The Value of Accuracy

Growing up, my race has played an incredibly large role in the way that I identify as an individual and how I define myself to others. But that hasn’t always been an easy thing for me to do.  As a biracial man there are a great deal of issues that arise in the construction of your identity as you go through life. Especially when surrounded by individuals who seem to experience the construction of their identity in a very different way in association with their race. Growing up as the son of two immigrants, a Cuban mother and Guyanese father, the development of my identity has been interesting and conflicting at times. Though I do identify primarily as Cuban and then Guyanese, mainly because I grew up spending most of my time with my mothers family on vacations and the like, I’ve known that I don’t embody what would be considered the stereotypic embodiment of a Cuban descendent.  I look very much like my father with light skin and curly hair. And as a result often at times, I am mistaken for being solely African-American, and even if people are cognizant of my Latino heritage, often call Dominican. And not that there is anything wrong with being Dominican, it’s just not who I am. So for this posting I looked at many articles regarding race and the impact that differing social contexts and experiences have on individuals who are bi- or multi-racial. And among them I found a study investigating the effect that the misattribution of categorized races to an individual who is biracial has on their behavior by Dr. Jessica Remedios from Tufts University and Dr. Alison Chasteen from Toronto University conducted in 2013.  They conducted this study o investigate the possibility that bi- and multi-racial individuals look to those around them to verify and support the racial identities that they have given themselves

In this study they took multiple students, both multiracial and monoracial, from undergraduate institutions and studied their responses to theoretical individuals who perceived their racial background as accurate (consistent with) or confusing (unsure of) the participants personal identifications. Depending on the condition they were assigned, Remedios and Chasteen predicted that individuals who were in the confusing condition would have a lesser interest in conversing and interacting with the theoretical partner as much as they would want to interact with individuals that correctly identify their self-perception of their race. And that’s what they found, individuals who were bi- or multi-racial were interested more in interacting with the partner who was accurate regarding their self-perception of race. They also found that individuals in the accurate condition were genuinely surprised that the individual was able to accurately identify them. They attributed this to the fact that accurate events were less common and more novel than confusion or misattribution of their race.  In addition, they believe that people are more receptive to partners if they were accurate because their self-perceptions were reinforced and supported by other people.

This article was quite interesting and taught me some things about myself that I hadn’t been completely aware of about myself and the interactions I have with people regarding my race.  I do find myself interacting most with those people that affirm and reinforce who I am, though I should have no qualms of where I belong.  But these social interactions that we have and feelings we experience are often automatic and on the edge of our periphery.  And without having read this article I would not have realize this.  For anyone interested in the effects that social interactions have on race and the potential implications in regards tot he bods we share with those around us, I highly recommend reading this article.

Remedios, J.D., & Chasteen, A.L. (2013). Finally, someone who “gets” me! Multiracial people value others’ accuracy about their race. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 19, 453-460. doi:10.1037/a0032249.

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