What are you? Multiracial students and feeling boxed- in.

Most of us have the luxury of taking our identities for granted. Whether it’s in filling out an application or completing a survey, we can select one answer and move on to the next question. Something as simple as filling out a form can cause a multiracial person anxiety. Instructions that limit answers to one box and boxes that do not represent how a multiracial person identifies limit a multiracial person from being authentically represented.

In 2000, for the first time in United States history, the Census allowed respondents to check more than one box when asked about race. The Census from 2010 has shown a 32% increase in people who identify with more than 2 races. This makes the multiracial population the fastest growing group in America with 4.2 million people.

While this may have been an effort to incorporate in data the many identities that reside in the US, there are some limitations to how the reporting represents life experiences. For example, the Department of Education has started to require school districts to report the number of students who identify as multiracial, yet academicians, researchers, and educators claim that grouping all “mixed” people minimizes the different forms of discriminations different marginalized groups face in schools.

For multiracial youth, their identity development and curious peers asking “what are you?” might also lead to confusion about how to label themselves while representing all of the layers that create their identity. An ongoing segment from the New York Times, called Race Remix highlights the experiences of multiracial students in higher education. A video segment documents the conflict between labels, expression, and staying true to their family. While the focus is on young adults, the discussion is parallel to the experiences the multiracial youth in our schools experience.


Mixed Chicks Chat: This website was created by multiracial women who host podcasts about issues pertinent to multiracial people and interviews of multiracial people and how they navigated their youth as a multiracial person.

Mixed Heritage Center: This website has information and resources for people of mixed heritage.

Resources from Dr. Maria P.P. Root -- Maria P. P. Root resides in Seattle, Washington where she is an independent scholar and clinical psychologist. She is a trainer, educator, and public speaker on the topics of multiracial families, multiracial identity, cultural competence, trauma, work place harassment, and disordered eating.

50 Experiences of Racially Mixed People: This resource provides examples of experiences that multiracial people face. This allows the reader to gain an understanding of how society addresses race, belonging and identity. This could be used as an activity to engage educators in a discussion about multiracial students in their school and how they can empower them in the classroom.

Bill of Rights for People of Mixed Heritage: The bill of rights provides statements that multiracial people should feel comfortable doing but might experience stigma or pressure from society to identify with a particular group. This resource could be used as an activity to allow students or teachers who are not multiracial to understand multiracial student’s experiences.

Ecological Framework for Understanding Multiracial Identity Development: This document provides a working framework to understand the different identities and experiences that contribute to multiracial identity development. This resource can help initiate a discussion on how people of the same heritage can identify differently.

After looking over the resources and articles provided answer the following questions:

  • How are multiracial students treated in your school? How are they represented in school data?
  • How might you address multiracial identity to your multiracial students who may have issues with how to express their identity?
  • How could your school empower multiracial students?

CRUE Book Studies:

To learn more about culturally responsive education practices consider signing up for a CRUE Center Book Study like John Vitto’s book Relationship Driven Classroom Management: Strategies that Promote Student Motivation. Earn 1 CEU for just $75. For more information visit http://www.cruecenter.org/book_study.php or email us at contact@cruecenter.org.

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