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Being Raced, Acting Racially: Multiracial Tribal College Students' Representations of Their Racial Identity Choices

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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1928/12098

Being Raced, Acting Racially: Multiracial Tribal College Students' Representations of Their Racial Identity Choices

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Title: Being Raced, Acting Racially: Multiracial Tribal College Students' Representations of Their Racial Identity Choices
Author: Montgomery, Michelle
Advisor(s): Allen, Ricky Lee
Committee Member(s): Hunter, Margaret
Lopez, Nancy
Zancanella, Donald
Department: University of New Mexico. Division of Language, Literacy and Sociocultural Studies
Subject: mixed-race
multiracialism
race
identity
Native American
critical race theory
LC Subject(s): Indians--Mixed descent--Social conditions
Indians of North America--Ethnic identity
Indian college students--United States--Social conditions

Indian college students--United States--Attitudes
Degree Level: Doctoral
Abstract: In recent years, many studies have clearly documented that mixed-race people are currently engaged in the process of self validation (DaCosta. 2007; Dalmage, 2003; McQueen, 2002; Root, 1996 & 2001; Spencer, J, M., 1997; Spencer, R., 2006a; Thorton, 1992). There is not a lot of empirical research that examines how schools influence the racial identity of multiracial students, in particular mixed-race students that identify as Native American. Even more troubling is the lack of literature on experiences of mixed-race students using racial identity choice as a social and political tool through race discourse and actions. The aim of this qualitative case study was to look at the relationship between the racial agency of multiracial students and the larger white supremacist social structure. The research questions addressed in this study are as follows: (1) How do the formal and informal schooling contexts shape the identity choices of multiracial students? (2) How do the identity choices of multiracial students conform to an/or resist the racialized social system of the United States? This study was conducted at a tribal college in New Mexico with selected mixed-race participants who identified as Native American, or acknowledged Native American ancestry. At the time of data collection, the school enrollment was 513 students, representing 83 federally recognized tribes and 22 state recognized tribes. The presence of a multi-racial body of students created a unique contributing factor of multiracial participants for a broader understanding of mixed-race experiences in cultural and traditional learning environments. The study was conducted using qualitative case study methodology of mixed-race students interviewed in the last weeks of the fall semester (pre-interview) and once during the last few weeks of the spring semester (post interviews). Mixed-race students were asked to discuss nine group sessions during the spring semester their lived experiences that influenced their identity choices. The sample for this study represented mixed-race participants from various tribal communities. In an eight-month time period of the study, nine participants were interviewed and participated in-group sessions. Of the nine total in sample, two were male, seven were female; three were Native American/white, two were black/white/Native American, three were Hispanic/white/Native American, and one were Hispanic/Native American. From my analysis of the nine participants’ mixed-race experience, three overarching themes emerged: (a) racial(ized) self-perceptions, (b) peer interactions and influences, and (c) impact on academic experiences. Of the nine participants, how a students’ race was asserted, assigned, and reassigned appears to be determined by being mixed-race with black versus white or non-black. According to the participants, this particular tribal college did not provide a supportive or welcoming environment. As a result, students were highly stratified based on experiences tied to their phenotype and racial mixture; the more “black” they appeared, the more alienated they were. In the classroom, there was often a divide between black/Native mixed-race students versus white/Native mixed-race students, similar to the differences between monoracial white and black student experiences. As a result of dissimilar experiences based on mixedness, there were group association conflicts during their schooling experiences that included feeling vicitimized when their whiteness did not prevail as an asset or being alienated due to blackness. The study also found a clear distinction between the mixed-race black experience versus the mixed-race with white experience based on phenotypic features. Overall, mixed-race with black schooling experiences indicated situations of racial conflict. The findings of this study have policy implications for tribal colleges and other institutions to develop programs and services to help mixed-race students identify and bond with their learning environments.
Graduation Date: December 2010
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1928/12098


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