Beyond race: Examining the cultural identity of multiracial individuals
Jackson, Kelly F.
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With increasing levels of racial integration the number of mixed-race people in the US will continue to grow (Root, 1992). Mixed-race individuals defy conventional monocultural and monoracial paradigms of understanding identity, and it is imperative that social workers examine the many factors that contribute to the cultural identity of the multiracial person. Through the collection of narrative stories, this qualitative study explored some of the numerous factors that shape a multiracial individual's cultural identity. Purposive sampling methods were employed to recruit a non-clinical sample of 10 multiracial individuals who reside in the Western New York area. Participants were encouraged to share their individual experiences and tell their own unique stories as related to their cultural identity through a narrative interview process (Stuhlmiller, 2001). Results from transcript analysis verify that the cultural identity of multiracial persons is highly complex and significantly influenced by: (1) personal experiences of racism and discrimination; (2) social interactions and relationships with peers and family; and (3) the racial climate of the environment (i.e., schools and neighborhoods). In addition, this study also identified several themes which provide us with a better understanding of what it is like to be a multiracial person. Finally, this study confirmed that certain models of multiracial identity development (those which are more fluid, strength-based and ecological) proved to be more sensitive and therefore more inclined to explicate some of the more complex and highly influential contextual factors that impact a multiracial person's cultural identity development. The findings from this study can help strengthen the therapeutic relationship with multiracial clients throughout the assessment and treatment phases of clinical therapy.