Research Paper

Race is defined as a group of people that share the same culture, history, and language. Race is the fact or condition of belonging to a racial division or group; the qualities or characteristics associated with this. A person that fits the stereotypes and “qualifications” of a race, means that they belong to and represent that ethnic group. Some stereotypes and misconceptions may be: “That because you are mixed race you will automatically be popular when it comes to dating,” “Mixed race people are confused/unhappy/mentally unstable,” “Mixed race people are all beautiful/have beauty privilege,” “Mixed race people are here to end racism and mediate between black and white people.” During the 1920s, societal elements displaced mixed race Americans who were the products of slave owners and their slaves causing them to feel confused about which race they truly represented. The American Society in the 1920s made bi-racial individuals pick one of the two races they represented. There were no blurred lines. Many were not light skinned enough to have a choice and had to live as a black American. Much like in “Picking a side: the Unique struggle of being biracial” by Peggy Packer, she was faced with a difficult situation and did not know how to react. “In the spring of 2016, I was given the opportunity to meet with a representative from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., for an admissions interview. It started off really well. Questions were asked about my goals and my hobbies — exactly what you would expect in an interview. But it slowly progressed into less of an interview and more of a lecture on my race.He began to tell me about the type of environment he believed was present at Northwestern, one he claimed was very racially divided between black people and white people. I made an attempt to explain that I was biracial, a mixture of African-American and Caucasian, and could fit well in both communities. My interviewer responded to this explanation with, ‘Not at Northwestern you’re not. Either you’re black or you’re white. You have to pick a side.’” (Packer) Packer goes on to say that she was hurt and confused. She had no idea what made the interviewer think that it was okay to say this. She realized that this is the first time she had been asked this question and had to firmly pick one side. She said she has had to pick a side more times than she could count, but never had to formally answer it with a sure decision.  In her article, Packer explores a few situations she had faced so far in her life that obviously made an impact, whether negative or positive, big enough to be able to write and tell readers about them. “The mere existence of multiracial people is a symbol of progression in the United States. It is proof we have evolved from a time where different races could not even be in the same restaurants, to a time where both races can coexist within one body. Making us choose between one or the other is an attempt to take a step backward.” (Packer) In Passing by Nella Larsen, the Drayton Hotel is a “white only” hotel. Packer’s situation with being told to pick a side and Irene’s situation with risking her identity are similar. Irene had to pick a side and stick to it to even be able to step foot on the rooftop of the Drayton Hotel. Peggy Packer was verbally told she would have to pick a side if she was going to be at Northwestern University in Evanston. Irene was not necessarily asked verbally, but because the Drayton was a “white only” hotel, she was in a tough situation. She had a decision to make if she did not want to be questioned or criticized for her true color and identity. Irene and most mixed people choose to “pass” as one or the other race only when it is convenient and beneficial to themselves.  “Multiracial Children” published by American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry is about how the times have changed for mixed race individuals and multiracial children and the emotional needs that they have. It includes the roles of the parents of multiracial children and how to emotionally support them and how to answer any questions they may have in the best way possible.  “Multiracial children are one of the fastest growing segments of the U.S. population. The number of mixed-race families in America is steadily increasing, due to a rise in interracial marriages and relationships, as well as an increase in transracial and international adoptions. Publicity surrounding prominent Americans of mixed cultural heritage, such as athletes, actors, musicians, and politicians, has highlighted the issues of multicultural individuals and challenged long-standing views of race. However, despite some changes in laws and evolving social attitudes, multiracial children still face significant challenges.” (“Multiracial Children”) Multiracial is defined as consisting of, representing, or combining members of more than one racial group. In this article, a statistic says that “In the 2013 U.S. Census, about nine million Americans identified themselves as more than one race.” (“Multiracial Children”) This means that biracial and multiracial people are always being produced and this topic will become more and more important as these numbers increase. In Passing, Nella Larsen includes the characters Brian Junior, or Junior, is one of Brian and Irene’s sons. She also mentions Theodore, or Ted, the other son of Brian and Irene. Lastly, she includes Margery, which is Clare and John Bellew’s daughter. Larsen infers that Margery is a light-skinned young girl. Nella never proves that Theodore and Brian Junior are mixed or black in any way. However, the readers can infer that they are of a mixed color or maybe have some of the features that mixed people do because of the fact that Irene herself is light skinned and has some black heritage. “Multiracial Children” connects with Passing because at least one child in Passing that the readers know of, is a mixed color and all of them are of black heritage. An ethnic group is a collection of people distinguished, by others or themselves, primarily on the basis of cultural or nationality characteristics. Ethnic groups have characteristics such as unique cultural traits, a sense of community, a feeling of ethnocentrism, a given “membership” from birth, and territoriality. Ethnocentrism is the tendency to regard one’s own culture and group as the standard, thus the superior. An example of this is believing that one’s traditional dress for their culture is strange. Islamic and Judaism women wear these headscarves, or hijabs as a devotion to their Gods. No matter the race or ethnicity, people should be treated fairly and have the same opportunities as everyone else unless given other circumstances. In “Where Do I Belong? The Struggles of Being Biracial” the following quote is included. “This is where the problem comes in; mixed people are constantly split into halves. Those of lighter complexion than may be labeled as Caucasian, but still be far more in touch with their African-American heritage. When people view those of mixed race by only one side of their genes, they are only seen as one half of a single whole. To not acknowledge my Caucasian or African-American heritage is to acknowledge only half of me. The same goes for those of others of mixed race, such as those who are mixed Latinas.” (“Where Do I Belong? The Struggles of Being Biracial”) Whichever race mixed people choose to embrace, they never really feel that they truly belong to one or the other. In Passing, Larsen presents black characters that “pass” as white when it is convenient to them. The characters move in and out of their two races only when it is beneficial to them. Irene never felt like she truly belonged to one or the other race. She passed as white, but only when it suited her. Irene is proud and embraces her black identity and her Harlem community, but passes at her own convenience. She does not consider it a lifestyle, but an opportunity to help her move through the white world as a black person.  “What You’ll Never Understand About Being Biracial” by Brianna Moné, is about mixed race women that tell what it is like to feel black but look white. The following quote comes from this article and tells about the struggle of fitting into one race or the other. “As humans, we have a built-in tendency to want to belong to groups, says Gaither. We are in search of family and friends because we’re social beings by nature. “For biracial people who are struggling with whether they’re white or black enough to fit in, that’s an added toll,” she says. Typically for people who are half-white and half-black, a big part of their experience is being treated -or not- like a black person in society, says Gaither. “If you don’t have those features or skin tone that can lead to the tension and prejudice that a lot of members of the black community face, then there’s this awkwardness that mixed people face in claiming a black identity,” she continues. “If you phenotypically look black, you don’t have the option of saying you’re white because you have a white parent,” adds Rockequemore, who, while biracial, identifies as African-American. “If you look white, you can identify in a full range of ways. You look ambiguous, so you have more choices of identity.”’ (Moné) Whichever race they chose to embrace, they missed the benefits of living the heritage that the latter race represented. Similarly, in “Multiracial Identity Gap and Factors Shaping Racial Identities,” this quote is by a twenty-seven year old woman. “Sometimes I identify as white because it’s easy. …Sometimes I just get tired of explaining who I am, and sometimes I just don’t care to. I also recognize that since I look white I sometimes identify that way because I know that’s what they think.” (“Multiracial Identity Gap and Factors Shaping Racial Identities) Race is still a problem to this day. Some people still have the audacity to ask mixed race people what races they actually are and which one they identify as. People should be able to leave others alone about it and accept them for who they are without questioning it. The questions that mixed race people get offend them more often than not. All of these articles prove that the impact the questions have on these particular people are obviously not small. The impact is big enough for them to write an article to tell the world about their experiences and how they made them feel. The criticism of races, racism, has been around for centuries and centuries. There is a chance to end it if individuals would accept people for who they are. All races are equal and have no opportunities that another does not.