Title page for ETD etd-05132011-142443

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Burgess, Melissa Faye
URN etd-05132011-142443
Title "You Can't Put People In One Category Without Any Shades of Gray:" A Study of Native American, Black, Asian, Latino/a and White Multiracial Identity
Degree Master of Science
Department Sociology
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Harrison, Anthony Kwame Committee Co-Chair
Seniors, Paula Committee Co-Chair
Gillman, Laura J. Committee Member
  • multiracial
  • identity
  • autonomy
  • whiteness
  • socialization
Date of Defense 2011-05-02
Availability unrestricted
This study seeks to explore variations in the development of racial identities for multiracial Virginians in the 21st century by focusing on the roles that physical appearance, group associations and social networks, family and region play in the process. Simultaneously, this study seeks to explore the presence of autonomy in the racial identity development process. Using Michael Omi and Howard Winant’s racial formation theory as the framework, I argue that

a racial project termed biracialism, defined as the increase in the levels of autonomy in self identification, holds the potential to contribute to transformations in racial understandings in U.S.

society by opposing imposed racial categorization. Through the process of conducting and analyzing semistructured interviews with mixed-race Virginia Tech students I conclude that

variations do exist in the identities they develop and that the process of identity development is significantly affected by the factors of physical appearance, group associations and social

networks, family and region. Furthermore, I find that while some individuals display racial autonomy, others find themselves negotiating between their self-images and society’s

perceptions or do not display it at all. In addition to these conclusions, the issues of acknowledging racism, the prevalence of whiteness, assimilation and socialization also emerged

as contributors to the identity development process for the multiracial population.

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