Talking about mixed race

I’m interested in hearing people talking about their mixed race identities. Something I heard from someone and hold onto for myself is, “we are many things; male/female, black/white, gay/straight”, and “we are one thing - ourselves”.

The problem is not that mixed race, or mixed anything for that matter doesn’t fit neatly on the spectrum, but rather the expectation that everyone should.

We live in a society where skin colour is how people are seen and categorised, for a mixed race person this may be confusing, leading to questions like:

  • Where do I belong? 
  • Must I choose sides - if I do what happens to the other side? 
  • Is sitting on the fence ok? 
  • Is passing for one or the other of my mixed heritages ok? 
  • Why do people think I should know everything about both halves of my cultural mix? 
  • Even my parents, siblings look different from me - does anybody understand? 
  • Do people see me as I am? 
  • Do people recognise my true heritage by my looks/skin colour?

If you are in a mixed race relationship or have had or have adopted mixed race children, do you wonder how they are managing their identity and how you might help them to have strong self-esteem and good social relationships? 

Factors that increase mixed race problems are: 

  • Racism from the extended family, teachers, schoolmates and others in the community.
  • Wishing to be another colour because reality and self-concept conflict.
  • Peer pressure to conform to racial stereotypes and a denial of mixed origins.
  • Prejudice from both/all sides and feeling isolated and outside of all groups.

Factors that increase mixed race acceptance are:

  • Self-esteem, sociability, and autonomy.
  • Social support systems that encourage personal effort and coping.
  • Parents affirming their child's mixed race.
  • Family compassion, warmth and absence of parental discord.
  • Access to wider family in the parents’ home countries.
  • Experiencing life in multicultural and multiethnic environments.
  • Positive roles models in the form of mixed race people in the media.

Talking to a counsellor might help you find out how you are becoming the person you feel yourself to be. Or alternatively you might start having conversations with others interested in mixed race identities.

This article draws on material from: Morley, D. & Street, C. (2014) Mixed experiences. Growing up mixed race - mental health and well-being. London: National Children's Bureau  

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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