudes towards other groups than their monoethnic peers did. (p. 153) Finally, Bracey, Bámaca, and Umaña-Taylor (2004) examined the self-esteem, ethnic identity, and the relationship between these two constructs of 3282 biracial and monoracial adolescents. They found that biracial study participants “had significantly  54  lower self-esteem than Black adolescents, but significantly higher self-esteem than Asian adolescents…[and] that biracial adolescents had reported significantly higher levels of ethnic identity than White adolescents” (p. 129). Because the evidence to support each of these approaches to understanding multiethnic identity is persuasive, it is difficult to determine if one approach is more accurate than the others. Interestingly, but not surprisingly, though, Shih and Sanchez (2005) only found support for the “problem approach” when reviewing qualitative studies sampling clinical populations. In fact, they found that “studies on non clinical samples find that multiracial individuals tend to be just as well-adjusted as their monoracial peers on most psychological outcomes” (p. 569). Nevertheless, they identified numerous challenges that multiethnic individuals face in their identity development process, including conflict between their private sense of identity and the identities imposed on them by others, feeling that they must justify their identity choices to themselves and others, feeling forced to identify with one heritage over another, a lack of role models, conflicting messages about race from family members and the community, and a sense of double rejection from both of their heritage groups. Ultimately, and, I would argue, very accurately, Shih and Sanchez concluded that much more research is needed to fully understand multiracial identity and its effects on psychological adjustment. As the studies examined here indicate, conventional understandings of racial and ethnic categories, and, perhaps more importantly, the boundaries constructed between them, are understood as significantly influencing the identity construction of multiethnic individuals. Recalling the language of Hames-García (Chapter Two) these categories and the boundaries constructed between them are often understood as restrictions imposed on  55  multiethnic identities. The influence of these categories and boundaries, however, as seen in the review of conceptions of multiethnic identities as problematic, equivalent, and variant, is not agreed upon. What does seem to be agreed upon, as before, is that multiethnic identity development differs in important ways from monoethnic identity development. Consequently, when interviewing and conducting focus groups with participants and when analyzing the data, I paid close attention to participants’ discussions of racial and ethnic categories, their experiences stemming from these categories, and their perceptions regarding the influence of these experiences on their identity development. At the same time, given the findings of some researchers (e.g. Udry, Li, & Hendrickson-Smith, 2003; Kelch-Oliver & Leslie, 2006), I knew that I needed to be sensitive to the fact that some participants may well have had negative experiences stemming from the imposition of racial and ethnic restrictions. Despite the numerous studies that refute the problem approach to multiethnic identity, this perspective permeates much of the educational literature related to multiethnic students. As discussed in Section IV, many of the arguments for altering educational policy and practice are premised on the idea that multiethnic students are at risk of feeling marginalized, excluded, conflicted, and/or confused as a result of their multiethnic identity and that they require unique support mechanisms. Before discussing such arguments, however, I first review the understood influence of schooling on students’ identity construction and the more prevalent methods used by educators to support the racial and ethnic identity development of students.  56  Section III: Schooling and Student Identity Construction There appears to be an implicit line of logic running through much educational literature related to students’ racial and ethnic identities, which develops as follows: (1) because many identity construction processes take place during childhood and adolescence, and (2) because children and adolescents spend much of their time in schools, and (3) because identity construction processes are both cognitive and social, and (4) because many of children and adolescents’ cognitive learning and social interactions take place at school, (5) schooling, therefore, does play a significant role in students’ racial and ethnic identity construction processes. Indeed, the central role played by schools in individuals’ identity development is assumed, and constantly affirmed; however, the specific nature and outcomes of schooling’s influence persists as a prevalent topic in educational research. In the literature related to curriculum and students’ racial and ethnic identities, the focus is often on the ways in which minoritized people are excluded from the “canon” and marginalized through negative or inaccurate representations of racial and ethnic minorities. For instance, Castenell and Pinar (1993) argued that African American students “have been denied access to their history and culture in school” (p. 6). The result of this exclusion, they said, is a fractured identity: “If what we know about ourselves— our history, our culture, our national identity—is deformed by absences, denials, and incompleteness, then our identity—both as individuals and as Americans—is fractured” (p. 4). Nieto (2000), drawing on a case study with a Chicano student named “Paul,” explained the importance of incorporating Chicano culture and experiences in the curriculum to support the identity development of Chicano students. She stated,  57  It is not simply a question of feeling good about themselves; rather, a strong sense of identity is essential for giving young people a sense of their own dignity and worth. Including their experiences in the school’s curriculum is one way that Paul and his classmates are given the opportunity to develop this sense of dignity and worth. (p. 260) Across the literature related to K-12 curriculum and students’ racial and ethnic identities, the consensus is clear: maintaining the typically Eurocentric curriculum either fails to support or actively hinders the identity development of minoritized students, while a curriculum that acknowledges, incorporates, and builds on students’ cultures, histories, and experiences supports their identity construction processes (see, for example, Castenell and Pinar, 1993; Cruz-Janzen, 1997; Kincheloe & Steinberg, 1997; Nieto, 2000; Shields, 2003). The educational literature related to student identity formation is, of course, not limited to analyses of the curriculum, nor is it limited to racial and ethnic identity development. McLeod and Yates (2006) examined the influence of high school contexts (i.e. socio-economic demographics, dominant values) on students’ identity formation related to, for example, gender and career aspirations. Research conducted by Reichert and Kuriloff (2004) revealed some of the ways in which “the looking glass of the variously gendered academic and social curricula of schools” influences the self-concept of boys (p. 544). Tatum (2007) discussed the importance of inclusive learning environments as they relate to the curriculum, the diversity of staff and students, and building a sense of community, for the healthy racial identity formation of students. Others have discussed how the racial and ethnic composition of a school influences students’ racial and ethnic identities (e.g. Phinney & Alipuria, 1996; Lopez, 2004). And, in his study of high school students’ identities, particularly as they relate to race and  58  culture, Yon (2000) found that the school is “a discursive field wherein identities are made, unmade, and contested” and that the school “is not simply a container of identities or static locale, but is implicated in the production of the identities of teachers and students” (pp. 31-32). Indeed, the literature is replete with examples of the ways in which K-12 schooling experiences, including those that take place formally in classrooms and during school sponsored activities, as well as those that take place less formally in sites such as hallways and cafeterias, potentially influence students’ identity development in both positive and negative ways. The findings of these and similar studies, especially as they relate to racial and ethnic identities, should be of particular importance to educators since, as Hall (2000b) explained, “in conventional pedagogic analysis, cultural diversity and identity fragmentation are usually directly linked to behavioral problems, low self-esteem, and poor academic attainment in school” (p. ix). In contrast, based on an analysis of findings from more than a dozen studies, Zirkel pointed out that “a strong, positive racial or ethnic identity is associated with higher levels of academic performance…higher educational aspirations…[and] greater academic self confidence…” (2008, pp. 1151-1152). As previously discussed, Bracey, Bámaca, and Umaña-Taylor (2002) conducted a quantitative study examining the “self-esteem, ethnic identity, and the relationship between these constructs among biracial and monoracial adolescents” (p. 123). Their findings indicated “a significant, positive relationship between ethnic identity and selfesteem for all groups” (p. 130). In their concluding comments, they stated that “these findings have important implications for intervention programs, youth programs, and multicultural education in that they suggest the importance of promoting both healthy  59  self-esteem as well as positive ethnic identity development as critical to adolescent adjustment” (p. 130). As a result of such findings, the argument is repeatedly made that schools should seek to support the identity development of all students, and in particular, the racial and ethnic identities of minoritized students. Overview of Multicultural and Antiracism Education Much of the literature related to schooling and students’ identity development concentrates on racial and ethnic identities, and within this literature, the focus is most often on multicultural education, and, to a lesser extent, antiracism education. Certainly, other approaches have been suggested as a means to, in part, support the identity construction of all students, and, in particular, minoritized students. These include, among others, culturally relevant pedagogy (see Ladson-Billings, 1995) and culturally responsive teaching (see Gay, 2000). I focus here on multicultural and antiracism education, however, because of the explicit link made between such approaches and the identity development of minoritized students (in the case of multiculturalism see, for example, Gay, 1994; Nieto, 2000; in the case of antiracism see, for example, Dei, 2000), their potential impact on all students’ understandings of race, ethnicity, and identity (Cruz-Janzen,1997; Gosine, 2002), and their prevalence in educational literature, and especially literature related to multiethnic students. Here, I draw attention to the conceptions of race and ethnicity upon which these initiatives are constructed, which, presumably, reflect predominant thinking about race and ethnicity among educators, and, as a result of curricula, policies, activities, and classroom practices based on these conceptions, their students. Again, one purpose of my research is to interrogate the perceived influence of such diversity education initiatives on multiethnic students’ racial  60  and ethnic identity construction—a subject which remains noticeably neglected in educational research. Since its emergence in the late 1960s, multicultural education has suffered critiques from both liberals and conservatives, has prompted numerous debates about the sources of and remedies for racial inequality, and has experienced multiple metamorphoses into more narrowly defined approaches. While conservatives argue that multicultural education is too political, grants excessive attention and preferential treatment to minority students, and distracts teachers and students from more “essential” curriculum (May, 1994), more radical opponents claim that, due to its narrow and simplistic understanding of racism and its focus on attitudes and behaviours, multicultural education leaves unchallenged the structural sources of racial inequality and does little to improve the educational position and life chances of minority students (May, 1994; Grinter, 2000). These critiques engendered debates as to whether racism—and the unequal educational opportunities available to minorities—results from prejudice or oppression and, likewise, if the solution to these problems lies in altering individuals’ beliefs and attitudes or in changing oppressive institutional structures. Amidst these debates, those advocating multicultural education created divisions between more nuanced approaches. Kincheloe and Steinberg (1997), for example, described five types of multiculturalism: conservative multiculturalism/monoculturalism, liberal multiculturalism, pluralist multiculturalism, left-essentialist multiculturalism, and critical multiculturalism. During this period of metamorphosis for multicultural education, those advocating antiracism education mounted their challenges and increasingly placed themselves in opposition to multiculturalists.  61  Even when authors take pains to specify precise definitions of their favored approach, incongruous terminology and the blurring of lines between the approaches make comparative analysis difficult. For example, while authors such as Grinter (2000) draw a clear distinction between multicultural and antiracism education and position them as fundamentally incompatible, Nieto (2000), in her definition of multicultural education, removes the division entirely, and states that “Multicultural education is antiracism education.” (p. 305). Likewise, Nieto’s conceptualization of multicultural education is nearly indistinguishable from the definitions of critical multiculturalism provided by Kincheloe and Steinberg (1997) and May (1999), yet she does not adopt their terminology. Furthermore, Kincheloe and Steinberg’s (1997) critical multiculturalism is, both in theory and practice, strikingly similar to characterizations of antiracism such as those provided by Dei and Calliste (2000) and Grinter (2000). Add to the mix other approaches, such as those laid out by Sleeter and Grant (1999) which include the “human relations” approach to multicultural education and “education that is multicultural and social reconstructionist,” and one is left with a spectrum of inconsistently-named educational strategies ranging from the most conservative to the most radical, with those in between differing, at times, almost imperceptibly. However, because traditionally defined multicultural and antiracism education are often viewed as incompatible strategies lying at opposite ends of a spectrum and pitted against each other in scholarly debates, this discussion focuses on them. It should also be noted that, in more recent years, both multicultural and antiracism education have expanded the scope of their focus from race and ethnicity to include class, gender, sexuality, ability, and other axes of difference. While I recognize that these axes are not experienced in isolation from  62  each other, the analysis here focuses primarily on each approach’s treatment of race and ethnicity. As stated, numerous scholars engage in the debate between multicultural and antiracism education (see e.g. Grinter, 2000; Short, 1991, 2000; Fyfe, 1993). Among those who do so, Dei and Calliste (2000) provide a succinct overview of the ways in which these two approaches differ. According to them, multiculturalism advocates tolerance, focuses on shared commonalities, and views the obstacles to equity as stemming from intolerance and a lack of goodwill, while antiracism focuses on relations of domination and subordination, challenges racist behaviors and values, and sees the obstacles to equity as discrimination, hatred, exclusion, and violence. For the purposes of my analysis, more salient than the differences depicted by Dei and Calliste are the conceptions of race and ethnicity which underlie each respective approach. Indeed, the relevant difference here lies in how each approach views, and thus presents, the boundaries between racial and ethnic groups. That is, in teaching about diversity—the values, norms, and customs of different racial and ethnic groups—does multicultural education necessarily reinforce racial and ethnic categories and the boundaries between them? And, does antiracism education do the same when emphasizing differences in power between racial groups? In other words, do both approaches rely to some extent on essentialist conceptions of traditional racial and ethnic categories to achieve their aims? Critiques of Multicultural and Antiracism Education According to critics, predominant models of multicultural education, which begin with an adherence to five traditional racial groups, oversimplify the diversity found in today’s schools (Wardle, 1996). Moreover, multicultural education constructs minority  63  groups in “static, essentialist, and exoticized terms” and reinforces shallow understandings of the complexity of race and ethnicity (Gosine, 2002, p. 89). This thin treatment of segregated racial and ethnic groups, often manifested in lessons about the “Three D’s” (dress, dance, and diet) or the “Three F’s” (food, fun, and fashion), necessarily emphasizes the differences, and thus boundaries, between them. Drawing on such critiques of multicultural education and findings from a study conducted with biethnic and biracial individuals, Cruz-Janzen (1997) explained that The need is to move beyond the traditional models of multicultural education that continue to promote the separation and isolation of Americans—and all humans—through exclusive ethnic and racial categories and the sorting of people into groups. Education that is truly humanistic, inclusive, and multicultural must instead strive to prepare all students to be able to cross cultural boundaries without having to relinquish their self-identity and integrity. (p. 328) Challenging essentialist conceptions of racial and ethnic groups and making space for those who do not neatly fit within them is arguably quite feasible within the multicultural framework, “yet multicultural education, while advocating for inclusiveness, makes no allocations for persons with multiple ethnic and racial heritages” (Cruz-Janzen, 1997, p. 325). In fact, until they do so, some scholars argue, conventional approaches to multicultural education will not be authentically multicultural (Wardle, 1996). Extending these critiques, Dolby (2000) challenged the conception of identity that underlies multicultural education. She stated: Identity politics tend to dominate in mainstream multicultural discourses. Theoretically dependent on the idea of the Enlightenment subject (Hall, 1992), this configuration of identity assumes that humans have essential, stable cores that are fully formed and unified. Within this paradigm, groups are designated by characteristics that are understood as inherent (though not necessarily biological) and finding one’s “authentic” self, or the core of one’s identity, is a central preoccupation. (p. 899).  64  Echoing others (see Gosine, 2002; Yon, 2000), Dolby argued that such an approach to identity neglects the ways in which identities are produced and reproduced and the “slick and elusive” nature of race and racial identities (p. 908). Moreover, as she explained, “Racial identities cannot be bounded and framed, for they exceed, engulf, and mock the borders in which we attempt to encase them” (p. 908)—borders imposed and reinforced by multicultural approaches to education. Antiracism education has been critiqued for the similar use and reinforcement of essentialized understandings of racial and ethnic groups. However, there is a qualitative difference between how antiracism and multiculturalism engage with essentialized notions of race. Whereas multiculturalism’s essentialism arguably results from oversight and lack of awareness and can be rectified within its current framework, essentialism is fundamental to antiracism education. Returning to Dei and Calliste’s (2000) conceptualization of antiracism education, we must ask if is it possible to challenge systemic racial inequalities without essentializing—indeed reinforcing the boundaries between—those racial groups competing for power, access to resources, and representation. According to Gosine, the answer is no, because antiracism “suppresses the inter-group divisions, ruptures, and contradiction [within racial groups]… [and] further reifies the normative-deviant binary it is designed to critique” (2002, p. 90). At their core, both multicultural and antiracism education, although for different purposes, rely on essentialized understandings of racial and ethnic groups. In the case of multicultural education, this results from what appears to be an understanding of the complexities of race and ethnicity and how they are experienced and negotiated by individuals that is overly-simplistic, although perhaps inadvertently so. In the case of  65  antiracism education, this oversimplification apparently stems from the need to strategically essentialize racial groups in order to achieve its aims. The net result of each approach is described by Gosine in the following way: Although well-intentioned, multicultural and anti-racist models encourage people to think in terms of discrete, bounded collectivities that possess recognizable sets of attributes that distinguish one group from another. Such an approach perpetuates a we-them view of difference—a simplistic, binary perspective that reinforces the backbone of racist discourses (2002, p. 96). Such “we-them” dichotomies neglect those living on the hyphen, and the reinforcement of such dichotomies contributes to the rigidity of racial and ethnic categories which are understood to confine multiethnic identities. Clearly, K-12 schooling experiences are widely believed to influence the identity construction of all students, and ample evidence suggests that this influence potentially supports or hinders students’ identity development. It is also widely believed that students’ sense of identity, and in particular their racial and ethnic identity, is linked to their self-esteem and educational aspirations and outcomes. As a result of such conclusions, educators have devised various strategies to support the racial and ethnic identity construction of minoritized students, among which multicultural education (in its many forms) and antiracism education are the most prevalent, if not in practice, in the literature. Thus, I reviewed here the central tenets of each and discussed critiques of their reinforcement of rigid and essentialist conceptions of racial and ethnic categories.6 This relatively descriptive review provides the backdrop for the following section, as it reveals 6  My focus here is on the critiques of multicultural and antiracism education often found in the literature related to the schooling experiences of multiethnic students. There is, however, a large body of literature that implicitly or explicitly responds to or refutes such critiques. Zirkel (2008), for example, clearly demonstrates the efficacy of multicultural education for many minoritized students. My intention is not to advocate abandoning multicultural and antiracist approaches, but to suggest that they ought to reflect more nuanced and accurate understandings of the complexities of race and ethnicity.  66  many of the assumptions reflected in the literature and research related to the K-12 schooling experiences of multiethnic students. In other words, this literature, along with the literature related to the identity construction of multiethnic individuals (Sections I and II), provides the foundations upon which the literature reviewed below rests. Additionally, the literature reviewed in this section describes the schooling context within which participants study and socialize. Section IV: The K-12 Schooling Experiences of Multiethnic Students In recent years, we have seen a considerable expansion of the literature related to the K-12 schooling experiences of multiethnic students, of which Wardle has produced a significant portion (see, for example, Wardle 1996, 2000a/b, 2004). Drawing on many of the studies discussed in the previous sections and his own empirical research, Wardle has written dozens of articles related to the education of multiethnic students and has published a book with Cruz-Janzen (2004) entitled Meeting the Needs of Multiethnic and Multiracial Children in Schools. In the same year, Wallace (2004) edited a collection entitled Working with Multiracial Students: Critical Perspectives on Research and Practice. The collection, comprising both reviews of original empirical research and more theoretically oriented chapters, consists of two sections, one focusing on theoretical and methodological considerations for conducting research regarding multiracial and multiethnic identity, the other focusing on implications for teachers and teacher educators. The authors in this collection, as in the other literature reviewed here, employ a broad range of methodologies, theoretical framings of identity, and terminology. However, of particular importance here is the fact that both books (and much of the related literature) discuss the educational experiences of multiethnic/multiracial students,  67  identified as a distinct population with similar needs and experiences, and attempt to identify implications for practitioners. Assertions that K-12 schooling experiences influence multiethnic students’ identity development abound in the literature. Sheets (2004), for example, conducted a study that “examine[d] the friendship networks of multiracial students in school settings and explore[d] how their social experiences influence multiracial identification and identity formation” (p. 135). While Sheets pointed out that “parents and teachers were not a focus of this study” she concluded that “it is imperative that teachers (and parents) understand that the multiracial identity developmental process is not separate from learning and cognition” and that “teachers who make a conscious effort to promote multiracial identity development through curricular planning and instructional strategies help students develop a psychological dimension of self, both individual and group, which is a consequence of a [sic] their distinctive socialization process and dual heritage and membership in a [sic] particular racial and ethnic groups” (pp. 150-151). Additionally, the findings and educational implications from Root’s (1998) study with biracial siblings appear in the second edition of Banks and McGee Banks’ Handbook of Research on Multicultural Education (2003). Here, Root stated that the analysis of the experiences of multiethnic individuals raises “significant issues for educators as the classroom, school, and university are home away from home for many students and a source of significant information, process, and interaction—and ultimately a significant influence in perception of self” (p. 117). In their book Raising Biracial Children, Rockquemore and Laszloffy (2005) explained that Schools are one of the most important socializing agents in the lives of children. Outside of families, they may be the most important. While the  68  primary and overt function of schools is to teach academic skills and content, their secondary function is to teach children about themselves, and how to interact effectively with other people (pp. 88-89). Rockquemore and Laszloffy went on to discuss three aspects of schooling—the racial composition of the school, the racial awareness and sensitivity of schools’ leadership, and teachers’ attitudes and behaviors—which they identified as having a significant impact on mixed-race students’ racial socialization and identity development. They also discussed the significant impact of friendships and peer interactions on the racial socialization and identity development of mixed-race children. In this and the related literature, the primary assertion is always similar: schools can and should, but often fail to, support the racial/ethnic identity development and self-esteem of multiethnic students. Also permeating much of the literature related to multiethnic students’ K-12 schooling experiences is the assertion that such students have unique needs emerging from their identity construction processes—processes understood as differing from those of monoethnic students. For example, in 1995, Nishimura published an article entitled “Addressing the Needs of Biracial Children: An Issue for Counselors in a Multicultural School Environment” and in 1998, Wardle published an article entitled “Meeting the Needs of Multiracial and Multiethnic Children in Early Childhood Settings.” In these articles, the central “need” of multiethnic students is that for support in the development of healthy ethnic and racial identities (Wardle) or a positive racial self-image (Nishimura). Later, in 2004, Wardle described this need as desperate: “these students desperately need educators to support and nurture them in their efforts to survive and succeed in a world that often does not understand them and their families” (p. 176). At the same time, the general consensus emerging from the literature is that multiethnic  69  students’ need for support is not being met by schools, which Wardle (2000b) attributes, in part, to the “invisibility” of multiethnic students in most schools. According to Wardle, the existence and contributions of multiethnic individuals are largely absent from the curriculum; multiethnic students are rendered invisible by many school practices (e.g. single-race student groups, holiday celebrations, racial/ethnic data collection forms); most teachers have not received training to support multiethnic children; not everyone believes that multiethnic people represent a unique population and others feel that an acknowledgement of multiethnicity undermines the solidarity and power of singlerace/ethnicity groups; and “there are almost no textbooks that provide advice and information to assist educators to meet the needs of these children better” (p. 12). Extending beyond the notion that schools are simply not meeting the needs of multiethnic students is the idea that school practices actually marginalize or have adverse effects on the identity development and experiences of multiethnic students. As Wardle (2004) posited, One of the greatest dilemmas for multiracial and multiethnic students is to see themselves as normal and accepted, and not abnormal, strange and freaks. Students’ and adults’ frequent questions of, “what are you, anyway,” simply aggravate this dilemma. One reason multiracial and multiethnic students struggle is because they are not taught in schools about their extensive history (Cortes, 1999); another is that they are not visible in their school: in books, curricular materials, posters, pamphlets, examples of literature and the arts, and so forth. (pp. 69-70) Moreover, as discussed above, it is often assumed that traditional approaches to multicultural education marginalize or exclude multiethnic students (see Glass & Wallace, 1996; Wardle & Cruz-Janzen, 2004). Building on the foregoing assertions, much of the literature that seeks to do so, despite some differences in focus and wording, identifies implications and  70  recommendations for educators that are strikingly similar. These recommendations are often focused on ways to modify and supplement multicultural education so as to make it more inclusive of and responsive to the experiences of multiethnic students. As is often pointed out, the identified recommendations benefit not just multiethnic students but all students, as they potentially lead to more accurate and nuanced understandings of race, ethnicity, and other forms of diversity. For example, Wardle (1996) suggests that educators: 1. Correct inaccurate history; 2. Explore racism against biracial people; 3. Explore the problems of single-race groups; 4. Support the biracial child’s self-esteem; 5. Explore all forms of diversity; 6. Provide antibias activities; 7. Provide an inclusive multicultural curriculum; and 8. Closely examine language used to study and discuss biracial children (pp. 387390). Later, in 2004, Wardle and Cruz-Janzen added to this list “support different learning styles…support healthy racial identity development…provide adult role models and use the community…treat all children as unique individuals…don’t allow biased behavior or language…provide small groups and cooperative learning…provide lots of opportunities to explore race and racism in this country…don’t stereotype any of your students…[and] create appropriate instructional materials” (pp. 194-200). Wardle and Cruz-Janzen also emphasized the need to transform teacher education programs. They explained, “teachers must receive a different and improved kind of teacher preparation  71  that should include self-reflection, understanding the history of racism, understanding the negative power of racial categories, and being informed about the history of multiethnic and multiracial people and the normalcy and potential of multiracial and multiethnic children” (2004, p. 220). Indeed, in her quantitative doctoral study conducted with 268 elementary school teachers from a Northern California school district, Calore (2008) found evidence to suggest that participants were ill-prepared to serve the unique needs of multiracial students due to schools’ current racial data collection practices, lack of teacher knowledge and training, and a shortage of meaningful classroom materials related to the multiracial experience. Presumably, Wardle and Cruz-Janzen’s (2004) recommendations were influenced by Cruz-Janzen’s dissertation research which explored “the perceived role and significance of the home, school, and peers as socialization agents that impact the formal curricula of the schools and thus the ethnic self-identity and self-concept of biethnic and biracial persons who are not of combined African-American and European-American heritage” (1997, p. 11). Drawing primarily on interviews conducted with 10 biethnic and biracial participants who ranged in age from 20 to 30 years old, Cruz-Janzen found that “schools seem to operate in isolation from and with disregard for the families and communities of color they claim to represent and serve” (p. 310). Her participants, in their assessments of the formal curriculum in their K-12 schools, offered several critiques including the Eurocentric focus of the curriculum, the inaccuracies of American history, the lack of relevance of the curriculum to students of color, the lack of role models of color, and the curriculum’s denial of biethnic and biracial Americans. Based on these critiques, the participants’ suggestions for schools included calls for more lessons about  72  ethnicity and race, inclusion of other perspectives, the sharing of positive aspects of other groups’ histories and heritages, and acknowledgement of all Americans including biethnic and biracial people. Included in Cruz-Janzen’s dissertation is a detailed critique of multicultural education for its neglect of biethnic and biracial students and its tendency to reinforce exclusive racial and ethnic categories, as discussed above. In many ways, the literature presented in this and the previous sections and the assumptions underlying it prompted my desire to conduct this research. With the exception of a few dissertations (e.g. Cruz-Janzen, 1997; Lopez, 2001) and a handful of other empirical studies either directly or more loosely related to the K-12 schooling experiences of multiethnic individuals, there has been very little empirical research into these issues. As discussed in the next section, what we often lack are the voices of multiethnic students and their perceptions and experiences stemming directly from their K-12 schooling experiences, and especially those stemming from diversity education initiatives such as multicultural and antiracist education. Based on the previously discussed assertions regarding the schooling experiences of multiethnic students, the literature reviewed in this section identifies noticeably consistent implications for educators. What we do not know, however, is whether these recommendations are actually heeded by educators and, if so, with what effect on the experiences and identity development of multiethnic students. Section V: Integrating the Literature In this chapter, I have sought to address several questions, the answers to which provide the foundation for this study. These include (1) What insights do we have into the racial and ethnic identity construction of multiethnic individuals? (2) Are K-12 schooling  73  experiences understood to influence the identity construction of students? (3) What are the prevalent approaches used by educators to support the racial and ethnic identity construction of students? (4) What influence might these approaches have on the racial and ethnic identity construction of multiethnic students? (5) What are the perceived influences of K-12 schooling experiences on the identity construction of multiethnic students, as discussed in the literature? Here, I attempt to integrate the literature reviewed above and directly answer these questions. Whether a progression through developmental stages or a non-linear process, multiethnic identity construction is widely understood as differing from that of monoethnic individuals in significant ways and as being influenced by a broad range of factors including, but not limited to, social context, family, peer culture, phenotype, cultural knowledge, racial awareness, the imposition of racial and ethnic categories, and schooling experiences. While their experiences of these influences might be similar, how individuals respond to them will likely vary considerably. There is also strong evidence indicating that multiethnic identities are fluid and situational. What remains most disputed is whether or not multiethnic identity development presents unique personal and social challenges, whether it is simply different from but no more challenging than monoethnic identity development, or whether multiethnic individuals benefit from exposure to and experiences of multiple racial and/or ethnic heritages. As Shih and Sanchez (2005) argued, considerably more empirical research is needed to make such determinations. It is also widely accepted that K-12 schooling experiences, including those related to the curriculum, school activities, peer groups and friendships, and knowledge  74  development influence all students’ identities. As we may recall from Section I of this chapter, one’s cultural knowledge, peer culture, racial awareness, and social experiences are factors widely understood as influencing the racial and ethnic identity development of multiethnic individuals. Given that these factors are significantly influenced by K-12 schools or often take place within them, it is not surprising that such schools are recognized as playing an important role in multiethnic students’ racial and ethnic identity construction processes. Because one’s sense of identity, and particularly racial and ethnic identity, is often linked to self-esteem and educational outcomes and aspirations, especially for minoritized students, educators have developed various approaches to support students’ identity development. Of these approaches, multicultural education (in its many forms) and antiracism education are the most prevalent, if not in practice, certainly in the literature. Both of these approaches, however, have been critiqued for their reinforcement of rigid and essentialist conceptions of racial and ethnic categories, and multicultural education, in particular, is critiqued for its shallow treatment of race and ethnicity— tendencies that are understood as doing a disservice to all students and as being particularly neglectful of and marginalizing for multiethnic students. These approaches are thought to directly confine the identity choices of multiethnic students through the reification and imposition of racial and ethnic borders. Thus, educational approaches said to serve monoethnic students may not be appropriate for multiethnic students, just as models of monoethnic/monoracial identity development may not apply to multiethnic individuals (Poston, 1990). What we lack, however, is a sufficient understanding,  75  grounded in empirical research, of the impact of such approaches on the perceptions, experiences, and identity construction processes of multiethnic students. As a population, multiethnic individuals undoubtedly differ from each other in innumerable ways. However, in much of the educational literature related to multiethnic students, they are treated as a population with more or less similar needs and experiences. Pages upon pages of recommendations have been identified for educators of multiethnic students, yet we have little idea if any educators actually heed this advice or, if they do, with what results. Nor do we have sufficient empirical research to support these recommendations or assess their appropriateness. Calore (2008) found that educators are ill-prepared to serve the unique needs of multiracial students, but we do not know how this lack of preparation manifests itself in the classroom or what its effect is on multiethnic students. In many ways, this study is a response to this literature. Prior studies have demonstrated the various ways in which K-12 schooling experiences—both those that take place formally in the classroom and during schoolsponsored activities, and those that take place less formally in such places as hallways and cafeterias—influence students’ identity development. However, in terms of empirical studies that explicitly address the K-12 schooling experiences (understood holistically and taken together) of multiethnic students and the influence of these experiences on such students’ racial and ethnic identity construction processes, I know of none. What we are missing are the voices of students and their perspectives on and perceptions of schooling as it relates to their identity development. How do multiethnic students feel about race and ethnicity-based student organizations and activities? Do they join them? Do they feel excluded from them? Do these experiences of membership or exclusion influence their  76  sense of identity? What lessons have had an impact on their thinking about race, ethnicity, and their own identities? Do they feel that multiethnic students have particularly unique needs and, if so, what are they? Has the racial makeup of their school influenced their experiences and identity choices? Do they, as it is often assumed they will, feel marginalized and excluded in school? Do they feel that schools impose racial and ethnic categories on them? Have particular relationships with teachers or other students had a positive impact on their sense of identity? In short, what is the perceived influence of their K-12 schooling experiences on multiethnic students’ racial and ethnic identity construction processes? In sharing multiethnic students’ perspectives related to such questions, this research makes an important contribution to our understanding of the racial and ethnic identity construction and K-12 schooling experiences of multiethnic students. Before examining these perspectives, however, in the following chapter I discuss how I set about accessing and interpreting them. I also explore the methodological complexities of conducting research with and for multiethnic individuals and share my responses to these complexities.  77  CHAPTER FOUR: METHODOLOGY The postpositivist realist conception of identity outlined in Chapter Two draws attention to the epistemic value of experience, and the notion that “we do and can learn or discover something about the reality that shapes our experience” (Hau, 2000, p. 157). This conception acknowledges the influence of individuals’ experiences—and their interpretations of these experiences—on their identities, as well as the relationship between one’s experiences and other social categories such as race, gender, class, and sexuality that constitute one’s social location. In light of these understandings with which I entered this study, I needed a methodology that would provide the opportunity to gain a deep understanding of participant’s experiences and how these experiences have shaped their identities. I also needed a methodology that would allow for the exploration of a broad range of influences on participants’ identities and invite the type of open dialogue conducive to the emergence of participants’ stories, experiences, reflections, and interpretations. Given the purposes of this study and its inductive nature, I deemed a qualitative approach most appropriate. Of the various qualitative research methods, interviews were selected as the primary tool for data collection precisely because interviews allow for an in-depth exploration, through dialogue, of participants’ lived experiences and the meaning they make of those experiences (Seidman, 2006). To enhance the depth of the interview findings and to further explore emergent themes, I also invited participants to take part in focus groups and complete a writing activity. In doing so, I sought to explore the racial and ethnic identity construction of multiethnic participants as influenced by their K-12 schooling experiences, the ways in which diversity education initiatives such  78  as multicultural and antiracist education influence participants’ identity construction, and the ways in which schools might become more inclusive and supportive of their multiethnic students. In the following pages, I review the steps taken to access and interpret the voices of research participants. I explore the methodological complexities of conducting research with and for multiethnic individuals and share my responses to these complexities. Finally, I interrogate my role as the primary research “instrument” for this study, including the perceived influence of my identity on the research situation, as well as the biases, assumptions, and perspectives with which I entered this study and how I attempted to mitigate their impact. Participant and Site Selection The criteria for participation in this study were self-identification as multiethnic and enrollment in a San Francisco Bay Area high school. All participants self-identified as multiethnic in response to a study advertisement. Prior to commencing this research, I was often asked if I would include a research participant that is, for example, half Scottish and half German (note that I am never asked about multiethnic individuals who identify with two ethnicities from a common “minority” racial group). To such questions, my answer was “yes,” because, prior to an interview, I could not predict the ways in which racial and ethnic restrictions might operate in the life of such an individual. Thus, several participants represented ethnic groups that are subsumed under a single racial category. Furthermore, since my research seeks to examine the experiences and identity construction of self-identified multiethnic individuals, to exclude this individual would  79  require the imposition of a restriction based on what I consider to be a “legitimate” multiethnic identity. I chose the San Francisco Bay Area as the location for the study for several reasons. Lopez (2003) provides various explanations for why California is a particularly suitable location for the study of multiethnicity based on, for example, the fact that “it is the only large state with a significant percentage of all the ‘major’ race groups present in its population” and the data indicating that “the state accounts for a large portion of the mixed heritage population in the country” (p. 31). As U.S. Census Bureau estimates from July 2007 indicate, 2.5% of the California population (approximately 36 million) is, in the Bureau’s terms, multiracial (Stuckey, 2008). Additionally, according to a report based on findings from the 2000 Census, “People who reported more than one race were more likely to be under age 18 than those reporting only one race.…Of the 6.8 million people in the Two [sic] or more races population [category], 42 percent were under 18” (Jones & Smith, 2001, p. 9). Thus, we know that California has a sizable population of multiethnic youth (see also Lopez, 2003; Ness, 2001). Moreover, iPride, the oldest multiracial justice organization in the US (Brown & Douglass, 1996; iPride.org), is located in Berkeley, California, and, as detailed in the following section, iPride assisted in the recruitment of study participants. Finally, I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and have local knowledge of the schools and communities from which participants were drawn— knowledge that, as discussed below, I expected would assist in the gathering and interpretation of data. I originally intended to draw all participants from a single public high school in the Bay Area and to supplement interview, focus group, and writing activity data with  80  data collected at the school site related to curriculum, student and faculty demographics, and diversity education policies and practices. This research model, though, proved unfeasible for several reasons. One principal welcomed me to conduct this study at her school, but prior to commencing the research, she retired, and the in-coming principal did not want the school to be the research site. One school district rejected my application to conduct research with its students due to concerns about loss of instructional time that might result from participation in the study. Schools in other districts might have been willing to host this research, yet I feared that their policies related to research conducted with students might preclude open dialogue with participants. For example, several districts have policies that require school personnel to be present during interviews and focus groups with students. Consequently, the research model changed substantially and participants were drawn from schools across the Bay Area. Research Procedures An advertisement for this study was sent to members of iPride, an organization of multiracial families in the San Francisco Bay Area,7 to which several students responded directly. Additionally, several teachers who received the study advertisement from iPride informed their students of the study, and one teacher sent the advertisement to all students in her school. I also discussed the study with several teachers with whom I was in contact, and they shared the study advertisement with their students. Finally, following their interviews, several participants encouraged their friends and classmates to participate in the study. Thus, study advertisements, word-of-mouth, and snowballing  7  Not all of iPride’s members reside in the Bay Area, and as a result, numerous students from across the country contacted me about participation in the study. Because these students were not enrolled in Bay Area high schools, I was unable to interview them for this study.  81  techniques were used to contact potential participants. All students interested in participating in the study were invited to contact me directly by phone or email. Once students contacted me and confirmed their enrollment in a Bay Area high school8 and self-identification as multiethnic, I sent them a detailed description of the study and informed consent and informed assent forms. Semi-Structured Interviews All participants were required to participate in a semi-structured interview during which we explored their identity construction processes and K-12 schooling experiences. Semi-structured interviews were selected as the primary method for data collection for precisely the reasons provided by Barriball and While (1994): “they are well suited for the exploration of the perceptions and opinions of respondents regarding complex and sometimes sensitive issues and enable probing for more information and clarification of answers” (p. 330) (see also Seidman (2006) and Marshall and Rossman (1989) for similar discussions of the merits of interview based methodologies). Twenty-three students from eight high schools (two private, six public) and with a wide array of racial and ethnic heritages were interviewed (see Table 1). The interviews took place at a time and location deemed convenient and comfortable by the participants—most often after school at local coffee shops and eateries. In some instances, students were interviewed on their campuses after the school day had ended, either on a lawn or in a classroom that was provided for our use by the school. All of the students were interviewed individually, with the exception of two students who requested to be interviewed together. Given participants’ busy schedules and other commitments, 8  One participant had graduated from high school within the past seven months.  82  scheduling the interviews proved fairly difficult. The 23 participants and I exchanged more than 500 emails, in addition to countless text messages and phone calls. After ensuring that the necessary consent and assent forms had been signed, I explained the study in greater detail to students and invited them to ask me questions about myself and the study. I also gave participants a copy of Root’s (2003a) “50 Experiences of Racially Mixed People” (Appendix III) to read, if they wanted to, while I was getting organized to begin the interview. My assumption was that participants would find the list interesting and that it would prompt reflection on their own experiences. All of the questions included in the interview protocol (Appendix I) were asked of students. However, the questions were not necessarily asked in the order in which they appear, and we frequently discussed topics introduced by the students or that emerged from the conversation. The interviews ranged in length considerably, with the shortest lasting approximately 30 minutes and the longest reaching nearly two hours. The variations in length were due not to the number of questions asked but the length of students’ responses and the number of topics they introduced. I took notes during the interviews and recorded each using two digital voice recorders. Following the interview, all participants received a thank you note with a $5.00 gift card to a local coffee shop and were invited to select their own pseudonym (five students selected their pseudonyms).  83  Table 1: Participants’ Pseudonyms, Self-Described Heritages, and Schools Pseudonym  Heritage  Public/Private School  School Name  Jill  Chinese and White  Public  Parkside H. S.  Mialany  Black and White  Public  Parkside H. S.  Dana  White and Black  Public  Canyon H. S.  Andrea  White and Iranian  Private  Oak View H. S.  Anthony  Filipino and Indian  Private  Oak View H. S.  Frank  French and Mexican  Public  Bridges H. S.  Jasmine  Mexican and Arab (Tunisian)  Public  Bridges H. S.  David  Italian and Portuguese  Public  Bridges H. S.  Cara  Chinese and White  Private  Cedar Grove H. S.  Amaya  African American and Indian  Public  Pine Mountains H. S.  Raya  Black and White (British and Ethiopian)  Public  Pine Mountains H. S.  Barry  Spanish, German, and Irish  Public  Pine Mountains H. S.  Christina  Black and White  Public  Pine Mountains H. S.  Kendra  Puerto Rican, Mexican, Black, and French  Public  Pine Mountains H. S.  Renee  Mexican and Persian  Public  Pine Mountains H. S.  Jen  Public  Pine Mountains H. S.  Hip Hapa  Puerto Rican, Yugoslavian, and Italian African American, Native American, Canadian, Vietnamese  Public  Oceanside H. S.  Kelley  Chinese and White  Public  Deer Valley H. S.  Josh  French, Persian, Jewish and Russian  Public  Deer Valley H. S.  Jordan  Chinese and White  Public  Deer Valley H. S.  Anne  Caucasian and Japanese  Public  Deer Valley H. S.  Hannah  Japanese and White  Public  Deer Valley H. S.  Marie  White and Black  Public  Deer Valley H. S.  Focus Groups Drawing on the work of Krueger (1994) and Morgan (1993), Asbury (1995) explains that focus groups “rely on the dynamic of the group interactions to stimulate the thinking and thus the verbal contributions of the participants, and to provide the researcher with rich, detailed perspectives that could not be obtained through other methodological strategies” (p. 415). Moreover, as Kitzinger (1995) points out, researchers who conduct focus groups often do so based on the idea that “group processes 84  can help people to explore and clarify their views in ways that would be less easily accessible in a one to one interview” (p. 299). Finally, both Morgan (1996) and Wilson (1997) discuss the complementary relationship between individual interviews and focus groups. Wilson (1997), for example, describes the use of focus groups as a means to follow up on issues and topics that have emerged from individual interviews. With these potential benefits of focus groups in mind and in an effort to enhance the breadth and depth of the data, following their interviews, I invited students to participate in an optional focus group. Nine students participated in one of two focus groups. I designed the focus groups to provide a forum in which participants could discuss salient themes emerging from the interviews with other multiethnic students and in which participants and I could further explore such themes. Thus, prior to the focus groups, I read the transcripts or listened to the interviews of focus group participants (depending on whether or not the interviews had already been transcribed), to identify common themes and questions to be discussed or issues which I believed warranted further exploration (Wilson, 1997). For example, I used the Pine Mountains focus group as an opportunity to further explore the topic of phenotype—a topic that was not included in the interview protocol but that many of the focus group participants brought up during their individual interviews. As Kitzinger (1995) explains, Group discussion is particularly appropriate when the interviewer has a series of open ended questions and wishes to encourage research participants to explore the issues of importance to them, in their own vocabulary, generating their own questions and pursuing their own priorities. (p. 299) Consequently, although I brought a series of questions to each focus group, participants were encouraged to introduce questions and topics for discussion with the group.  85  Although the majority of students expressed interest in participating in a focus group, scheduling the focus groups proved very difficult given the distances between participants’ communities and schools and their busy schedules. I proposed four focus groups, only two of which took place, both at local pizza restaurants. Five participants from Pine Mountains High School attended the first focus group, the second comprised four students, three from Deer Valley High School and one from Oak View High School. I took notes during both focus groups and recorded each using two digital voice recorders. Writing Activity According to Creswell (2003), participant-generated documents may be a source of particularly thoughtful data because of the attention required to create them. With this in mind, I designed an optional writing activity that provided participants with the opportunity to share further insights and thoughts related to the research topics. The writing activity was also intended to provide participants with the opportunity to articulate their thoughts and experiences in writing and in the absence of the researcher and audio recording devices. In this sense, the writing activity was designed to be a less obtrusive method of collecting data than the interviews and focus groups (Creswell, 2003). In the writing activity prompt (Appendix II), I asked participants to reflect on their schooling experiences and encouraged them to identify ways in which schools are and are not meeting the needs of their multiethnic students. However, I emphasized with participants that the prompt was only a suggestion and that they should feel free to share whatever reflections they had related to the research topics. Generally, students expressed  86  very little interest in completing the writing activity. Three students wrote reflections about being multiethnic and their schooling experiences and one student wrote reflections about being interviewed by me about her identity and experiences. Further, one student sent me a paper she had written about multiethnicity prior to the interview and another student sent me two papers he wrote about multiethnicity following the interview. Data Analysis and Presentation In their article, “Qualitative Analysis on Stage: Making the Research Process More Public,” Anfara, Brown, and Mangione state that “in all the discussions of validity in qualitative research there is one major element that is not sufficiently addressed—the public disclosure of process” (2002, p. 29). This conclusion is based on several observations: First, what exactly does it mean when a researcher writes, “themes emerged”? The reader is expected to take the word of the researcher that he or she did a credible job in data analysis—that the themes that emerged actually have some congruence or verisimilitude with the reality of the phenomenon studied. Second, although triangulation, member checks, and other qualitative strategies are mentioned frequently in design or methods sections of research articles, rarely is there evidence of exactly how these were achieved…Third, rarely are we privy to an interview protocol that may be used to collect data. (p. 29) Anfara, Brown, and Mangione conclude that “However qualitative researchers address validity in their research…the processes employed in the research must be made more public” (p. 35). Expressing similar ideas, Palys (1997), in his discussion of qualitative data analysis states, “It would be nice if one could point to examples of qualitative research in which that author(s) self-consciously discussed the decision points they faced, and how and why they made the decisions they did, but there have been few such accounts” (p. 297). Taking these observations and critiques seriously, in the following  87  pages I detail and “make public” the processes and decisions involved in organizing, reducing, analyzing, and presenting the data. Much as I would like to depict these processes as straightforward and coherent, I cannot; as predicted by Marshall and Rossman (1989), they were “messy, ambiguous, time-consuming, creative, and fascinating…[They did] not proceed in a linear fashion, [they were] not neat” (p. 112). I do, however, take comfort in Creswell’s assertion that “Unquestionably, there is not one single way to analyze qualitative data—it is an eclectic process in which you try to make sense of the information” (Creswell, 2002, in Anfara, Brown, & Mangione, 2002, p. 31). Starting Points The interviews and focus groups were transcribed verbatim and features of speech such as long pauses, sighs, and laughter were noted in the transcripts. Each student received a copy of his/her interview transcript and was invited to correct any errors and provide clarification. Only one of the participants pointed out an error in a transcript that needed to be corrected. Having deemed the data ready for analysis, I read each transcript or writing activity at least twice, but often three or more times. As Creswell (2003) suggests, my purpose at this point was to start reflecting on such questions as “What general ideas are participants saying? What is the tone of the ideas? What is the general impression of the overall depth, credibility, and use of the information?” (p. 191). Based on my initial readings of and reflections on the data, and given the central research questions of this study, I decided that it would be important for readers to gain a broader understanding of participants’ racial and ethnic identity construction processes and the various factors beyond K-12 schooling that have influenced these processes. Thus, in Chapter Five I present profiles of participants with a focus on their racial and  88  ethnic identity development as influenced by such factors as family, friends, relationships and interactions, phenotype, racial and ethnic categories and stereotypes, and local environment. The data directly addressing participants’ K-12 schooling experiences are presented according to salient topics in Chapters Six, Seven, and Eight. As discussed below, distinct data processing and analytic procedures were used for generating the profiles and the subsequent discussion of participants’ K-12 schooling experiences. Generating Participant Profiles The participants’ profiles, which are composed almost entirely of participants’ own words, are, as per Seidman’s (2006) suggestions, presented in the first person. To generate the profiles, I first read each interview transcript to gain a general sense of the participants’ identity development, their experiences, and the topics they discussed. Using printed copies of the transcripts and a highlighter, I then identified passages which related to participants’ identity development. Returning to the computer, I deleted my words and the un-highlighted sections of the transcript. The remaining text formed the basis of the profile and I began a process of selecting the most descriptive passages and editing them. For the sake of coherence, the text was “cleaned up” and I removed some of the often repeated words, such as “like,” “um,” and “you know.” I also removed or changed all proper names and excluded text that could be used to identify the participant. In some cases, I rearranged the text thematically. Thus, for example, in instances where a participant talked about her siblings at several different times during the interview, I grouped this text together. I also added a minimal amount of text to ensure clarity. For example, in response to the question “How would you describe your process of identity  89  construction as a multiethnic individual? Do you feel that this process is complete, or is it ongoing?” Jill responded with “It is ongoing, it will never be complete.” Because Jill’s response cannot stand alone, to enhance clarity, the sentence from her profile reads as: “Developing my identity is ongoing, it will never be complete.” Such changes were very minor and did not alter the meaning of the participants’ words, and therefore they are not indicated in the text of the profiles. Once a first draft of each profile was completed, I reviewed the focus group transcripts and writing activities and identified passages to include in the profiles. During a final reading of each profile, I made any other changes needed to enhance clarity. The profiles, as with the interviews, vary in length and reflect differences in speech styles and loquaciousness. Ultimately, each profile presents a shared story, one that is crafted by me using a participant’s words (Seidman, 2006). To ensure the accuracy of my interpretations and that through crafting the profiles I did not inadvertently misrepresent the participants’ stories, I invited participants to review their profiles and offer suggestions to improve accuracy and coherence.9 None of them requested that I make changes to his/her profile. Analysis of the Data Relating to K-12 Schooling Experiences Chapters Six, Seven, and Eight include a presentation of the data directly related to participants’ K-12 schooling experiences. Again using printed copies of the data and a highlighter, I reread the data and identified passages in which participants discussed their K-12 schooling. As before, my purpose at this point was to reflect on such questions as “What general ideas are participants saying? What is the tone of the ideas? What is the 9  Upon their completion, I attempted to email each participant her/his profile. Unfortunately, a few participants had changed schools or email addresses and I was unable to contact all of them.  90  general impression of the overall depth, credibility, and use of the information?” (Creswell, 2003, p. 191). After reflecting on the data and these questions, I identified three broad categories into which the data naturally fit: participants’ discussions of the formal/deliberate aspects of schooling, their discussions of the informal/social aspects of schooling, and their broader reflections on K-12 schooling including recommendations for educators. The formal/deliberate aspects of schooling are those that teachers and administrators can and do influence, and the informal/social aspects are those over which teachers and administrators generally have little direct influence. Once the data had been divided into these three broad categories, I manually coded them according to the topics discussed by participants. Not surprisingly, these topics most often corresponded to the questions that I asked students during the interviews and focus groups. For example, topics from the data related to the formal aspects of schooling include interactions and relationships with teachers and diversity education initiatives—two topics about which I explicitly asked participants. I then, in separate documents, combined all of the data related to each topic. At this point, I reviewed and reread the data related to each topic and sought to identify “salient themes, recurring ideas or language, and patterns of belief that link people and settings together” (Marshall and Rossman, 1989, p. 116). In successive iterations of data analysis, my tasks included, for example, searching for relationships among the concepts and themes discussed by participants, drawing comparisons between participants’ experiences of specific aspects of K-12 schooling, identifying divergences between participants’ perceptions of similar phenomena, and comparing my findings to prior research and extant literature. I then began a concomitant process of analysis akin to  91  what Strauss and Corbin (1990) call axial coding: I began putting the data back together and looking for patterns and relationships that could help us to understand the K-12 schooling experiences of participants and the influence of these experiences on their racial and ethnic identity development. Through this process, numerous themes emerged including, for example, the silence regarding multiethnicity in schools, the reification of racial and ethnic categories, and the significant influence of reflected appraisals (Cooley, 1902; Khanna, 2004; Tatum, 1997). In Chapters Six, Seven, and Eight, I present the data related to participants’ K-12 schooling experiences in a way that reflects these analytic processes. Through the internal organization of these chapters, I attempt to lay bare my processes of breaking down, analyzing, and piecing back together the data. In doing so, I attempted to expose these processes to scrutiny, in large part as a response to the critiques of accounts of qualitative research processes put forward by Anfara, Brown, and Mangione (2002) and Palys (1997). Chapters Six and Seven focus on participants’ experiences of the formal and informal aspects of schooling respectively. The data in these chapters are organized into sections according to topic and the salient themes emerging from the data related to each topic are discussed at the end of each section and again at the end of each chapter. While Chapters Six and Seven focus on participants’ past schooling experiences, Chapter Eight includes the data related to participants’ broad reflections on schooling and their recommendations for educators—data best viewed against the backdrop of the data presented in Chapters Five, Six, and Seven. Many of the ideas and themes that permeate Chapters Five, Six, and Seven come together, so to speak, in the data presented in  92  Chapter Eight. Moreover, participants’ reflections on schooling and their recommendations for educators are, not surprisingly, very much rooted in their own identities and experiences. As such, in Chapter Eight, I frequently refer back to the data in Chapters Five, Six, and Seven and, therefore, organizing the data according to participants and not topics reduced repetitiveness. The Complexities of Researching Multiethnic Identities Research with multiethnic individuals, like much research related to race and ethnicity, gives rise to several complexities and conundrums. Root (1992a, 2003b) discusses several of these complexities, including: the fact that mixed race people are not distributed randomly throughout the United States; the limitations of using self-selection to identify research participants, especially given all of the ways in which mixed race people may identify and define race and ethnicity; the changing meaning of mixed race over time; the implications of conducting research with mixed race individuals of a certain heritage combination versus those representing multiple heritage combinations; the limits in generalizability resulting from restricted sampling (i.e. according to age); and the difficulties, when appropriate, of identifying control groups. Other work addressing these and similar complexities can be found in Part 1 of Wallace’s (Ed.) (2004b) Working with Multiracial Students: Critical Perspectives on Research and Practice, entitled “Unmasking the Interface: Theoretical and Methodological Considerations in Multiracial and Multiethnic Identity Research.” Here, Renn (2004b) explored how to conduct research on multiraciality without reinforcing static notions of racial categories; Lopez (2004) explored how information about race and ethnicity is collected with mixed heritage students and ways to ensure more accurate analysis and  93  conclusions based on such data; and Wallace (2004a) advocated for greater attention to cultural processes in the study of multiethnic identities. In this section, I explore several of these complexities as they relate to this research and detail how I have addressed them. Additionally, I identify and discuss those limitations and delimitations of the study that are not addressed in Chapter One. In Chapter One, I made clear my definition of multiethnic and my rationale for including participants whose parents might be racially similar but who represent different ethnic groups. Simply making clear my own definition of multiethnic, however, does not avoid many of the complexities related to sampling and participant selection. According to Root, “recruiting multiracial individuals will almost always yield selective samples” because: [S]ome persons will not respond to advertising because the social environment has rendered multiracial identity as a negative status. Other multiracial persons, such as some African Americans, Filipinos, Latinos, Native Americans, and Hawaiians, may not identify as multiracial; to them, ethnic or cultural identity may be more salient than racial heritage. Advertising specifically for people of color will selectively sample those multiracials who identify as such…and who may be critically different from those who would not identify as people of color. (1992a, p. 183) These difficulties in sampling are compounded by the fact that potential participants may interpret the definitions of race, ethnicity, and multiethnicity differently. Moreover, some multiethnic individuals may acknowledge their mixed heritage but identify monoracially or identify as a member of a specific heritage group (e.g., Japanese/White) but not with a larger multiethnic population. Although significant, I do not see these difficulties as deterrents to conducting this research. As indicated, all participants self-identified as multiethnic in response to advertisements about this research. Certainly other methods might have been used to  94  identify study participants. For example, results from a questionnaire asking students to indicate their parents’ racial and ethnic heritage could have been used to identify potential participants; however, as Root (2003b) points out, this method tells us little about how the student identifies. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine a study with multiethnic individuals that satisfactorily avoids or responds to all of these complexities. Moreover, I join Renn (2004b) in the belief that “we need to allow the strengths of different research paradigms and methods, as well as individual researchers, to contribute to the discussion of multiraciality” (p. 17). In a review of dissertations and theses addressing multiracial identity, Root identified several methodological flaws, one consequence of which is that “proportionally few offer new information” (2003b, p. 121). Here, I address two of these flaws which are relevant to this research. First, as Root argues, “Restricted sampling limits generalizability of results. Many studies use college-age students, who…are in a specific developmental stage of their lives. Community samples are harder to obtain but yield a broader scope of influences on people’s identities” (p. 121). Because I seek to understand the influence of K-12 schooling on participants’ identity construction, it seems logical that all participants would have at least enrolled in high school. Certainly older individuals could have participated in this study, but, as Root points out, community samples are hard to obtain, and older study participants would have perhaps been more difficult to recruit given the requirement of enrollment in a California high school. The argument that students are at a particular developmental stage and therefore limit the implications of my findings is perhaps reasonable. However, Root also points out that “generational changes in the meaning of mixed race and the support for mixed race  95  identities imply that research findings from 15 to 20 years ago may not be replicable or as relevant” today (p.121). As one goal of this research is to identify implications for educators in today’s schools based on the perceptions and experiences of current students, we can quickly see the limitations of including older participants in this study. Second, as discussed in the previous chapter, many authors and researchers employ different terms to refer to multiethnic individuals, and many researchers limit the focus of their studies to multiethnic individuals of a certain heritage combination. According to Root (2003b), Researchers also have to be specific about their sample of mixed race people on the basis of the research questions. It may not be appropriate to mix persons of Black/White and Asian/White and Native American/White and Latino/White in the same samples, particularly if the sample numbers are small. Historical issues specific to the ethnic groups may predictably confound results. (p.121) Based on my research questions, I am confident in my decision to group multiethnic individuals together regardless of their racial or ethnic heritage—a decision I might not have made had the aims of the research been different. Indeed, elsewhere I have questioned the extent to which a single multiethnic population, with members who identify as such and therefore whose experiences can be studied, actually exists (Mohan & Venzant Chambers, 2009). While I am critical of studies that uncritically group all multiethnic individuals together and assume that they share a common identity and similar experiences, feelings, and histories (and interpretations of these), for several reasons, I nevertheless used multiethnic as a broad category for identifying the participants in this study. I did this, in part, in response to the increasing number of organizations, publications, studies, and media accounts treating multiethnic individuals as a single group and the rise of the so-called “multiracial movement.” Certainly, many  96  studies identify specific heritage combinations, yet as multiethnicity garners increased attention, there is a tendency to depict the “population” in broad strokes, and too little empirical research examining the experiences of multiethnic individuals broadly identified. Likewise, as discussed in the previous chapter, there is an expanding body of literature related to the K-12 schooling of multiethnic students, much of which considers multiethnic students representing a range of heritage combinations, without distinction (see, for example, Wallace, 2004b; Wardle & Cruz-Janzen, 2004). Consequently, it is worth discerning if there are unique yet shared experiences related to straddling or crossing racial and ethnic borders, regardless of which races or ethnicities the borders lie between, and if these experiences hold implications for educators. Moreover, it would likely be impossible to investigate the experiences of individuals representing every possible heritage combination so as to identify implications for educators (or anyone else). What we can do, though, is examine whether there are common educational experiences shared by individuals who identify as multiethnic. Thus, what ties all study participants together (however loosely) is their experiences of crossing borders (Root, 1996a), be they racial and/or ethnic borders. I am cognizant of the limitations of identifying research participants in this way, and, in particular, I acknowledge Root’s (2003b) assertion that heterogeneous samples of multiethnic individuals overlook historical issues specific to particular ethnic groups. This lack of emphasis on historical issues specific to certain groups, however, is a necessary feature of this study given the research questions and my aims. Moreover, in my analysis of the data, I do not neglect those instances in which participants discuss such issues, especially as they relate to their identity and self-concept. Rather, historical  97  issues such as the development and deployment of racial and ethnic stereotypes and the persistent legacy of racism and discrimination are, when discussed by participants, examined for the influence they have in shaping participants’ identities and experiences. Additionally, for the same reasons that I did not specify specific racial or ethnic heritage combinations as criteria for participation in this study, I did not restrict participation to individuals of a specific gender, social class, or other social grouping. As is evident from my approach to identity outlined in Chapter Two, I understand individual identities as influenced by a broad range of factors and socially constructed categories which mutually constitute each other. It is beyond the scope of this study to engage in a thorough analysis of such factors as gender, class, religion, or sexuality, yet I am mindful of the ways in which these social markers, together, constitute participants’ social locations and, thus, influence their experiences and identities. As with historical issues, when discussed by participants, the functioning and impact of these social categories are examined as they relate to participants’ identities and experiences. A final complexity, which relates not just to this study but to all studies aimed at better understanding racial and ethnic identities, arises from simultaneously working with and against racial and ethnic categories. This complexity is best captured by the question: How can one conduct research that is situated in race and ethnicity without reifying fixed notions of racial and ethnic categories? As Gunaratnam explains, This danger relates to how categorical approaches can serve to reify ‘race’ and ethnicities as entities that individuals are born into and inhabit, and that are then brought to life in the social world, rather than ‘recognizing’ race and ethnicity as dynamic and emergent processes of being and becoming. The conceptual ‘fixing’ of ‘race’ and ethnicity is dangerous in terms of the limitations that it can place upon analysis, and because it can serve to produce and reproduce wider forms of essentialism, stereotyping and racism. (2003, p. 19).  98  For this research, this danger of reifying rigid notions of race and ethnicity is intensified by the fact that terms such as multiracial and multiethnic imply that there are “pure” races and ethnicities. The most common response to this danger is a somewhat frustrated statement such as “Although we can deconstruct notions of race and ethnicity, we have to keep using these terms in the fight against prejudice and racism.” However awkward this position may feel, when set against the alternative option of color-blindness (see Gallagher, 2003), it provides a preferable way forward. In other words, while research on race and ethnicity runs the risk of bolstering their strength as divisive social categories, this consequence is far less threatening than the option of denying the often insidious, real-life effects of racial and ethnic categories on individuals and groups. Perhaps more optimistically, research with multiethnic individuals can, as I hope this research does, serve as a starting point for the exploration of the limitations and complexities of racial and ethnic categories. Accordingly, when research on race and ethnicity is intended to advance a liberatory agenda, we can see this snare as an unfortunate but necessary evil encountered on the path to a more just and equitable society. Self as Research “Instrument”10 As researcher-conducted interviews were the primary source of data, I served as the principal research “instrument” for this study. I developed the interview and focus group protocols and the writing activity prompt; I conducted all stages of the data collection, analysis, interpretation, and writing; and I took part in participants’ meaningmaking processes. As such, several issues related to my relationship with the research, 10  Portions of this section first appeared in Mohan and Venzant Chambers (2009).  99  my proximity to the participants, my biases and perspectives, and the need for reflexive practices are worth exploring here. Insider/Outsider Research Before examining my own proximity to the research participants and the implications of this proximity for my findings and analysis, it is worth reviewing some of the various perspectives related to insider and outsider research. According to the literature related to insider/outsider research, a researcher’s proximity to participants potentially influences participants’ engagement with and responses to the research questions, the researcher’s ability to gain access to and build a rapport with participants, and the quality of the data and interpretations (e.g., De Andrade, 2000; Irvine, Roberts & Bradbury-Jones, 2008; Johnson-Bailey, 1999; Merriam et al., 2001; Narayan, 1993; Rhodes, 1994; Twine, 2000; Villenes, 1996). The implications of this finding, however, are widely debated. Four common perspectives on the debate surrounding insider/outsider research as it relates to social identities are: (1) insider research is preferable, (2) outsider research is preferable, (3) research conducted by both insiders and outsiders is preferable, and (4) one is never always an insider or outsider in any research situation given the multiple axes of differentiation along which individuals identify. Related to the fourth perspective is the notion that one’s identity as either an insider or outsider is negotiated and re-negotiated with research participants throughout the research process. The debate between these perspectives persists in methodological literature precisely because each has some merit; therefore, I briefly explore their basic tenets here with a focus on their applicability to my own research.  100  Insider research typically refers to research conducted by and with individuals who share a common salient sociopolitical identity. Providing an explanation for arguments in favor of insider research, Merriam et al. stated, “It has commonly been assumed that being an insider means easy access, the ability to ask more meaningful questions and read non-verbal cues, and most importantly, be able [sic] to project a more truthful, authentic understanding of the culture under study” (2001, p. 411). In addition, those advocating insider research often argue that such techniques as “racial matching” lead to more accurate findings in that research participants will be more honest and forthcoming with researchers with whom they share a common identity (see, for example, Schuman, 2005; Twine, 2000). Often, those who seem to favor insider research do so tentatively, acknowledging the complexities of identities that challenge absolute insider status. Taking this perspective, Hodkinson advocated for “the continued use of the notion of insider research in a non-absolute sense…as a means to designate ethnographic situations characterised by significant levels of initial proximity between researcher and researched” (2005, pp. 131-132). Despite evidence to support its efficacy, insider research has come under attack by those who feel that a researcher’s proximity to participants will introduce bias into the data collection and interpretation processes and preclude the interrogation of taken-forgranted knowledge among members of a common culture or community. As Merriam et al. pointed out “insiders have been accused of being inherently biased, and too close to the culture to be curious enough to raise provocative questions” (2001, p. 411). Scholars advocating outsider research often begin with these critiques of insider research and argue that “unprejudiced knowledge about groups is accessible only to nonmembers of  101  those groups” (Zinn, 1979, p. 210); that “the outsiders’ advantage lies in curiosity with the unfamiliar, the ability to ask taboo questions, and being seen as non-aligned with subgroups thus often getting more information” (Merriam et al., 2001, p. 411); and that “insiders are expected to conform to cultural norms that can restrict them as researchers” (Twine, 2000, p. 12). Hoping to overcome the dichotomy between insider and outsider research are those who argue that both insider and outsider research have strengths and weaknesses and together both may “enlarge the chances for a sound and relevant understanding of social life” by accessing different types of knowledge (Merton, 1972, p. 40). Other attempts to move beyond the debate between insider and outsider research trouble monolithic approaches to identity that inform notions of “absolute insiderness” and “absolute outsiderness” and invoke poststructural and postmodern understandings of identity that emphasize fluidity and complexity. This perspective argues against the idea “that individuals from certain ethnic, gender, sexual preference, or economic class groups hold identical or even similar views, ideas, or behaviors” (Brayboy, 2000, p. 423) and posits that “identity is not unitary or essential, it is fluid and shifting, fed by multiple sources and taking multiple forms (there is no such thing as ‘woman’ or ‘black’)” (Kumar, 1997, p. 98). Extending this line of thinking, Merriam et al. point out the elusiveness of insider and outsider status: More recent discussions of insider/outsider status have unveiled the complexity inherent in either status and have acknowledged that the boundaries between the two positions are not all that clearly delineated. In the real world of data collection, there is a good bit of slippage and fluidity between these two states. (2001, p. 405)  102  Echoing Merriam et al., Hodkinson (2005) warns us against failing to recognize that “one’s precise level of proximity is liable to fluctuate somewhat from one respondent to the next” (p. 139), and he reminds us that “the prominence of particular elements of identity fluctuates back and forth according to context and audience” (p. 133). Thus, De Andrade (2000), Hodkinson (2005), and Palmer (2006), all researchers who, to some extent, assumed insider status when they entered the research situation found that their status as insiders to the cultures under study was in flux and needed to be negotiated and re-negotiated with participants. Despite the persuasiveness of those arguments that challenge notions of absolute insider and absolute outsider status, the fact remains that some individuals share a greater level of social proximity than others, and evidence suggests that this proximity (or lack thereof) influences data collection and analysis. Given the methodological concerns associated with insider and outsider research, particularly as they relate to questions of bias and interpretation, it is worth exploring my own experiences of “insiderness” and “outsiderness” during the stages of this research. Self as Insider/Outsider Prior to commencing this project, although I was unsure exactly how my identity would influence the research, I did assume that being multiethnic would be an asset in building a rapport with students and in understanding their experiences. These feelings were in part influenced by Wallace’s (2001) reflections on her experiences as a mixed heritage woman conducting research with mixed heritage students. As she relates, I have no doubt that my own background as a first generation, mixed heritage woman clearly influences this research. I suspect that through the process of meeting and interviewing these individuals, I was able to  103  establish a greater sense of rapport with students than would be possible for a researcher from a monoethnic/racial background. Inevitably, participants asked question about my identity and experiences. There were also times when I found myself on common ground with a student and I ventured to share aspects of my life in response to their comments. These moments deepened the value of the interviews in a way that could not have been achieved through a simple reading of the prepared interview probes. I believe the reciprocal nature of the interviews made this a richly rewarding, transformative experience for all involved. (pp. ix-x) Her personal reflections make a strong case for the merits of insider research with multiethnic students, and, based on her reflections, I entered the research situation feeling well suited to conduct this study. However, I also entered the research situation acutely aware of my own biases—biases which are discussed in greater detail below. I feared that I was too close to the research topic, that I was too eager to assume the role of advocate for participants, and that, like much research, the project stemmed from a desire to better understand my own experiences. That is to say, I feared that many of the critiques leveled against insider research applied to my project and that my personal identity and interests could pose a challenge to the integrity of the research. Despite my assumption that I would be conducting research as an insider, I was also aware of the improbability of interviewing a White/East Indian participant. In fact, not one participant and I shared a common heritage combination. Furthermore, although the participants and I have all at one point in time or another identified as multiethnic and have all grown up in Northern California, we differed from each other in innumerable significant ways including age, class, gender, academic and extra-curricular interests, phenotype, religion, sexuality, and type of schools attended. In other words, I could hear the “rational” voice in the back of my mind saying “you can’t be an insider researcher for this project—no one really can,” “the literature on insider research doesn’t apply here,”  104  “the participants are unlikely to share your heritage and identity,” and “there are too many ways that you differ from participants.” Certainly, some of these concerns were not unfounded, and I did not feel the same level of connection and rapport with all participants. While some appeared quite comfortable talking with me, others were more reticent. Some participants and I were quite surprised by how much we had in common, while others and I had few common interests and experiences. Several students have continued to be in contact with me following their participation in the study; others have not. Likewise, my research and the topic of multiethnicity seemed to capture the interest of participants to varying extents. The greatest challenges I perceived to my insider status occurred in those instances in which the participant, while not disavowing their multiethnic heritage, more strongly identified as monoethnic. Similarly, I feel that participants were less likely to see me as an insider if being multiethnic was less central to their sense of identity than other factors. Despite these challenges to my insider status, and to the notion that I could even be an insider researcher for this project, in important ways I did share a sense of connection with many of the students—a connection that seemed to transcend whatever differences we may have had and whatever distance there was between us. This sense of connection, and indeed insiderness, was not instantly achieved; rather, it emerged from and was constructed through the dialogue between me and the participants. For example, as discussed, at the start of each interview I provided students with Root’s (2003a) “50 Experiences of Racially Mixed People” (Appendix III) in which she identified “50 questions or comments and experiences [that] evolved from a questionnaire [she] developed for a study on biracial siblings” (p. 1). The list contains items such as “Your  105  parents or relatives compete to ‘claim’ you for their own racial or ethnic group” and “You have been told, ‘You don’t look Native, Black, Latino…’” and “You have been told, ‘You have the best of both worlds’” (p. 2). In Root’s words, “This list provides a launching point for sharing, discussing, laughing, debriefing, and educating” (p. 1). Not surprisingly, different items on the list resonated with different students, but when the list was discussed, participants and I could identify at least one shared experience. Of particular importance is the fact that, despite all of the other ways in which participants and I differed from each other, we could often identify a shared experience that related directly to the topic of the interview—I doubt this would have been true of many monoethnic individuals. For example, many of the participants and I have been told that we do not look [insert racial or ethnic category] or we have had our “cultural authenticity” tested by others. Many of the questions that I asked participants were fairly straightforward: what grade are you in?, what classes do you like most?, do you have any siblings?, and so forth. At the same time, several of the questions were much more complicated, requiring considerable reflection and self awareness to answer. For example, I asked students if they thought their multiethnic identity construction process was complete or ongoing, and if complete, whether they thought of their identity as fixed, fluid, or situational. Perhaps not surprisingly, many of the students asked me to explain such questions or to give them an example to help them answer. Of course, I could have shared examples from other studies conducted with multiethnic individuals, and in some cases I did; however, much of the time I chose to share a personal story of how, for example, my own sense of identity shifts according to context. Certainly it was easier for me to recall my own  106  experiences as opposed to someone else’s, but I believe that speaking from personal experience was also beneficial in several ways: it prevented a feeling of hearsay (“I read something once about a multiethnic woman who...”); it conveyed that I may be able to relate directly to their experiences; and, by sharing a relevant personal example about myself, it perhaps increased the likelihood that they would feel comfortable doing the same. Returning to the literature regarding insider research, we recall that Merriam et al. (2001) stated that “the outsider’s advantage lies in…the ability to ask taboo questions…” (p. 411). Yet, I believe that being multiethnic actually allowed me to ask uncomfortable, “taboo” questions of multiethnic students as the dialogue developed (e.g., “do you feel accepted by both of your heritage groups?”). In fact, some of the students reported feeling “tested” by questions about their ethnicity or heritage posed by monoethnic individuals. At least for those students, I suspect that “taboo” questions posed by monoethnic researchers might have caused them to become defensive or to close up. Moreover, I expect that participants felt less threatened talking explicitly about race, ethnicity, and multiethnicity with someone who was more likely to have shared their thoughts, experiences, and concerns. Of course, I never explicitly asked participants if they saw me as an insider researcher. In the following excerpt from an email sent to me by a participant after her interview, however, she seems to identify me as an insider researcher and indicates her appreciation of my understanding of some of her experiences. I just wanted to thank you for the awesome interview. I've never really been able to talk about that sort of thing in depth before and it really feels good to finally do it, especially since it was with someone who knew the ins and outs of where I was coming from.  107  Ultimately, I believe that my multiethnic identity was an asset for this research and allowed me to better access, relate to, and interpret the participants’ stories and experiences. Certainly there were instances in which differences in personal identification, experiences, or emphasis placed on multiethnic identity left me feeling more like an outsider researcher. While this outsider status did not seem to significantly hinder the purposes of the research, the interviews in which participants seemed to view me as an insider were generally longer, more conversational, more personal, and allowed for more in-depth explorations of the interview topics. Thus far, I have focused on my multiethnic identity and the influence I believe it had on the research situation. My Bay Area roots, however, which I explained to participants, also appeared to have an impact on the ways they viewed me and the information they shared during the interview. The interviews often included references to, for example, the diversity of a certain community, the reputations of particular schools, or differences between neighborhoods in the Bay Area. These references were often made quickly and participants clearly assumed that I would understand comments like “you know what it’s like in this city” or “of course, that neighborhood is different from mine” or “we all know what that school is like”—comments that someone without local knowledge perhaps would not understand. Because I did not need to interrupt students and their chain of thought when such references were made, we were able to maintain a more conversational tone with fewer interruptions for clarification. I also believe that participants were more likely to share certain stories and experiences knowing that they did not need to provide substantial background information.  108  Of course, this assumed knowledge and understanding also gives rise to certain challenges. Penny Rhodes, a white researcher who conducted interviews with black foster care providers, made the argument that outsider research is beneficial for accessing taken-for-granted knowledge. As she explains, But, even when discussing such sensitive subjects as racism, being white was not always the handicap expected. Many people were prepared to talk openly at length about their experiences and opinions and several confided that they would not have a similar discussion with another black person. People treated me to information which they would have assumed was taken-for-granted knowledge of an insider. As one woman in her twenties explained: “I wouldn’t have had a talk like this with another black person. I can discuss these sorts of things more easily with you. With a black person, you would just take it for granted.” (Rhodes, 1994, cited in Twine, 2000, pp. 12-13). Because my local knowledge of the Bay Area seemed to lead some participants to omit taken-for-granted knowledge and not elaborate on certain experiences, I often asked them follow up questions to help make explicit their understandings and to encourage them to provide more detail. Nevertheless, I believe that my Bay Area roots facilitated a conversational tone during the interviews and encouraged open dialogue between me and the participants. Additional Methodological Considerations As Griffiths (1998) points out, “All researchers have opinions about what they are researching. Their research has been chosen precisely because it is something of significance to them…” (p. 129). Certainly this describes my own relationship to this research. I am fully aware that my experiences of growing up as a multiethnic child in California and attending schools in the Bay Area, in large part, prompted my desire to conduct this study and shaped the biases and expectations with which I began this  109  research. Additionally, through my studies, I have become increasingly critical of diversity education initiatives such as multicultural and antiracism education due to their tendency to reinforce and perpetuate limited, rigid, and essentialist understandings of race and ethnicity—a perspective that further stimulated my interest in this study and shaped the research design. Given my own subjectivity and desire to serve as an advocate for multiethnic students, it is worth interrogating my biases and perspectives, how they have influenced my approach to this research, and steps taken to mitigate their impact. In the name of full disclosure, based on my own experiences, academic studies, and findings from a pilot study for this project, I assumed that participants would share stories of, for example, feeling excluded from school activities based on essentialist understandings of race and ethnicity, others questioning their racial or ethnic group membership, and never learning about multiethnicity in school. I expected that they would tell compelling stories about the ways in which educators did not support their identity construction or consider them in the planning of curriculum and school activities. Indeed, these biases are written into the central research questions, one of which asks how schools might be more inclusive of and better support the identity development of multiethnic students (note the assumption that schools need to improve in both categories and that multiethnic students’ identity development should be supported in schools). Regardless of my biases and expectations, I wanted participants to be fascinated by the research topic and to enjoy the opportunity to talk about their identities and experiences as multiethnic students (an opportunity seldom, if ever, afforded to me at their age). I was also aware of the power imbalance between me and participants in the research context;  110  ultimately, I had control over the direction of the interviews and focus groups and the task of interpreting and presenting the participants’ voices rested with me. Unquestionably, the opportunity to conduct this research was a considerable privilege that brought with it many responsibilities, and I had to be vigilant in my efforts to prevent my own interests and perspectives from precluding genuine inquiry. Although I could have conducted an autoethnography or advocated for multiethnic students based on my own experiences, I sought to hear the experiences of current students as expressed in their own words and to better understand their identity development as they described it. The responsibilities bestowed upon me by research participants to, for example, represent their stories as accurately as possible and to not construe their words for my own purposes, are ones that I take seriously. Consequently, I used several strategies to minimize the impact of my assumptions, biases, perspectives, expectations, and desires on this research I invited participants to ask me questions about the research, and I often discussed with them my interest in the topic and my motivation for conducting the research. Throughout the study, I took notes about my thoughts, feelings, frustrations, and hopes related to the research and the data. Reviewing my notes helped me to identify the perspectives that I brought to the research situation, and, once identified, I attempted to ensure that such perspectives did not dictate the course of the interviews and focus groups. I also needed to be careful in my analysis of the data, not hearing only what I wanted to hear and not interpreting the data simply through the lens of my own experiences. Of course, I realize that I can never escape myself or adopt entirely new perspectives, and I do not pretend that completely objective and emotionally disengaged  111  research is possible. This being the case, I believe that it was important to have participants review both their interview transcripts and their profiles to ensure that I had not misunderstood their words or misrepresented them. The focus groups also served as a means to follow up on the interviews and ask participants if I had understood them correctly. Although I wrote the writing activity prompt (which was more of a suggestion than a required topic), this activity provided participants with the opportunity to share their thoughts, ideas, and experiences in a more “neutral” and less obtrusive environment free from the influence of my presence. Finally, I also relied on the “extra eyes and ears” of my supervisory committee and colleagues to review the research protocols and data analysis strategies. Conclusion Woven throughout this chapter, both implicitly and explicitly, are issues of trustworthiness, interpretation, and accuracy. Returning again to the postpositivist realist conception of identity presented in Chapter Two, clearly the aim of this study is not to unearth an indisputable Truth about participants’ identities and their experiences. As discussed, [I]t is realists’ willingness to admit the (in principle, endless) possibility of error in the quest for knowledge that enables them to avoid positivist assumptions about certainty and unrevisability that inform the (postmodernist) skeptic’s doubts about the possibility of arriving at a more accurate account of the world. (Moya, 2000a, p. 13) Indeed, uncertainty and revisability are integral components of a postpositivist realist approach to identity, one claim of which is that “there is a cognitive component to identity that allows for the possibility of error and of accuracy in interpreting the things that happen to us” (Moya, 2000b, p. 83). Our personal experiences may be interpreted  112  and reinterpreted in light of new experiences and knowledge, and these interpretations, in turn, will determine their influence on our identities. Thus, I do not claim to capture the Truth about the schooling experiences and identities of participants (or any other multiethnic individual); rather, I seek to better understand their perceptions (i.e. interpretations) of their experiences and the ways that they believe, at a given moment in time, those experiences have shaped their identities. Moreover, given my understanding of identity as fluid and shifting and the identity construction process as continuous over one’s lifetime, we must recognize the data presented in the following chapters as representing a “snap shot” fixed in time and space. Nevertheless, through combining data collection methods, genuinely and earnestly interrogating my role as the researcher, attempting to mitigate my influence on the research situation, taking seriously the methodological conundrums associated with this and similar studies, using multiple and iterative data analysis strategies, and inviting participants to review their transcripts and profiles, I have attempted to conduct this research in a way that allows the voices of participants to be heard as they make meaning of their experiences—voices that provide opportunities for deep understanding. The following chapter consists of the aforementioned participant profiles and a brief, preliminary analysis of them. In Chapters Six, Seven, and Eight, I present and analyze the data related to participants’ K-12 schooling experiences and their reflections on these experiences.  113  CHAPTER FIVE: PARTICIPANT PROFILES In order to properly situate the influence of participants’ K-12 schooling experiences within the broader context of other influences on their identities, this chapter presents a profile of each student with a focus on his or her racial and ethnic identity(ies) and identity development as influenced by such factors as family, friends, phenotype, racial and ethnic categories and stereotypes, and local environment. The specific influence of participants’ K-12 schooling experiences is the topic of the following chapters. My purpose here is not simply to present the data, but to demonstrate the range of factors and experiences beyond those related to K-12 schooling that influence participants’ identities, and, perhaps most importantly, to allow participants to speak for themselves and share their stories, experiences, thoughts, and identities in their own words. Following the profiles, I offer a brief preliminary analysis of them; however, as the data presented here and their implications are revisited throughout the following chapters, I do not thoroughly interrogate the profiles here. The profiles below, which draw almost exclusively on students’ own words, are derived primarily from participants’ interviews, although focus group and writing activity data are also included. The profiles, written in the first person, are grouped according to participants’ schools. Jill My name is Jill, I am 16 years old, and I am going into my senior year at Parkside High School. I spend a lot of my time dancing and I am part of a youth performance  114  company. My first year of high school was at Green Meadows, then I transferred to Parkside. My dad’s Chinese and my mom is White. I hate that term “White,” because it’s like saying “Black.” I guess my grandma on my mom’s side is—her ancestors are from England, and then my grandpa, I guess they’re from Slavic countries but I don’t know where. I’m trying to figure that out right now. My grandfather was Jewish, my grandmother is not. So I’m not Jewish, but I hate, I don’t like saying that I’m Jewish because I’m not religiously, but ethnically. If someone asked me what I am, I would probably say Asian/American, just because it’s easy. Everyone understands it. I also don’t like the word Asian, because when you look at Asia, how big is it? There wasn’t a distinctive moment when I realized I was multiethnic, I think it was just really gradual, just realizing that like I didn’t look like everyone else, and my hair was different, and my last name was different, and all of that. I think it was also because I was a part of the youth performance company, which is really a diverse community. So I had my elementary school, which was really monoracial, and then I had the performance company, which balanced things out. If I didn’t have the performance company, I probably would be much more confused and insecure and really emotionally unstable, but I’d go to dance classes where everyone looked different. It was nice to have that to balance out, and my mentor at the performance company is mixed, Black and White. Developing my identity is ongoing, it will never be complete. I mean, how can it be complete? I think other people think theirs is complete. I guess if you can trace your family tree back, then you feel like your identity is complete. You know what race you are; you always check the same box. But for me, I don’t know, I feel like I can’t be complete until I figure out who my ancestors are, and that’s gonna take ages. And like, I keep figuring out new things. I didn’t know my grandfather was from a Slavic country until recently. I think, for me it’s like a yearning. I keep wanting to learn more about who I  115  am, so that nothing gets lost. I think also I’ve always just been interested in my people. And just trying to figure out where I fit in. I’ve always felt I’m not strongly connected to like my Chinese side of the family, and I don’t speak Cantonese. I was Americanized because I went to a school that was predominantly White, so that was all there. And then my dad, a lot of his family lives around here. He has seven siblings, like a huge family and I have cousins. Some of them are mixed, some of them aren’t. We all just kind of come together a couple times a year and celebrate Chinese New Year or the 4th of July or something. But it’s just a place where we all see Chinese culture. I can’t speak to half of them. But now I’m starting to become more interested and I want to document the stories of how like my aunt came over here when she was 11 on a plane by herself from China. That’s ridiculous. My grandfather who passed away was a paper son and was like sold for a bag of rice to someone. It’s just really, really bizarre history that was completely normal 50 years ago. But, my parents have always been like, “figure it out on your own, do what you want.” So it’s always been like, “you want to go abroad, figure it out yourself. You want to do this activity, we’ll help you do it, but it’s really coming from you.” So in some ways I kind of wished they’d pushed me to learn more about myself. I mean my dad speaks really basic Cantonese, but it’s like why didn’t you speak to me? Even if it was just basic conversation, “hi how are you?” or “can I buy this?” It would still be there. Why didn’t you send me to Chinese school? I could be fluent in Mandarin right now. And it’s like I’m finally having to do that by myself. I signed up for Mandarin because, like the class is horrible, but I really want to learn the language. Like I really want to go to China. So I’m gonna have to go there by myself and figure it out. I’ve been involved with iPride and making a movie about being multiracial. Making a movie was really interesting, just because I’d never sat down and thought about it. They asked me questions and I had to write answers. And I had never done that  116  about myself and who I was, so that was kind of—it was an interesting experience to have to actually articulate it in words and have that be documented and then have it be put on a movie. But I think as I’ve gotten older I’ve started to have conversations—I just had a conversation with my mom about how being a White woman, you can’t understand what I’m going through. Because she was talking about how in the Bay Area she feels that there’s a lot more acceptance. And yes, there is compared to some place in like Ohio, but at the same time, these mixed kids here in the Bay Area are going through it just as much as the remote rural areas of the country, and she hadn’t thought about that. And I was like, “it’s not like I’ve never had an experience where someone’s been like, ‘you look weird. You look like you’re adopted. What’s wrong? Why do you look different?’ even though I live in such a diverse area.”  Mialany My name is Mialany, I am 17, and I am about to start my senior year of high school. I’ve changed schools every year in high school. Freshman year I went to All Saints High School, and then I went to Parkside High School sophomore year, last year I went to Delgado High School, and my senior year I’m going to Bay View High School, but I’ve lived in the same city all my life. Someday I want to go into fashion design or pediatrics. I plan to go to a community college and then transfer to a university. My mom is White Spanish, so my grandparents are—my grandfather on my mom’s side is from Guatemala, and then my grandmother is from Spain, but they’re both White skinned, from European descent. And then my father is Creole. My grandpa’s Creole, he’s French and African American, and my grandmother is African American, and they live in New Orleans. I always knew I was half White, half Black, but I didn’t necessarily—it wasn’t an issue up until my 8th grade, probably. My parents just brought  117  me up knowing—they never had like a sit down conversation with me about it, but it just always was there. I always feel like I’m using somebody’s color to identify them. And like, that’s hard, because I don’t want people to identify me by the color of my skin, but then at the same time, I’m doing it just as bad as they are. So I never really know what to say. I can be like “oh, I’m mixed,” but people are like, “no you’re not, what are you talking about, you’re White” or “no you’re not, you’re Black, Mialany.” I guess I probably realized I was different when my dad used to pick me up from school, because people would always be like, “who is that?” When my dad did come around, he blasts his music and scrapes off in his big old truck. Like you can notice him, so when he used to pick me up, he’d be playing rap music, and they were like, “hold on, who is he?” And I was like, “that’s my dad, what do you mean ‘who is he?’” And they’re like, “he doesn’t look like you.” And I was like, “actually he does.” And then that’s when I realized skin color mattered. Like I look like my dad a lot, just the skin color is different. I have the features of a quote “Black person.” I don’t know, and it’s different for different people. I feel like a lot of African Americans can tell that I’m half Black, they can see it when they look at me. But then there’s people that are like, “you can’t be Black. What are you talking about? You don’t even look Black.” I’m like, “okay, I don’t know what to tell you.” Like there’s nothing I can say. I still don’t know what to say some of the time. I mean, I don’t know how to approach this subject. And people will question me a lot—I’ll give you an example. There was this girl and she was like, “what are you? You’re not full White with that hair.” Like, are you serious? I’ve never even met you in my life, and you’re gonna be that blunt about something? And I’ve been called Mulatto and I’ve been called Albino. Because, people are like, “you act Black, but you’re White.” And I’m like, “what is acting Black?” People question how I dress and talk all the time, and it’s just like to the point where they decide who I am. I feel like I don’t have one certain type of look. I can look  118  punk rock or I can look urban or I can look real preppy. I don’t stay in one category just because that’s not who I am. And people are like, “You need to stop changing your outfit. You need to sit in one space.” I can’t do that. I just don’t—I don’t identify myself by the things that I wear, and I feel like a lot of society does. So that’s how they decide who I am without knowing my race. They’re like “oh, she’s a rocker,” “oh, she’s a punk rocker,” or “she’s preppy.” If they can’t find out what race I am, they’re real frazzled. People don’t talk about being mixed because people try to forget about it. Because now it’s not something you celebrate, it’s something that you try to get away from. I don’t know. I personally like being mixed. I just feel like it’s so stressful to the point where you just want to be like, “why, why did you have to get pregnant with a different color?” I mean, I also think it’s totally cool. I want my kids to be mixed. They’re obviously gonna be mixed, but I’m just saying I wouldn’t have it any other way. Because then you get—I mean there’s upsides to it, too. Personally, I think mixed kids are way prettier than not mixed kids. And you get to know about two different cultures instead of only learning about one culture. You get to understand two different ways of life. And like maybe one of your parent’s family is more upper class, but then the other is more lower class. So you get to experience both types of family situations. And I feel like we’re more aware of actually the racial problems that are happening in life, because we have to deal with it on both sides. I mean, I think that we’re all more aware of just what’s going on in life. And maybe not just because we’re mixed, but maybe because—actually maybe it is because we’re mixed. Maybe we’re more in tune with reality.  Dana My name is Dana, I’m 17, and I am a senior at Canyon High School. I play softball, I am on the school newspaper, and I’m a DJ for the school’s radio station. I am still waiting to hear from colleges that I applied to go to next year.  119  My mom is White and my dad is Black. Well, I don’t even remember living with my dad. My parents got divorced when I was like three, I think, and my dad died last year. I guess I pretty much always knew I was mixed, because my mom was White and I wasn’t the same color as her and because I get tan really fast. So I just kind of—I mean, it was never really a big deal, because every place I’ve lived, no one who knew me really cared. Yeah, I always knew that I wasn’t White, but I never really thought about it. And no one else seemed to really think about it until I went out to—I was 10, I think, and I went to a drive-in movie with my neighbor and her son. And then her husband came along. And he really didn’t like me. And I didn’t know why. And then he was all like, “well, why did you bring the nigger kid along?” And that was really awkward. But I didn’t really—it never really hurt my feelings, because I had always been going to like iPride and things like that, so I always felt like, well that’s kind of his problem. In terms of figuring out who I am, like pertaining to my race—I think I’m pretty good, other than—well, I guess not really though. Because I’ve always grown up around White people, and you know, I’ve never actually even been around Black people. I don’t really have many Black friends who are full Black themselves and live in a Black neighborhood. So my identity, I think it’s probably definitely situational. I mean, I know just from going to Mills College over the weekend, in a large group of just Black people, especially Black girls or women, I’ve been around them less than I’ve been around Black guys because there’s more Black guys at my school. And it’s just—I don’t know, I felt a little awkward, because, you know, they were just—they just seemed really different than I am. Not in a bad way, just different. I just didn’t feel like—cause when I’m with my friends who are mostly White and Indian, I feel like they make me feel like I’m extremely Black. So when I was with them, I was like “wow, I’m extremely White.” And that’s how I feel, ‘cause it’s like I live in a White neighborhood where there’s one family in our entire neighborhood who is Black, and everyone stares at them.  120  I think the good thing about just living with my mom for as long as I did, is she— being that she had been a social worker and a therapist and done all this stuff, she really didn’t try to make me into something. She was just kind of going with the flow, letting me do what I wanted to, to the point where I sometimes didn’t do anything. Like sports, I would always quit. But then she always, I guess she always tried to make sure I went to iPride and make sure that I knew that I wasn’t just White. She’d never make out like being White was a bad thing or being Black was a bad thing, or making you choose who you have to be—just being a mixture, that’s cool. But living with my grandma, and my aunt just lives down the street, was totally different, because, you know, the first thing my grandma did was she got my hair cut. She had my hair straightened so that it would be straight. She just really wanted me to fit in, I guess. And I never did. My grandma disowned my mom when she married my dad. Because she really just didn’t like—since she’s so old now she doesn’t really care anymore, but you know, every once and a while she’ll say to me, “you know, when I look at you, I don’t see you as being half Black. You’re just White.” She really doesn’t, in her mind, she’s not saying anything mean. And I really don’t think that she’s racist, but she does have feelings that are not politically correct, I guess. Like she wouldn’t hate anyone just because they were Black or whatever, but she definitely wouldn’t accept them as much as she would accept someone who is White. And my aunt is even worse. I don’t really know how to explain myself. That’s the hardest problem I had when I was writing my essays for college applications. Because, I mean, yeah, I’m half Black and I’m half White, but I mean, I feel like that’s such a small thing of what makes you who you are, really. It’s not like the biggest part of what makes me who I am. I think living with my mom, and being an only child, and living with a single parent, and being raised in, you know, different communities really influenced me. Like I went from living in a place where like everyone was, you know, not really poor but pretty middle class to  121  living in a pretty rural area. And then now I live in a really affluent part of the Bay Area. So I think that’s really influenced who I am, because I really—I don’t judge people by how much money they make or how they look or how they talk or anything like that. Because it doesn’t matter. Being involved with iPride, I think it almost made me feel kind of sometimes angry that I was part Black because some of the people just made me really mad, and I didn’t—because I think I had lived around White people for so long, I didn’t understand just, you know, the cultural differences. Because most people had like a Black mom or a Black dad who lived with them. And they were influenced by that. I wasn’t. And I didn’t understand, you know, why do you talk that way? Or why do you say this word instead of this word? And why do you do this instead of that? And why does your mom call me this? And I don’t understand why you’re calling me “little momma.” I don’t get that. No one else calls me that, and I thought it was an insult, so I was offended, and it’s like a term of endearment, they’re saying something nice to me. And it almost kind of turned me off for a while, and then I like started to really like them. And everyone was really cool. And you know, you go to people’s houses and you learn about people, and you get to know them and then everything’s cool. I think iPride almost offers more to their parents, though. I think it’s a bigger deal for our parents than for us, like our parents make it into a bigger deal. Then it makes it worse for us. Because it doesn’t bother me that I’m multicultural, or ethnic, or multiracial. Like that never mattered to me, but it’s like even though it was great that my mom had me in iPride and it was great that she was doing all this stuff and never made it a big deal, it was almost like she was doing so much of that, that it made me feel like, well, is this something that I need to feel strange about? Or why can’t I just be at home hanging out with the friends I have who are White? Or why do I have to go here and hang out with these people?  122  Andrea My name is Andrea, I’m 16, and I am a junior at Oak View High School. I am the assistant editor of the school’s literary magazine and I do martial arts. I plan to go to college on the East Coast. My mom is American and my dad is Iranian. When I say American, I mean like we have a covered wagon in Oklahoma. The farthest back I can remember being different from my other classmates is in second grade when I had the idea, I think I had just watched Aladdin and I realized, “hey, my dad’s kind of like that.” And so I pretended, so I went around and said “I am a Persian princess” and people were like “no way” and “that’s cool, you’re a princess.” A lot of kids didn’t know what Iran is, and I kind of didn’t either, I was really too little to know. I really think that I am still in the process of developing my identity. I mean, I always think that, when I think of myself, I don’t think of myself as White or I don’t think of myself as Iranian. I think of myself as the two, but I really feel like, when it comes down to it, my Whiteness is what sort of rules, because I don’t look at all Iranian, except for my eyebrows. I think everyone else sees me as White. I mean, a lot of the time, just the other week actually, we were talking about the word kahn in class. In my Spanish class, there’s a girl whose last name is K-a-h-n, and I said, in Iran, Kahn means ruler and leader and my grandfather’s name was Rahim Kahn. And one of the guys who I’ve known for like two years looked at me and was like “wait, is your grandfather Iranian, are you Iranian? Wait, what?” And we usually have to go through like a process, whenever I meet a new teacher, or a new person and they see my last name, its like, you look at the last name and you look at me and say “Something doesn’t fit.” I really think there’s no way I can get out of the questions, because, it’s just how it is. It’s kind of futile, because I feel like I can never be Iranian enough, that I can prove it. It’s like whenever I say I am  123  half Iranian it’s like “oh, do you speak the language” “are you Muslim?” “do you speak Farsi?” “have you met your grandparents?” I mean, it’s always, it’s pretty much the same thing all the time, just the “oh, you are?” and going through the whole, the motions. I feel like I’ve done it so many times. My parents are like “Andrea, you’ve gotten the best of both worlds.” And my parents have tried to help me learn about my heritage through stories and stuff, and ever since I can remember, my dad has always said “Shab bekheir” to me every night, which is “good night.” There’s always that little piece that stays alive. Like we celebrate new years and we do the dancing and it’s good, but I feel like I could do more. I always feel like I could do more. Mostly my dad teaches me about my Iranian heritage, because I never met my dad’s parents, they both died in Iran. And, it’s usually stories or food. And his sisters and brothers-in-law, they tell me things. And then there’s also the sort of culture shock thing. We went out to dinner with my uncle once, and he was like “Andrea, what are you looking for in a prospective husband?” And I said “I am fifteen!” And he said, “so, your great grandmother was married at age nine.” When I walk into my Oklahoma family or my mom’s family, I feel Iranian. I look White, but I don’t feel the way you guys do, so I am sorry, I don’t fit here quite as well. And I have something like that with my Iranian family. But I just look different and I don’t speak the language. I remember the worst part—last summer my Iranian family was over and we went out to lunch and the only reason the family—everybody was speaking English was because I was there. And I felt like, “wow, I really don’t feel a connection here. I feel like I am out of place.” I feel like I used my heritage as an individualization thing. So I could make my—it is a part of my identity, but when I was growing up there weren’t many other half Iranian half White kids and so I sort of clung to that. And kids didn’t really know, elementary kids didn’t really know how to deal with that. I wasn’t one, I was both. And I am trying to be  124  both, but I still feel like I am not Iranian enough. I always feel like I am trying to be both, day by day. My feet are in White world, but my hands are holding on to a little piece of that Iranian. A lot of the time I feel like it’s bad that I prove myself, that it’s annoying for people after a while. That I should just, just let it go, just lose the fight or something. I never feel Persian enough. And mostly it’s because I don’t speak the language, or I don’t do the religion, so I always try, I am trying to enroll in classes and trying to get my parents, get my dad to speak to me more in Farsi. I just, I always feel like no matter what I do, its not going to be—I am just going to be White. It is what people are going to let you be.  Anthony My name is Anthony, I’m 15, and I’m a sophomore at Oak View High School. I’m in choir and I was in the school musical Sweeney Todd. In college, I’m probably going to be a music major. I’m half Filipino and half Indian. My mom is Filipino, and my dad is Indian, from Madras. My mom is actually part of a tribe in the Philippines called the Igorot or something. And they weren’t taken over by the Spanish when they came and colonized it, because they were in the mountains and they could fight them off there. So I’ve researched that stuff. I haven’t really met any of my grandparents. I’ve met my dad’s mom, but the only time I met her when I went to India when I was 4. And then I never—I knew my mom’s mom when I was a baby. I always knew I was half Filipino and half Indian. I went to school in San Lorenzo, and a lot of the people there are Filipino. So, I guess I always knew I was half Indian and half Filipino. My family, I think we’re pretty acclimated into America. I have this thing about when we go to my parents’ friends’ house, their house always smells like the food of the country, and I can’t stand Indian houses sometimes, because they smell so strong with  125  the spices. And so, my house is not like that. Because we’re really—I think we’re really Americanized now. My mom does cook some Filipino food sometimes, like once a week. Or my dad makes some Indian food or we get frozen Indian food. I don’t—we’re pretty integrated into the culture of America. Being mixed isn’t the core of my identity. Yeah, I don’t think it has to be, because everyone that’s born in America is like an immigrant, unless you’re a Native American, so then I don’t think it really has to be such a large part of your identity, especially since my parents didn’t really incorporate that into the way I was raised. They sort of abandoned all of that pretty much. Um, they didn’t—I don’t know, I think my dad sort of lost touch with his India heritage when he moved here. And my mom moved here when she was 14, so I mean, she—they both know their languages and whatever, but they weren’t really a part of it when they came here. I know with a lot of my other friends, their house smells like the food they eat. But mine, we’re eating like frozen dinners. Both of my parents are actually Catholic. And they have these Tamil churches, the Tamil Catholic Church of the Bay Area and my dad used to be a board member in it. So sometimes I still go to that, even though I can’t understand a word that they’re saying, because it’s in Tamil. But, you know, that’s the only Indian thing really that I’m part of. And my mom’s dad worked for the American military in the Philippines, and he was moved here when my mom was 14. So with my grandpa, all of my 6 aunts and uncles came, they came to California, so they’re all here. But my dad came here by himself. So I’m not really into that culture so much, because none of my Indian relatives are even here. And there’s not that many Indians around here, I don’t even have that many Indian friends at all. I actually pretty much have none. So, I mean, I don’t feel connected to that side at all. So like the only recent connection I’ve had to that was the Tamil Catholic community that my dad was part of. And that’s once a month, if I go. Sometimes we don’t go, because I get so bored, because I can’t understand them.  126  When I go to foreign countries, I think of myself as an American. But I went to Brazil two summers ago with a choir. And people thought, because there are so many mixed race people in Brazil, the whole country is mixed race, and people thought I was Brazilian, but I guess I felt—I don’t know. In Brazil I thought of myself as mixed race a lot more, as opposed to when I went to Italy or France I felt a lot more American, because I like stuck out there a lot more.  Frank My name is Frank and I’m a junior at Bridges High School. I play three sports— football, baseball, and I run track. My favorite class is probably history but I want to study architecture. I plan to apply to several different universities, mostly on the West Coast. My father is Mexican/American and my mother is French and some Irish. I never really had any experiences that made me feel different because I am multiethnic. If somebody asks me what I am, usually I’ll say French, because I live with my mom. I guess I say French and not Irish because of my last name. But usually when I tell people French, they look at my skin tone and they’ll say like, “And what else?” And then I’ll tell them. I don’t really feel that grounded or attached to any heritage. I could identify in lots of different ways, because I don’t think that it changes my personality at all. Like I don’t think it really affects how I am as a person. I mean, it is just your background. It plays a major role, but not to how my life is. If I had to describe my identity in a word or two, I would probably say “diverse.” I sort of have different identities. Yeah, that would probably make the most sense—when I’m with my father’s side, yeah, I would identify myself as probably strictly Mexican. Or when I’m with my mom’s I would just say French or White.  127  My family has influenced me in a way. Like when my parents split up. I wasn’t allowed to learn Spanish from my dad’s family, because my mom didn’t want me learning Spanish to affect how I grew up and how I communicated with my dad. So yeah, my family does play a major role in my life. I see my dad once every three months maybe. His whole family speaks Spanish and I’m studying Spanish in school. I chose to study Spanish just because I wanted to be able to communicate with my dad’s family, and also I’d probably use that more so on a job nowadays. When I’m with my dad and his side of the family, I feel more connected to the Mexican culture. Like when I’m down there for some holiday or something, their way of celebrating is a lot different than my mother’s family. And it’s a lot of fun the way they do it sometimes. So yeah, I’ll identify more with them.  Jasmine My name is Jasmine and I am a senior at Bridges High School. I play soccer and I’m into rock climbing. I plan to study political science with a minor in French. I want to be a diplomat, in foreign affairs. My dad’s Arab, from Tunisia, and my mom’s Mexican, Mexican/American, and my grandparents are full blooded Mexican. My mom was raised in the United States and she looks White. She doesn’t look Mexican at all, even though she’s like 100%. I speak French because in Tunisia they start learning French in the third grade because that’s their commerce language, and I spend my summers in Tunisia. So I go there every year for three months. And on the way there I stop in France where I have friends and family. We have family in Mexico, but we don’t visit them. I don’t know why. We just don’t. My grandpa has a brother down there. But for the most part, everyone is pretty much dead, everyone that my grandparents are related to. So we don’t go down there. I’ve been to Mexico, I think, maybe three times. Once when I was young, and then twice  128  just for a vacation when I was probably in middle school, but I don’t think I’ve gone recently. So I don’t feel so much Mexican as I do Tunisian, because I don’t really—I haven’t experienced the culture. You know, I can’t say that I’ve experienced it. If somebody were to ask me what I am, I would probably say—I don’t know. I would say something sarcastic like, “I’m an Arab.” You know, I don’t know, ‘cause they wouldn’t believe me. If I were to really give a serious answer, I would probably say Mexican/Tunisian or Mexican/Arabic. I would have to say my identity development is definitely ongoing. Not in terms of evolving, and I’m just kind of, you know, accepting it. I’ve accepted it a long time ago. But I would definitely say that I’m learning more and more as I grow older and as I mature. I don’t hang out with Mexicans. I haven’t hung out with a group of Mexicans or a group of Arabic people here in America. The only time that I intermingle with a group of people in which the majority is Mexican would have to be when I’m with my family when we get together for baby showers, because they live here. And around them, I feel White, because I don’t take an interest in speaking Spanish. I don’t take an interest in Catholicism. I am Muslim. Well, I am not practicing yet. I still have to—you have to memorize the first stanza of the Koran in order to practice. And I only know the first two lines. My dad does not practice, which is—I mean, he acts like he’s so holy, but no, he does not practice, when there’s like a mosque in Hayward. I mean, I know I could be practicing as well, but I mean, I haven’t really—I read the Koran, but I haven’t began that step yet. So, yeah, you know, when I’m with my family and they’re all speaking Spanish and they all look Mexican I don’t really feel like I’m a part of them. But at the same time, it’s not like it bothers me or anything. I feel I’m a part of the family, but I don’t feel like I’m within that culture whatsoever. My parents never talked to me about being multiethnic, I just pretty much took it upon myself, you know, it’s pretty self-explanatory. You’re going to Tunisia for three  129  months every year. You’re dad is from there. He’s got childhood friends there. My dad has definitely forced religion upon me, though. He definitely has tried to influence me, which, of course, everybody knows that if you try to force something on an adolescent, it’s going to backfire. It will always backfire unless you’re a submissive person, which I am not. And I denied my ethnicity. I denied my—I mean, they say that if you’re father is Muslim, then you’re Muslim by blood. But I don’t see how religion can be tethered to blood. But I mean, I just denied the fact that I was Muslim “by blood” and I kind of rebelled in that way. And my dad was very unhappy with it. But he didn’t really talk about it, because I don’t really talk to him. I avoid talking to him. So I guess he avoids talking to me. I don’t know. We just don’t talk period. The only time we talk is when we disagree, and when he’s like yelling and stuff. Then I read The Kite Runner. My ex-boyfriend gave me the book in my sophomore or freshman year. Then I went to Tunisia and I was reading The Kite Runner while I was in Tunisia. And while I was reading The Kite Runner, I mean, it was just so beautiful, you know, the religion. There’s a part in the book, and it’s a really beautiful experience, and it has to do with practicing the religion, getting down on our knees and praying, right? And that book gave me a different perspective on what I was supposed to be in terms of what my dad wants. And I just cut my dad out of it, and I accepted it for what it was, and I opened my eyes a little bit wider, and I just—this is gonna sound really Hallmark, but I just saw beauty all around me. Because before that point, up until I was old enough to realize that, you know, there’s beauty in the Arabic culture. Because my dad just made me hate who I was. He made me hate the Arabic people. He’s the meanest person I have ever met in my entire life. And I hated—I hated who I was for that—not the person I was, but that part of me. You know, the culture. I just didn’t like it. I was resentful that I was a part of that, and therefore, I didn’t even give my religion a chance. I didn’t give anything a chance. It’s not like I went over to my Mexican side and was like “okay, I’m gonna be this.” I didn’t really  130  claim anything. The Kite Runner just gave me a different perspective on my own religion, my own cultural background. Although it is set in Afghanistan, Afghanistan is a lot like Tunisia. And I was like, this is who I am. And I just felt so a part of it. And while I was reading the book I could hear my family arguing in Arabic outside the door. And I was just smiling, and I was like, oh my god, this is great. I have this dual perspective that no one else can really have. Well, of course, there are other people that have this dual perspective. But, I mean, I felt kind of like a one in a million type of person the more I just opened my heart to it. Like I said, I don’t really identify with that Mexican side of me. I think the reason why is because there’s a lot of girls in high school that are like, “nuh-uh, she ain’t Mexican, she ain’t Latina,” and so I fail to mention that part of me. I just know how the girls at my school are, because I’ve heard them talk about other girls. They say, “uh, she says she’s Mexican, but she ain’t Mexican, she ain’t Latina” and stuff like that. But they haven’t said that to me, because I’ve never been open about it. I’m not open about it to their face. I mean, my friends know who I am. My friends know that I’m both. But it’s annoying and I don’t want to hear it. Not because like I’m ashamed or I’m intimidated. I mean, I don’t know.  David My name is David, I go to Bridges High School, and I’m 17 years old. I am a junior and I play on the varsity baseball team. I want to play baseball in college. I play the stock market with my friend a lot now, so I think I’m going to go into business economics. I hang out with my friends a lot and I do a lot of community work. I’m about to take over the youth group at my church. I’m very busy. I am Italian and Portuguese, which are pretty close together, both European. My dad is Italian, and he’s—he actually is Native American, but very little. Like our great  131  grandmother was like Cherokee or something like that. So that and he’s a little bit of Portuguese and mostly Italian. My mom is full Portuguese. My mom used to speak Portuguese all the time, but ever since my grandmother died, she stopped. I used to speak fluent Portuguese when I was like four or five. And then my grandmother died, so I stopped. I was trying to get my aunt to teach me Portuguese, but I’m kind of too busy for that. My mom has nine brothers and sisters; I have a huge family. When I am with my Portuguese family I identify more with them, but I also feel different from them. I guess my identity shifts. My dad speaks Spanish. He went to the Dominican Republic and stayed there for a few years. He kind of wasn’t around me as much, but my grandparents, his parents are. I think I feel more Portuguese than Italian, because the Italian side, my grandparents have kind of shifted away from it. Like they’ve become so Americanized that you can’t even tell any more. And then it’s just kind of now you’re American. You’re not even Italian anymore. I sometimes feel like I am more White/American and Portuguese. My grandparents have been around me more than my dad has, and if you could think of the perfect American family, that’s probably what they are. It’s kind of hard to like—I don’t know, like when they say what race you are or whatever. I didn’t know. Like Portuguese is European White and so is Italian, but it’s kind of like you don’t want to be like classified into like, “oh you’re White.” Like no, I’m Portuguese or Italian. People ask me all the time what I am. They try to tell me I’m Mexican. I’m like, “I’m Portuguese.” Or they say “you’re Spanish.” Like, no, I’m Portuguese. Spain is right next to Portugal, but they’re different. My identity, it’s kind of like a—it’s like a journey. You learn more—as I’ve gotten older I’ve kind of gotten more in touch with like my—I don’t know, I kind of want to travel the world, too. I kind of want to figure out where I came from, my roots and my mom’s kind of not that way. And  132  neither is my dad, which kind of sucks, because I’m the one that wants to go—I want to go to Portugal and I want to go to Italy. My mom’s side of the family is very Portuguese. Portuguese people are their own—I don’t know if you’ve known any Portuguese people. They’re just there. And they get very loud and they’re very obnoxious and they’re very stubborn, and they like to eat a lot, and they like to shove food down your throat. And, I mean, they’re really close knit. I mean all of those things in a good way. Like the Americanized, White society is really lazy. Like, “oh, Bobby, I’m gonna give you $50 today to go each lunch.” Oh, I’m sick. I’m getting $3 to go get lunch, and you’re getting $50. And I go out and work every other day for money. And you go home and play video games for five hours. And then all my other friends—my other Portuguese friends on the other hand are very hard working also and have to go to work and go do our chores and we actually work for our money.  Cara My name is Cara, I’m 18 years old, and I’m a senior at Cedar Grove High School. Next year I’m going to college in New York. I row six days a week and I’m one of three co-leaders of the Hapa Club, which is the multiracial student affinity club at our high school. I think for me, my identity is definitely a process. And I feel like I’m getting to that place where I can sort of start to be like this is who I am, this is who I’m not. But I think that it’s still a process and I’m not really—I mean, there are times where I feel like, where I almost feel guilty like, “oh my God, I’m so like Whitewashed” or whatever. Like we’re not cooking a dinner for Chinese New Year. And then it’s sort of like, well, why do I— should I be obligated to do that just because I’m—you know? And so I do have those kinds of moments. And you’re like, I should be doing the traditional whatever and you think about all this stuff that you’re—almost like requirements that you’re not meeting.  133  But I mean, there’s really no White equivalent. Like my mom’s not culturally Irish, she’s just White. I never really get questioned about my White side, but it’s interesting, because I do—this is usually the question that comes after the “what are you” question: “oh really, you’re Chinese?” “oh, you totally look…this is what I thought you were” “really you’re Chinese? I don’t really believe that, like really?” They’re like trying to see it in your face. And then, “so do you read Chinese?” My parents have influenced my identity. I mean, I think that of course they have, they’re responsible for a lot of things that I think and feel and identify with. But they’ve never really been like, “we are a multi-racial family, these are our values, we are different,” you know? They’re not very self-entitled people. My dad has a really big family. My grandfather, his father, is one of five brothers, and they all have at least three kids, so I have a very large second aunt, second uncle network. And they all came from China within the past, I don’t know, like right after the Cultural Revolution. So some of them, my dad is one of the youngest in that whole generation, and so some of them speak a lot of Mandarin—my dad hardly speaks any at all. And so we just, it was my grandfather’s 90th birthday, so we just had a big reunion in New York. And it was interesting to see, you know, because that’s sort of the family joke like, “oh, we’re so White.” Like all of us are, you know, look at us eating with forks. And the kids don’t even know how to use chopsticks. So that’s sort of where the differences get pointed out with my family. But sort of in jest, because they all know why they came to the United States. And so the fact that we’re all so White now and that none of the kids have any idea is sort of like a family joke. But I think that they’re also a little bit sad that we’ve sort of lost that tradition. I have a sister who is a year and 20 days older than me and my brother is seven and half years younger than me. I think it’s interesting how people do comparisons, especially between me and my sister. Because the general consensus is my sister is a  134  lot Whiter looking than I am. She has lighter brown hair than I do and sort of a less rounded face, which are traditional ethnic stamps, I guess. And so whenever we meet people for the first time, they will say like, “oh you’re kids are so beautiful” and like “mixed kids always look better.” Or, you know, it’s the exotic thing. I mean, there’s sort of that joke that mixed kids are—like, “have you ever seen an ugly mixed kid?” Or that it’s different and cool. I mean especially in that age range, like especially 5th through 8th grade, it’s such a huge developmental period. And so it’s a lot of striving to be different, you know, and being an individual. And so I think you felt cooler, because you had something different. That was sort of the time that was like, I want glasses just to be different, like kids who wanted braces. It was like, “oh, I’m a different race from you.” I’d bring in the books for Chinese New Year in kindergarten, the ones about like Chinese folk tales. I have those books about the dragons and you don’t. Me and my mom helped make the food for the Chinese New Year lunch at our school.  Amaya My name is Amaya and I am a senior at Pine Mountains High School. Next year I am going to a community college and then I plan to transfer to a university in the South. I want to major in sports medicine and be an athletic trainer. I have a job and I’m involved in my church. My mom is African American and my dad is Indian, he’s Sikh. My mom and dad are divorced; my dad is remarried to an Indian woman and has two kids. If somebody asks me what I am, I’ll tell them I’m Black and Indian. It wasn’t ever hard, you know, how if your mother was Black and your father was White, you know, having that kind of racial thing, “oh you’re an Oreo,” you know? I’ve never had any kind of troubles being— knowing my mother was Black and my father was Indian. I never got treated differently in any kind of way. I think I’ve always been aware of it. I don’t consider myself different. I  135  know I do have a unique mix, very rare to find, but just because I have this mix, I don’t see myself as different from anybody else. And my friends don’t see me differently. People can always tell that I’m mixed, and they always definitely know I’m mixed with Black. But they, they’ll think Puerto Rican before they think Indian. They’ll think I’m some kind of like, you know, Latin or something versus being Indian. So, I mean, I’ll correct them and say, “my father’s Indian, but my mother is Black.” My Black side is a little bit more dominant, because I live with my mother. My father is in my life, but I do more things with my mother’s side of the family. I feel like, for me, I feel like I’m 100% Black because I live with my mother, I’m around my mother more than I am my father, I’m around her side of the family more than I’m around my father’s side of the family. I feel like I’m 100% Black and 50% Indian because even though when I go around my father’s family, even though they accept me as “we know you are a part of our blood” it just, it still just feels different knowing that, you know, I’m mixed, my hair isn’t like yours, our skin color might be the same, but it’s still different. But versus when I go with my mom’s side of the family it’s like you just couldn’t tell. I could just be like “oh, I’m Black.” If I had chose to, I could completely deny the Indian side of the family, but I choose not to. Because that’s who I am. You know, he’s my blood. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for my father and my mother getting together. I was trying to go to India maybe after I graduated from high school, but I kind of wanted to get settled for doing college. So I decided after I graduated from college that will be my trip to there. I speak Punjabi partially, but I don’t really like to speak it. I speak it to dad, because he forces me to speak it so I can keep it up, but otherwise I don’t like speaking it. He’s the only person I speak to, and my brother and sister, and that’s all. One thing my mother and my father instilled into me was to know who I am, so I’m never torn to act more Indian with my dad’s side of the family, or to act more Black when I’m with my mom’s side. I know who I am. My identity was all instilled by my  136  parents. I think you knowing your identity is kind of all about how you were brought up. And how my parents brought me up, they made sure I knew who I was and where I came from. I know who my identity is. I mean, people of course change in the stuff they go through, but it’s like how my mother raised me is to know who you are. Because I don’t think that me growing up, like I’ll get confused like “oh, well, I think I’m a little bit more Indian or I’m a little bit more Black.” I know what I am, and I don’t think that will change. If my mother and father would have never gotten a divorce, half the things that I do now, I would not be able to do. Like having a boyfriend, that would be out the door. All the piercings that I have, it would be out the door. Being able to go out partying and do all the things that I’m able to do, it would be completely out the door. I would probably—I wouldn’t even be going to a community college after high school. I would be going straight off to a four year college. I wouldn’t be doing sport medicine. I would be either a lawyer or a doctor. My life would be completely different if my mother and father were still together, or if I went to go live with my father. I would be a totally different person if my father was—if my mother and father were still together. I adapt more to my mother’s side with the racial things, and even though I don’t get discriminated for being mixed, but sometimes I do get discriminated for being—my mother being Black, you know, having the Black thing. I have a very, very strong sense of Black pride. There being racist people in the world towards Black people. It doesn’t— you know, they don’t discriminate me for being mixed, but just the fact that, you know, “you’re a nigger,” or stuff like that. I haven’t personally experienced it ever. But, I mean, like I said, it’s out there. You do have racist people out there that will look at you differently because the fact that you are Black or you don’t look like they do. But it’s never been because I’m mixed. It’s never been because of that. You know, so my mother’s side affects me more than my father’s side does, completely.  137  Raya My name is Raya and I am 18 years old. My mom is British and my dad is Ethiopian. Right now I am planning on getting into nutrition, and I have been getting back into modeling because I have the exotic look. I recently graduated from Pine Mountains High School. With me, being multiethnic was pretty easy. I didn’t go through a huge amount of things. I had moments where people would ask me if I was adopted because they saw my mom and stuff like that. I guess I first realized I was different when my neighbor told me my parents can’t be married because they’re different colors. And I think we were seven and I got really mad about it. She was like “your parents can’t be married” and I said “why?” and then she was like “because they are two different colors.” When I was a kid, I spent most of my time with my mom, and so at school, I was able to relate more to White people than I was to Black people. Even with my two half brothers who are Black, I feel different from them. Just look at us. But I’ve never looked at it in a bad way, though. Like they’re Black, well, I’m Black and I’m White. I look at it like that, I never looked at it like “uh, I wish I could just be one thing.” I never wanted to be just one thing. Well, the only time I ever wanted to be one thing was with my hair. Because it was always hella hard to do my hair when I was little and I was like “God, if I was just White this would be so much easier.” I think that was the only time I ever had feelings like that. But other than that, no. With me, it’s just, it’s never really bothered me, I’ve always loved being mixed. With me, I consider myself pretty lucky. I went through little things where people would say things and it made me mad, but I was glad that they said it because it made me more aware. I mean, eventually you have to realize that “hey, you know, you are a little bit darker than that person right there.” I mean, at first when I was little, I was like  138  “oh, we’re all the same thing” but no, we’re not. You know, and it helped me realize it. The big question kids asked me was “are you adopted?” But other than that, nobody’s ever said “eew, you’re mixed.” But I had lots of times when I was little and I would get people saying “oh, I wish I was mixed too.” I would get a lot of that. Like, “I’m so boring compared to you.” Like if people would ask me, “well, what are you?” I’d say I’m Black and White and then they’ll be like “but what do you mark on the paper?” I’m like, well, if I think about it, back in the day of Martin Luther King, if they were to look at me, and if there were to be a White drinking fountain and a Black drinking fountain, I’d still have to go to the Black one. So I was like I’ll just mark the Black, you know, I look Black. But if I could mark both, I would never mark just Black or just White. On tests, sometimes I would be like I’m White, I’m Black, I’m White, I’m Black, like I will just mark whatever one I want to be today. My dad really tried to push that I was Black, like that I had Black in me. As I started getting older and he was able to talk to me more, he started trying to talk to me about serious things. And so he would talk about the history of Black people, so whenever I have a conversation with him I basically know how it’s going to go down. And I’m like “alright, yeah dad, I realize I’m Black, I’m going to go sit with mom now.” You know, it would be like that. And so that, I think that’s just made me hate Black people for a while. Just because the way my dad, like he would constantly push being Black on me, that I was just like “I hate Black people.” I never dated any Black guys, I just dated White guys. Just because it was a personal thing, like just to get back at my dad. ‘Cause I know he would, if I go out with a Black guy, he’d be like “oh yeah.” And he’d just make little smart comments. But if I dated a White guy, he wouldn’t be disappointed, I mean, he married a White woman. He wouldn’t be too disappointed, but I mean, he’d just be like “oh yeah, you can’t handle a Black man.” He’d probably try to say something smart  139  like that. And so I was like “alright dad, whatever.” And so he would just go on and say his thing and I would be like “do you feel better now?” and “Black pride, dad, Black pride.” One thing that I like so much more about my mom, was that my mom was really into Black culture and she would try to teach it to me, but she wouldn’t force it on me. She’d embrace it and she’s like “oh, in Africa they do this.” My mom listens to hip hop, she has Mary J. Blige, but then she also has Rolling Stones, you know, she just goes back and forth with stuff. She was the one who helped me embrace being mixed from— as soon as I could learn and started talking, she was showing things like that to me.  Barry I am Barry, I’m 15 years old, and I’m a sophomore at Pine Mountains. I am the sophomore vice president and I play second base on the baseball team. I am mostly Spanish. My great, great grandma came here from Spain when everyone was immigrating to America. And then on my dad’s side I am German and Irish. My mom’s whole side is Spanish. I’ve been to Spain and I’ve also been to Germany. I first became aware of my multiethnic identity in elementary school when we had a heritage fair. I believe it was fourth grade. We brought in everything from our heritages. And my class went down to the Mormon Church in Oakland to look at the genealogy records. It was kind of hard to find stuff on my family because we were so spread out because my great grandma had a lot of kids. And then my grandma had a lot of kids, baby boomers. And so it’s just kind of hard to find and piece everything together. So I kind of found out a lot about my dad’s side, like his great, great, great grandparents came here from Ireland, and then they were part Dutch from Germany. One was Irish and then he married my great, great, great grandma that was Dutch and they came here  140  together. And a lot of people are like “I’m from this predominantly one country” and then I’m 50/25/25, you know. Just to keep it simple for people I usually just identify myself as Spanish just because of my skin color, it kind of makes more sense to people that I am. And I think I’m more Spanish, just like ‘cause most of my family is Spanish. I feel really Spanish from my mom’s family. And I still feel Spanish with my dad’s family. Mostly because my dad’s side of the family was kind of ignorant. They say racist comments like—they don’t mean to, but it’s still not politically correct. You know, my parents are an inter-racial couple. And my grandma on my dad’s side did not think they were gonna last. ‘Cause my mom’s side, they’re very accepting of cultures because they’re culturally enriched themselves. And my dad’s side is kind of red neck. You know, because when they moved here, they went to the South. Yeah, they’re very ignorant. My Spanish side has been more influential on me mostly because of foods that we have, all that stuff, paella. You know, we have a lot of Mexican dishes there, too. All the different Hispanic or Latino dishes, we’re always having that constantly. It’s pretty much that way because my grandma—my parents had to work a lot, so she took care of me. So she was the main influence in my life. So I kind of grew off of that. So I’m proud of my culture. That’s kind of gotten me to my Spanish heritage and how I feel grounded there more so than German and Irish. And I still spend a lot of time with my grandma. I still go to A’s games constantly with my grandma and she’s always over at our house. So it’s been really a family affair. I’ve a brown skin complexion and living in California people automatically think I’m Mexican but in reality I’m Spanish. I don’t get offended if someone asks what am I, but when people assume, that’s when people get offended. I have a brother who’s working right now. A lot of people when he was—in his school experience, a lot of people called him Mexican, like identified him as Mexican. And I remember a couple of  141  times I asked him, “am I Mexican or am I Spanish?” because I didn’t know the difference because I was younger. And he was like, “no, you’re not Mexican, you’re Spanish, you just remember that.” So I’ve always kind of—that’s kind of stuck with me. Lots of people will ask me “what are you?” They’re kind of, you know, the head cock and “what are you?” I usually break it down into the Spanish, Irish and German, and I go, “but I’m predominately Spanish.” They go, “really?” And they get all fascinated by it. You know, and they ask, “have you ever been to Spain” and stuff. I’ve run into some people that aren’t considered friends that are like “well, isn’t it the same as Mexican?” And it’s like, no. I just say, “it’s across the pond.”  Christina My name is Christina, I’m 17, and I’m a senior at Pine Mountains High School. I am going to go to a community college next year and then I’ll transfer to a state school. Someday I want to be a dental hygienist. I am on the school’s cheerleading team and dance team, which takes up a lot of my time. My mom is White and my dad is Black. When someone asks me, I say that I’m mixed and they’ll be like “oh, with what?” Because most people think, when they look at me, they think I’m mixed with Puerto Rican or something, they never think Black and White. If they go “oh, you’re mixed?” and then if they say “with what?” I’d be like “Black and White.” They never just assume Black and White, but I never just tell somebody “oh, I’m White” or “I’m Black.” Our family is really close and so all of my family, my uncles and everyone like that is White, and I never met my real dad, so I am always around my White family. And I don’t feel different, I don’t feel like “oh, I’m different from them” or whatever. I don’t act different, but then at school, I hang out with mostly with Black people, or I hang out with Tongan people a lot. So I don’t really hang out with White people at school. It feels  142  different, like the lifestyles are definitely different between home and at school. At home, my sister’s kind of punk rockish and all that stuff and I have brothers who are like, you know, they’re kind of preppy I guess you’d say, and then at school, I hang out with, we say the “ghetto people” at school. So, the lifestyles and how they act is very different. But I don’t change up how I act or anything like that. If I was to walk into a room and nobody knew me and if it was a group of Black people and a group of White people, I feel like the Black people would be the people that I would hang out with because I look kinda more like them. I think I look more Black, like my skin color and stuff, but my features, I think my features are more White because I don’t have that type of nose and stuff or I have little tiny lips and I don’t have their real short hair, like I have long hair. But if I went over with the White people, I’d feel like I’m sticking out or whatever. And I’d feel like they’re all looking at me, you know? Whereas the Black people, like I don’t really look—I could look like them, but I think I look different from them too. But I feel like I would blend in more with them, just because the skin color and the way I dress and stuff is more like them. So I feel more comfortable.  Kendra My name is Kendra and I am senior at Pine Mountains High School. I plan to go to community college for two years and then transfer to a local state university. I might study psychology—I am taking it right now and I really like it. Right now I work part time at an after school program for kids. I’m Puerto Rican, Mexican, I have Black in me, and French. My dad’s Mexican, and then my mom’s Puerto Rican and she has the Black and the French in her from my grandma and my great grandma and grandpa. Everyone’s like “you’re a mutt, you’re a mutt.” I just found out that we have French in us. My mom just told me a couple of months ago and I was like “wow, that’s pretty cool.” At first we thought it was Irish, but  143  then she had it confirmed that it was French that we had in our family, well on my mom’s, on her mom’s side, so that’s pretty cool. I don’t know anybody else that has French in them at all. Yeah, I thought it was pretty cool being two different Latino races, and then, just having Black in me from my family, I thought that was really cool, and then the French just topped it off. With