Racial discrimination has existed in the US since the beginning of the nation. Although the US citizens are currently actively struggling against it, this struggle is mainly targeted at racism against Blacks, Hispanics, and other monoracial minorities. However, there is one more group subject to the negative effects of racism, namely, multiracial individuals, discrimination against which receives insufficient public attention. According to Dalmage (2018), the distinctive feature of multiracial discrimination is that people with two or more racial heritages experience not only “White racist abuse” but also “discrimination from their communities of color” (p. 108). This paper will discuss the influence of multiracial discrimination on individuals, the impact of multiracial distinctions on society, and the relation of these distinctions to social work practice with individuals, families, groups, and communities.
Impact on Individuals
Racial discrimination takes its toll on multiracial people’s well-being and ability to integrate into society. From childhood, multiracial individuals are forced to “choose a side and stake a claim” (Dalmage, 2018, p. 108). This results from the peculiarity of racism in the US, which divides people into groups depending on their race, and belonging to one racial group automatically excludes a person from any other racial group (Dalmage, 2018). As a consequence, multiracial individuals cannot identify with all the groups, the racial heritage of which they have in their blood; instead, they have to choose a single race to identify with.
The necessity to take sides causes various psychological problems in multiracial individuals. For example, Dalmage (2018) explored the impact of multiracial discrimination on children and distinguished five areas in which children experience social pressure. First, multiracial children are discriminated against based on their appearance that differs from standards characteristic of a particular race (Dalmage, 2018). Secondly, they are urged to use specific language shared by the members of a particular racial group (Dalmage, 2018). Although they often manage to master language nuances characteristic of different racial groups, they are subject to criticism for their bilingualism, which can be hurtful for them (Dalmage, 2018). Thirdly, multiracial children are criticized for having connections with the members of other racial groups (Dalmage, 2018). They can be forced to break any relationships with friends or even relatives who do not belong to the child’s chosen racial group (Dalmage, 2018). Two more areas of discrimination defined by Dalmage (2018) include raced social spaces and cultural capital. Multiracial children are judged by the places they attend and by cultural heritage, such as music or sports, they prefer.
The hurtful effects of multiracial discrimination proceed from childhood into adulthood and decrease these individuals’ quality of life. Jackson et al. (2012) argue that multiracial college students often felt societal pressure to identify with only one race, which caused them to have the lower motivation, lower self-esteem, fear of negative evaluation, and social anxiety. McDonald et al. (2019) found that “feeling like an outsider and being ignored contributed to racial distance and conflict in multiracial people” (p. 81). Thus, multiracial discrimination negatively affects people’s psychological state and prevents them from becoming fully integrated members of society.
Impact on Society
The existence of multiracial distinctions influences the way society functions and the way people interact with each other. Dalmage (2018) argues that, since race is an essential social construct in the US, individuals feel the need to categorize others by race to determine how they should interact with each other. In particular, White people are afraid of losing their racial status; therefore, “until they can categorize others, they feel vague and uneasy about their own racial status and identity” (Dalmage, 2018, p. 110). Hence, multiracial distinctions lead to people’s labeling others, which helps them to shape their behaviors according to the expected patterns and assert their own racial identities.
Multiracial distinctions also influence laws and policies enacted in society. When policymakers fail to consider the specific needs of people of racial minorities, it leads to these individuals’ exclusion or marginalization (National Association of Social Workers [NASW], 2007). As a consequence, racial minority groups whose needs are not addressed in public policy cannot fully exercise their rights and participate in the life of society. Thus, multiracial distinctions make legislators and policymakers pay attention to racial minorities and build the social environment favorable for all racial groups.
Implications for Social Work Practice
Social workers should keep in mind the importance of multiracial distinctions when working with individuals, families, groups, and communities. In providing counseling to multiracial individuals, social workers should not address the issue of a client’s racial conflict unless the client requests it (Jackson et al., 2012). The reason for this is that some multiracial individuals are comfortable with their multiracial identities and need help with problems other than mixed-race conflicts (Jackson et al., 2012). When working with families, social workers should inform parents of the issues that multiracial children are often faced with. They should explain to them that upbringing multiracial children using the colorblind approach and making them ignore their race is not the best strategy since it leaves children without support in struggling against discrimination (Dalmage, 2018). Finally, although social workers cannot address discrimination in communities on their own, they can encourage clients to advocate for social change and take actions to make their organizations antiracist (NASW, 2007). Hence, social workers should be aware of multiracial distinctions to handle them in their practice.
To sum up, multiracial individuals experience discrimination from multiple racial groups at once and are forced to choose what single race they identify themselves with. It makes them struggle to defend their racial identity and may result in various psychological problems. Given the effects of multiracial discrimination on individuals and society, social workers should engage in addressing this issue by fostering social and organizational change.
Dalmage, H. (2018). Patrolling racial borders: Discrimination against mixed race people. In M. Adams et al. (Eds.), Readings for diversity and social justice (4th ed., pp. 106-111). Routledge Press.
Jackson, K. F., Yoo, H. C., Guevarra, R. Jr., & Harrington, B. A. (2012). Role of identity integration on the relationship between perceived racial discrimination and psychological adjustment of multiracial people. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 59(2), 240-250. Web.
McDonald C. P., Chang, C. Y., Dispenza, F., & O’Hara, C. (2019). Multiracial identity, color-blind racial ideology, and discrimination: Professional counseling implications. Journal of Counseling & Development, 97(1), 75-85. Web.
National Association of Social Workers. (2007). Institutional racism & the social work profession: A call to action. Web.