The Internal Racial Journey of Black–White People: A Typology of Identity Presentation

By Jeremy van Blommestein.

Published by The International Journal of Diverse Identities

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This research describes and analyzes the everyday racial identity experiences of individuals in the United States who have one black parent and one white parent and seeks to investigate their chosen internal racial identities and the manner with which they negotiate and navigate their constructed identities. Most of the respondents self-identified as multiracial or biracial, and a few identified as black or white. They did not identify themselves based on a rigid monoracial system. The case studies analyzed in this paper point to the fact that black–white people have maintained that the choice to racially identify themselves is theirs and they will use that choice as a form of resistance to the current unacceptable choices. In forming their identities, black–white respondents embarked on an internal racial journey. They moved from white to black to mixed, or white to black, or knew that they were always mixed, not accepting the one-drop rule and evermore portraying the fluidity of their identities. But none of them spoke of a journey in reverse, because the United States racial structure does not allow anyone to journey from mixed-race or black to white. Only in the phenomenon of “passing” can someone become white, but to succeed is costly, and forces the individual who chooses to “pass” to separate herself/himself from any friends or relationships with anyone who represents blackness.

Keywords: Multiracial, Biracial, Racial Identity, Presentation of Self, Mixed-race, One-drop Rule

International Journal of Diverse Identities, Volume 13, Issue 1, November 2014, pp.1-12. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 446.675KB).

Dr. Jeremy van Blommestein

Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, SUNY Potsdam, Potsdam, New York, USA

Dr. Jeremy van Blommestein is an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at SUNY Potsdam and specializes in Racial/Ethnic Relations and Criminology. His research focuses on multiracial issues/identities, racial and ethnic relations, social movements/Civil Rights and Anti-Apartheid, race and the criminal justice system, and aviation and social science topics.