What is identity? It is who you are, your beliefs and personality. The idea of what it is has been steadily changing and is empowering many to become true to who they are. One crucial aspect of identity is race.
While an individual’s racial background stems from their birth, their identity will change with them. A survey conducted by Pew Research found that one out of ten adults who used to view themselves as one race now see themselves as multiracial. Their identity changes from their interactions with their community and knowledge they attain as they age.
Being born mixed-race changes how people are viewed and communicate with society. A negative turn to this is Racial Imposter Syndrome, a feeling that someone doesn’t belong with their race. It can form when someone categorizes a person as something they are not because of their appearance. When this occurs, people no longer feel like they belong to their group. These feelings of ostracization can grow into lower self-value and may have them feeling invisible.
In another Pew Research survey, one out of five adults stated that they were forced to choose one race by friends and family. When children are forced to categorize themselves by one race, they stated they experienced low self-esteem and high levels of anxiety. The National Children’s Bureau stated that children faced “unrealistic” expectations that were created by school officials and adults.
When a mixed race child grows in a healthy environment, they show greater identity flexibility in many social interactions. Children benefit from their racial identities when they can switch between them depending on the situation. They are more adaptable and experience positive social interactions among many groups of people. They communicate with other groups successfully and gain invaluable insight into the cultures they belong to.
With travel being more accessible for the average person, the world’s races will continue to commingle and change the future of society. Racial identity is going to change how many live and interact with others. We can no longer force individual’s to stay within preconceived notions of race. Instead, they should be applauded for embracing more than one. When they do that, they are able to meet new people and learn more about their heritages.
As an increasing proportion of the world identify as mixed race there will have to be a fundamental shift in the narrative of racial identity. We may see more and more debate about who can claim specific racial heritage or identity and what those claims mean in the context of racial appropriation. There will also have to be a more indepth exploration of how to capture data and evidence on the lived experience of mixed race people and whether different combinations of heritage and identity face more challenges than others. The concept of compound discrimination is already starting to emerge more strongly in the context of the intersectionality of identity but this has yet to be explored in the context of different combinations of racial heritage. Furthermore both public and private sector organisations will need to develop new engagement approaches for an increasingly blended diversity of ethnic identities, this is new ground and time will tell how it plays out.
However the fundamental principle remains that healthy societies are based upon positive and supportive communities. Children need an accepting and communicative environment that provides unconditional love and values their full selves. Families must be unafraid to have conversations about race and explore the blending and mixing of identity. When that discussion happens children thrive and embrace all their identities.