Understanding the multiracial disadvantage: “One who lives in two worlds, in both of which he is more or less of a stranger.”

Date of Award

Spring 2014

Document Type


First Advisor

Rebecca Overmyer-Velazquez


The literature on biracialism generally states that those individuals with diverse identities are more likely to have negative experiences, which will lead to feelings of isolation in society. These feelings of isolation are said to be attributed to a lack of ‘belonging’; biracial individuals are unable to be classified into racial categories, like their monoracial peers thus placing them as minorities within minorities. My research question is: how are biracial experiences affected by environment, education, parents and labeling from peers, and where do they fit into society? To see the differences in how these factors affect biracial experiences, I conducted 14 qualitative interviews consisting of two separate groups: One group of 6 individuals who are half White, half Japanese and have lived in Japan, and another group of 8 of half White half minority biracial Whittier College students. All participants where half White and half minority, including Japanese, Korean, African American, Hispanic, Filipino, and Greek. The reason for choosing participants who are half Japanese and have lived in Japan, is to get a sense of their experiences living in a more conservative and monoracial country as opposed to America: “The melting pot”. I also chose half Japanese participants because of my own ethnicity and experiences being half Japanese having lived in both Japan and the United States. My findings indicate that these individuals have positive experiences and have pride in their diverse identities, which refutes existing literature. While some participants admitted that being biracial as a child meant isolation and discomfort in some social situations, all are now proud of their diverse identities, although this pride came with age and later self-acceptance. The interviews indicated two polar kinds of experiences between those participants who are Japanese/have lived in Japan, and students here at Whittier College. These differences were characterized by their social experiences; how did their peers treat them? For example, those in Japan experienced more phenotypic discrimination than those in the United States. Differences such as these brought to light the importance of issues such as phenotype labeling, parental heritage, self-identity versus perceived identity, and culture. All participants have stated that society has become more accepting of diverse racial identities but that they are still subject to labeling and racial stereotypes. While these are a negative aspect of being biracial, the overall attitude towards their situation suggests that the literature is outdated and incorrect.


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