Racial/ethnic Identities and Related Attributed Experiences of Multiracial Japanese European Americans

By Suyemoto, Karen L. | Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development, October 2004 | Go to article overview

Racial/ethnic Identities and Related Attributed Experiences of Multiracial Japanese European Americans


Suyemoto, Karen L., Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development


Surveys from 50 multiracial Japanese European Americans supported the endorsement of multiple simultaneous racial/ethnic identities and a differentiated multiracial identity. Experiences associated with being multiracial included feeling different, sensitivity to cultural cues, appreciation of different viewpoints, acceptance of difference, and disliking exclusion. Implications for research and therapy are discussed.

Los estudios de 50 Americanos Japoneses Europeos multiraciales sostuvieron la aprobacion de multiples identidades racial/etnicos simultaneas y una identidad multiracial diferenciada. Las experiencias relacionadas con ser multiracial, sentirse diferente, la sensibilidad de indicaciones culturales, reconocimiento de puntos de vista diferentes, aceptacion de diferencia, y la aversion de exclusion. Las implicaciones para la investigacion y terapia se discuten.

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In the 2000 U.S. census, 6.8 million people (2.4%) actively endorsed two racial categories (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2001). This is likely an underreporting of the multiracial population, given that many racial/ethnic minority group organizations lobbied against endorsing multiple races because of the lack of clarity regarding how the census data would be used regarding allocating resources or creating policy related to racial and ethnic groups. In 1990, 50% of the respondents to the U.S. census reported mixed ancestry (Waters, 2000). Sociologists already estimate that up to 90% of Black Americans have White ancestors (Wehrley, 1996), the majority of Latinos/as and American Indians are of mixed racial and ethnic heritage (Amaro & Zambrana, 2000; Fernandez, 1992; Mihesuah, 1996), and interracial marriage is becoming the numerical norm for some racial/ethnic minority groups such as American Indians and Japanese American women (Jaimes, 1995; Kitano, Fujino, & Sato 1998).

In spite of these trends, the psychological literature on racial/ethnic identity continues to predominantly reflect the monoracial experience both in the individuals who participate in research and in the theories/models that are constructed. Two of the most problematic aspects of monoracial racial/ethnic identity models for multiracial people are the assumptions that there will be a single reference group in the identity development process and a single "achieved identity" (Kerwin & Ponterotto, 1995; Root, 1990). The pressure to choose only one identity and the social message that having multiple identities is problematic have been continually identified as difficult for multiracial individuals (Gibbs & Hines, 1992; Hall, 1992; Root, 1990, 1997).

Hall (1992) reported that 10 of her 30 Black Japanese interviewees chose the "other" category rather than a single identification as only Japanese or only Black. The comments made by the individuals whom she interviewed indicated that choosing only one monoracial identity was frustrating and limiting. Gibbs and Hines's (1992) interviews with 12 multiracial adolescents and their 10 families also described conflicts about having to choose only one identity or heritage. C. W. Stephan and Stephan (1989) conducted the only quantitative study that explicitly explored multiple ethnic identities. Their survey of students with multiethnic backgrounds (not all multiracialas usually defined in the United States; e.g.,Japanese Chinese students were included) found that 73% of Japanese multiethnic participants listed a multiple identity on at least one of the five situationally specific ethnic identity questions (e.g., "When you are with your closest friends, which ethnic group do you feel you belong to?"). In their second study with Hispanic multiethnic students, 44% of the students listed a multiple identity on at least one measure. In spite of these studies identifying difficulties with a single, monoracial identification, I do not know of any published research that explicitly investigates the extent to which multiracial individuals actually do identify in multiple ways. …

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