Biracial individuals, as demarcated by having one white and one non-white parent, hold a unique social position in the United States. Situated in a white racial hierarchy, individuals of mixed races are, in some ways, caught between racial lines—they do not embody one racial category but rather two. Given that biracial individuals exist outside of established racial binaries, one is left wondering in what manner they racially identify. While some research argues that raced Americans (that is, those who are raced as non-white) are confined by their racial appearance and hence limited in ethnic identity options (Waters 1990; Gans 1979), more recent research finds that raced Americans experience a degree of opportunity and choice in the expression of an ethnic and/or racial identity (Khanna 2011). My research, situated between these two polar studies, finds that biracial individuals are at once both confined and free. Comprised of eleven interviews with biracial individuals across three racial categories (black, Asian and Latino), I ask: How do biracial individuals racially self-identify? In what manner and to what extent does phenotype affect the way in which individuals choose a particular identity? And how do individuals express their identity through ethnic and/or racial symbols? What I find is that, in support of Waters’ (1990) and Gans’ (1979) assertions, respondents’ phenotypes greatly affect the way in which they racially identify—respondents tend to draw on racial and ethnic symbols opposite their phenotype in order to either fit in or stand out. In particular, I find that phenotypically non-white respondents draw on American ethnicity in order to claim white affiliation and assimilation. At the same time, however, respondents, like Khanna’s (2011), maintain the freedom to draw on symbols of race and ethnicity. And regardless of phenotype, individuals predominately draw on symbols of non-whiteness to claim feelings of being different and unique.
This study examines the effects of social class, race, and cultural capital on academic experience and social belonging at Colorado College. Survey data from a sample of Colorado College students about academic and social engagement at CC is analyzed in an attempt to explore how students are impacted by their social class, race, and cultural capital. Specifically, this study analyzes classroom engagement, intellectual confidence, and social belonging at Colorado College, focusing primarily on how social class and race/ethnicity intersect in ways to affect educational and social outcomes. Particular attention is paid to the ways in which “doubly disadvantaged” students, those who are first generation college students and students of color experience unique challenges at a predominantly white institution. The analysis suggests that first generation students of color face more challenges in the classroom and feel less connected to the student body than their peers. The study’s findings suggest that more attention and support need to be given to the “doubly disadvantaged” to help increase their academic and social engagement at CC. Additionally, this study advocates more research be done on the inequalities that working class minority students face within the education system.