African American School Counselors: Their Perceptions of Biracial Individuals

Article excerpt

The purpose of this study was to explore African American school counselor's perceptions of biracial individuals. A subset of data, taken from an original sample of 328 school counselors, consisted of 122 African American participants. Results indicated that the majority of African American school counselors believed that biracial individuals were more accepted by minorities than Caucasians. In addition, they also did not perceive biracial individuals experiencing any more academic or behavioral problems than other children. Regarding identity, the majority of African American participants believed that racial identity issues were the major cause of presenting problems for biracial individuals.

African American School Counselors' Perceptions of Biracial Individuals

The United States has become increasing more racially and ethnically diverse and the results of this diversification have contributed to a rise in the number of minority children attending public schools. Of the 46.8 million children attending public schools during the year 2000, 39% were identified as minority. Since 1972 that equates to nearly a 50% increase (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2002). Although there is no data available regarding the number of biracial individuals attending public schools, it is highly possible that many have been identified solely as minority students and their numbers have increased as well. Gibbs and Moskowitz-Sweet (1991) define a biracial person as one who is a product of a union in which one parent is from one race and the other parent is from another race. Multiracial is also another term used to describe individuals from two or more different races (The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 2000). For the purpose of this article, the terms biracial and multiracial will be used interchangeably.

Current Status of Biracial Individuals

According to Kalish (1995), data from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) showed multiracial births grew from over 63,000 to nearly 133,200 between 1978 and 1992. During the same period, the number of biracial births significantly increased between African American and European American parents, rising from 21,400 to almost 56,000. The number of biracial children born with Asian and European American unions nearly doubled to about 42,000. Biracial children from Native Americans and European American unions also increased 70 percent, to approximately 21,800 births. These reported figures might not reflect the actual numbers of multiracial births, because characteristics of the father were not taken into consideration for 16% of the overall births (Kalish, 1995).

The most recent number of multiracial individuals provided by Census 2000 revealed that of the total population of 216.9 million people, 6.8 million (2.4%) individuals reported more than one race. The African American population was reported at 36.4 million, yet only 1.8 million (4.8%) indicated they were of more than one race (U.S. Bureau of Census, 2001). This is astonishing because less than 100 years ago, census statisticians estimated that approximately 75% of the African-American population was a combination of both Black and White races (Williamson, 1980). More recently Valentine (1995) declared "it is estimated that between 75 percent and 95 percent of all blacks could define themselves something other than black because of their mixed heritage" (p. 47). Based on the results of Census 2000, it appears that official acknowledgement of a multiracial heritage is occurring only within a small percentage of the African American population.

Brief History of Interracial Marriage

African Americans have a controversial background with respect to interracial marriage and biracial individuals in the United States. Greenberg (1999) declared that legal statutes, also known as antimiscegenation laws, first appeared in the Colonies in the late 1600s. The laws were created to discourage interracial sexual relations and ban marriage between African Americans and Caucasians. …