Racismhas always been relevant through out my life and will continue to be a topic fordiscussion in my life and surrounding my family.
Racism still occurs today. “Racismis any action, practice, or belief that reflects worldview and the ideologythat humans may be divided into separate and exclusive biological beings called”races”; that there is a fundamental link between inherited physical traits andtraits of personality, intellect, morality, and other cultural and behavioralfeatures; and that some races are innately superior to others” (Smedley 2017). Inmy own opinion I believe a lot of racism is still taught which means it will bemany years from now till there really is a noticeable change. Although racismhas played a huge role in my life I am unclear that it has ever been directedat me. I have witnessed all forms of it from cruelty to racial slurs and Ithink by only ignoring it and not speaking up I have contributed. Racism hasmade a huge impact on my identity and how I feel. Many stereotypes andassumptions have been made about my relationship and me.
Society has come along way over time and there is still social disapproval for mixed race couplesand families. From the view of being in a interracial relationship for almost adecade and now having a biracial or “mixed” son I have experienced a lot. Iconvince myself that my own racial relations are improving but I have manyfears for the future and raising my son in a world that still has hate for thecolor of your skin or your racial background. Manypeople in the United States and around the world identify with more than onerace and that number is constantly growing. Americans that are considered biracialare also known as “multiracial” which today could be a endless amount ofcombinations. Before the United States census added a biracial option peoplehad to adopt the race of the parent with color and if that included being from AfricanAmerican ancestry that would be their assumed label. There are many differentBiracial Identity Development Models and in the book Interracial CommunicationTheory Into Practice focuses on W.
S. Carlos Poston’s model. He was one of thefirst scholars to develop a model for biracial identity. Poston’s model includes5 different stages, which are personal identity, group categorization,enmeshment/denial, appreciation, and lastly integration. “…Poston’s biracialidentity development model is helpful in emphasizing the unique challenges thatbiracial people face, and outlines the process of how most persons formulatetheir identities in a healthy, productive fashion”(Orbe and Harris 95). Personalidentity the first stage usually occurs when a person is young and him or herdoes not realize or is aware of their mixed heritage of belonging to a specificracial/ethnic group. This is totally normal and children just do not seethemselves in racially specific way. In the second stage group categorization peoplestart to really become aware of their racial/ethnic background and are pressedto decide on an identity for themselves.
Many things influence a person tochoose a certain identity. Friends and family who are closest to the person arethe most influential in the decision and other major outside elements mayinclude society and the community in which they live in. The third stage of themodel is enmeshment/denial, which is the result from the decision a person hadmade regarding their personal identity. Individual may feel guilty for theirdecision, hatred toward their self, and unaccepted by multiple groups. “Amultiethnic child, unable to indentify with both parents, may experiencefeelings of being disloyal and of guilt over rejection of one parent”(Baruth andManning 35). Parents should be very supportive during this time so that thechild’s feeling can be resolved.
Children can better understand and also beable to appreciate each parent’s cultural history. A feeling of appreciationoccurs at the fourth stage of the biracial identity model. Although a personwill still identify with one group he or she begins to gain knowledge andunderstanding of their ethnic heritage. “Within this stage, biracial personsrecognize and value each aspect of their racial/ethnic identity,”(Poston 1990).The last and final stage of Poston’s biracial identity development model isintegration.
“Through integration, individuals are able to carve out anidentity that reflects their complete selves”(Orbe and Harris 95). This stagehas a lot to do with being healthy mentally resulting from positivity. Duringintegration, the individual may still identify with one group but appreciate”the integration of their multiple racial identities”(Miville 77). In societytoday when a individual is faced with picking their classification they thenfeel they are denying half of their heritage and it is a difficult concept foranyone. No one should have to choose and I think a biracial child should growup with a real biracial identity. There are many ways the biracial identity development model created by Carlos Postonrelates to my life and will be relevant in the future days to come. The stages developed in the model willbe some of the complications my son Cameron will go through.
I think the secondstage of Poston’s Biracial Identity Development model will be the mostchallenging stage to experience. As Black-White couple we came together to forma interracial family identity and will have to interpret race to Cameron. “Fourmajor tasks in the construction of interracial family identity emerged: (a)understanding and resolving family of origin chaos and turmoil.
(b)Transcending Black-White racial history, (c) articulating the interracialfamily’s racial standpoint, and (d) explaining race to biracial children acrossthe developmental stages”(Poston 1990). As a biracial child he can embracewhatever identity he chooses. I think he will become aware at a early age sincehis father (Chris) and I have two different skin colors and I know otherchildren may ask him questions. Although he appears mostly white on the outsideI want him to be proud of his racial background and know how to handlesituations he may encounter. As a parent I will never force him to make achoice because it would result in a negative response and have a negativeoutcome on his future. “Coming together as a family unit and establishing opencommunications and a shared belief system about race and racial heritage allowsfamilies to succeed together in the face of family of origin and parent-childconflict”(Byrd and Garwick, 2006;Poston).
As a mother raising a biracial childis very unique and it requires discussing both sides of his heritage and I knowthat Cameron will be future advocate for other children and for society makingit easier for children in the future. Igrew up in a very racially mixed neighborhood and my parents sent my brotherand I to private school that was predominately white since the area schoolswere so bad. I found it harder to fit in at school than at home with the neighborhoodkids. This was in the 90’s so we played outside endlessly with the neighborhoodkids, who were Hispanic and black. I do not ever remember seeing color but Iwas only a child at the time and my parents taught us to treat everyoneequally. At the time I was embarrassed to have friends over from the privateschool I attended…they lived in the “rich” part of town in larger homes andwell maintained neighborhoods. Today I am very thankful for that neighborhoodand how it has shaped the person I am today. I went through different stages oftrying to find my personal identity as well as trying to fit in.
I picked up onmany different things very quickly from other cultures. I also attended aprivate high school, which had a larger amount of Hispanics and AfricanAmericans students. I dated a biracial boy for the first time from a differentschool in the 11th grade.
Some of the boys who claimed to be myfriends at school would make jokes and say things like …”once you go black younever go back,” which was not appropriate on so many levels. This is when Imyself felt stereotyped and experienced racism first hand. It was verydifficult for me to process and understand at the time but I chose to pretendit didn’t bother me and ignored it. “Because, in the popular mind, “race” islinked to physical differences among peoples, and such features as dark skincolor have been seen as markers of low status, some experts believe that racismmay be difficult to eradicate”(Encyclopedia Britannica 2017). I think the reactions I received are some of the reasons whyI handled my future relationship a certain way.
I was so afraid of disapprovalfrom my parents and family to the point I felt in a way I was letting themdown. Ithas been a long time since high school and the world around us is alwayschanging. I think my race has impacted communication in my life and not just myidentity. I think our expectations change because of the specific race we arecommunicating with. “Before even choosing to communicate interracially, one already hasa perception of a person based on his or her race. How individuals perceive the people and objects around them affects their communication”(Riley 3).
I chose to keep my relationship private for many yearsbecause I did not want to face how they truly felt or even experience anynegativity because of their assumptions. As I grew older I also learned toworry less what others think but, it becomes very conflicted when everyone youlove in involved. My family for the first time met Chris who had been in mylife 8 years prior to our son Cameron being born. My mom had a perception ofhim because of his race long before interacting with him. She did not mean anyharm and I certainly do not blame her, I think she had many differentinfluences and she herself was taught from an age when our country was oncedivided based on race. We all have relatives who lived through the history ofour country when society was a lot different. People can have one negativeexperience and let it shape the way they feel about every future experience.
Themedia can have a huge impact and mass media has at times portrayedAfrican-Americans as criminals, aggressive, and thuggish people. In realitythat could describe anyone and has nothing to do with skin color. My familyviews Chris for who he is and not his skin color. Change starts at home and Ithink if my biracial family can make a impact at home we can reach fartherbeyond it. Poston recommends forming a family identity as an interracial unit,which signifies coming together at all times, but especially during times ofdifficulty and challenge. Racism is a significant issue that affects our entire society andhas been going on for centuries.
Many people are not aware of the impact itcauses today if it has no direct affect on them. Progress has been made but Ithink it all starts with educating our youth and teaching them about equality.Education can help minimize stereotypes and minimize the hardship and stressthat comes with each person finding their personal identity. The general publichas to stop making assumptions about multiracial and biracial people and letthem have a choice about their racial identity. The past can not be changed butthe future can.