The purpose of this research is to show how biracial people narrate their identities and how people in society influence biracial individuals' constructions of their self. This is significant because this research obtains perspectives from individuals who simultaneously occupy a privileged and underprivileged identity. In highlighting the experiences of biracial people and their constructions of the self, this research answered questions surrounding how they perform their identities in social situations and how they negotiate passing privileges granted to some based on visual perceptions and/or skin tone.
This research was done using qualitative research methodologies, as these give more insights into the lived experiences of participants. Data collection was done through semi-structured interviews with seven black/white biracial participants. Interviews were then transcribed word-for-word and I conducted an incident-by-incident thematic analysis to construct findings.
Findings suggested that biracial individuals articulate and perform their racial identities in multiple ways that represent their lived experiences. Furthermore, passing privileges were interpreted in distinctly different fashions, where light-skinned biracial people view passing as "lying" to oneself and dark-skinned biracial people had no issues with passing. Through these findings, I concluded that the fluidity of biracial identity causes black/white biracial individuals to construct and perform their identities in several ways such as hair texture and code-switching. Additionally, these individuals felt pressured to pass as white, as whiteness ideologies are forced upon them by their families, peers, or other members of society. This perpetuates the idea that biracial people are only allowed to identify with a single racial identity rather than with both of their identities, and highlights a separation in privileges given to some biracial individuals over others based on the color of their skin.
Date of Degree
Master of Arts (MA)
Arts and Humanities
Peavy, A. (2018). To Pass or Not to Pass? Constructing and Negotiating Biracial Identity [Master’s thesis, Minnesota State University, Mankato]. Cornerstone: A Collection of Scholarly and Creative Works for Minnesota State University, Mankato. https://cornerstone.lib.mnsu.edu/etds/813/
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