Bi-Racial Families – African American Studies Essay
Race did not have any meaning to me until, as a young child (age 4 or 5), I was mocked by another child for the shape of my eyes. I was confused by this and did not understand, but felt affronted and a little scared by it(Fukuyama, 1999). Imagine growing up biracial, being
confused of your ethnic background, and trying to find your place in society. These are the struggles that biracial families and their children face. Biracial individuals and families are one of the fastest growing populations in the United States, yet this group is often silenced or marginalized in discussions about race.
Interracial families have limited social networks due to societal pressures. These families feel they are being socially isolated due to racism and studies have indicated that this isolation is manifested in family, work, and leisure. This isolation has a large impact on biracial youth. Such feelings of isolationism, as well as other issues, within biracial families can be addressed through counseling.
The primary focus of network analysis is on the interpersonal relationships of an individual and their various associations. Individuals are linked to their society primarily through relations with other individuals, such as relatives, friends, co-workers, and acquaintances. The couples in Hibbler and Shinew’s study frequently found themselves in situations where they had to deal with racism, discrimination, and prejudice within their own families. Therefore, over time, they developed strong coping skills to buffer them from familial and societal influences. It also appeared to bond them as a couple, because many of them did not receive the type of support that same race couples often receive from immediate and extended family members. Due to societal reactions to interracial couples, family members often decrease their interactions with the couple. Although a potentially positive outcome of being socially isolated from family members is a strengthened bond between the couple, Hibbler and Shinew state that the lack of familial support can have a long-term, negative impact on couples’ lives.
Another place where these couples encountered racism was in the workplace. This was especially burdensome because work can be a constant and important part of one’s life.
Interracial couples can experience very hurtful situations within the workforce due to being in an interracial relationship. Two women from the study were middle-class, college educated people, who had heavily invested in their careers. It was evident that their work was important to them and represented a major part of their self-identity. Therefore, to be ostracized at work simply because of whom they married was difficult to endure. The couples in this study were cautious about letting co-workers know that they were involved in an interracial relationship for fear of some form of retaliation. Therefore, these interracial couples did not have the opportunity to extend their social networks through their work activity. The women in the study indicated that most of their work acquaintances were just that, acquaintances.
Leisure spaces, places, and activities are important locales for the development of social networks. All the couples involved in this study reported multiple instances of negative leisure experiences due to racism and discrimination. Many United States cities are segregated by race, which poses particular problems for interracial couples because they often find themselves attempting to participate in leisure activities in racially homogeneous environments.
Whether they participate in leisure within a predominately same race environment, there are issues of comfort for one or both partners and also for their children. These negative experiences constantly affected how they perceived and selected activities.
A recurring theme among these couples was being very “careful” where they go for leisure experiences. It became obvious from the interviews that there was an awareness involved in selecting and participating in leisure activities for interracial couples. There are times when people are able to minimize the likelihood of encountering problems, or diminish their impact, by being very aware of their surroundings and the places they frequent. The couples accomplished this by doing research prior to becoming involved in a leisure experience. For example, they would call ahead, visit a leisure site prior to exposing family members, or ask friends about the possibility of encountering problems.
Along with attempts to research safe places for leisure participation, another pattern for coping with the racism and discrimination was for the couples to withdraw from public spaces as much as possible. The interracial couples preferred to participate in those leisure activities that did not require a great deal of contact with those outside of their relationship, including other extended family members. Interracial couples’ constant concern for safety and comfort limited their ability to establish and maintain meaningful social network ties within a leisure context.
Aside from the difficulties biracial couples face themselves, being biracial can have an impact on youth’s self-esteem and ethnic identity, specifically with regard to their psychological adjustment. Both identity development and the maintenance of self-esteem are critical. The dynamic processes that occur during adolescence are important to individuals’ development over the life course. During adolescence, individuals undergo several changes and encounter new experiences that may influence their psychological well-being in various ways.
Bracey’s study examines ethnic identity and self-esteem among biracial adolescents. She states that self-esteem refers to a positive or negative orientation toward self. This study consisted of biracial adolescents that were identified on the basis of the race of their parents. Participants were surveyed while in high school in order to capture their present-day attitudes. Differences among biracial subgroups were examined before grouping them into a large biracial group.
This study utilized a large representative sample of the biracial population in a metropolitan area. Adolescents’ self-esteem was measured using Rosenberg’s Self-esteem Scale. This scale is composed of ten items with end points of (1) strongly disagree to (4) strongly agree. The results of this survey indicated that biracial subgroups did not differ significantly from each other on self-esteem. Findings indicated that the biracial adolescents in this study had significantly lower self-esteem than