Lynn VanderWielen, PhD, MPH
Challenging Racial Boundaries
We know that the fundamental idea of racial categorizations were defined by people to create, divide, and maintain power - so how can we advocate for dismantling this system of oppression while ALSO leaning on the same system to support our multiracial kids?
This is a question that researchers have long pondered and argued - and some version of it often comes up from parents (often well-meaning?) in the form of “Why would I talk to my kids about their race? We are all the human race.” (At Samahra we whole-heartedly disagree with this notion - evidence shows that talking about race, cultures, and racism with our multiracial kids is more likely to lead to a healthy and confident perception of self than pretending that race has no bearing on their experiences.)
Today’s article is an editorial piece by Brendon Soltis, a multiracial scholar and PhD student at Michigan State University, and dives into this existential question within the multiracial identity support space. The title alone - “Multiraciality at a Crossroads: Reinforcing Racial Categories or Challenging Racial Boundaries?” digs into this question and made me really think. Like turn off my computer and think - revisiting and rereading this article multiple times over the past week.
Our multiracial kids occupy a unique space in the borderland (Soltis’ word choice, which I love) between monoracial communities - they can be a part of multiple communities simultaneously and also can embrace an element of their race to center themselves more solidly in one community. They can shift and switch, both intentionally and subconsciously, as they navigate relationships and environments. There is no right answer of who our kids are, their identity can evolve in time and circumstance, and they get to write their own story as they grow.
But what about this existential question about the use of categories at all in the multiracial space?
There is no correct answer here, but it is certainly a philosophical question worth pondering. As parents of multiracial kids we need to explore and process our own thoughts and create space for discussing this topic with our kids.
I personally have landed on using the term multiracial WITHOUT giving additional details. This leans halfway into the system of racial categorizations and allows me to acknowledge and push back on the system at the same time. When I am asked to categorize my kids on forms or verbally, I typically respond multiracial (if its an option). And I leave it at that. When I am face-to-face with someone recording my response, it often feels like an incomplete sentence - the other person waiting for me to finish what they perceive as an incomplete thought, but I have already moved on.
What do you think? Should we be reinforcing racial categories or challenging racial boundaries? Can we have it both ways? What do your kids think?
Check out the article here - it is a thought provoking read.
Citation: Soltis, Brendon. “Can We Have It Both Ways? Multiraciality at a Crossroads: Reinforcing Racial Categories or Challenging Racial Boundaries?”. The Forum of American Journal of Education. February 22, 2023.
Photo by OSPAN ALI on Unsplash