Family and Race Matters: Identity Development in Monoracial, Biracial, and Transracial Families

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This study explores how black middle class identity is learned and negotiated in families where parents and children may or may not be of the same race. In contrast to the literature on the black family, which focuses primarily on low-income black families, I examine the experiences of middle class youth who have grown up in three different racialized family structures including, monoracial, biracial, and transracial families. I define monoracial families as two black parents raising their biological black child/children, biracial families as one white and one black parent raising their biological biracial child/children and transracial families as two white parents raising an adoptive black child/children. Drawing from 28 in-depth, semi-structured interviews with middle class young black adults between 18 and 30 years old, I explore informants' socialization experiences as they differ by racialized family structure. Reflecting their shared status of being both black and middle class, the formative experiences of young black adults raised in different racialized family structures are largely similar. Specifically, all informants struggled with accusations of "acting white" by black peers which called their "authentic blackness" into question. Young black women also share similar experiences of competition with and alienation from other black women, particularly those belonging to the lower classes. Finally, all informants de-emphasize the ascribed status of race in favor of achieved statuses when asked to describe and define themselves. While informants share similar racial identity struggles, their attitudes and interpretations did differ by racialized family structure. Based on their socialization experiences, informants from biracial and transracial families tend to equate blackness with conditions of urban poverty in contrast to informants from monoracial families who view black culture in diverse ways. Biracial and adopted participants also attribute their alienation from black peers to the fact that they have at least one white parent. Finally, while middle class status appears to play a role in the experiences of all informants, none willingly acknowledge the influence of class in their lives. This study concludes with a discussion of the implications of these findings for broader theories of middle class black identity.


2008 Thesis (Ph. D.)--Boston University, 2008.