The Factor Model of Multiracial Identity (FMMI

)
From the work of Charmaine L. Wijeyesinghe, Presented by FUSION

How to use FMMI
• The FMMI was developed from a qualitative study of African American/European American Multiracial adults. Participants in the study chose a range of racial identities, including Black, White, and Multiracial. In addition, participants varied in age, life experience, economic class, and gender. Factors of FMMI are helping agents to understating the experiences of Multiracial people and their choices of racial identity. Ex. A person who identifies as Multiracial may base his identity mainly on his racial ancestry, early socialization and physical appearance. In contrast, a Multiracial person who identifies as Monoracial may base her identity on her physical appearance and current political and cultural orientations. Many factors have an overlapping relationship.

Multi-racial Identity Development
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Cultural Attachment

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Physical Appearance

Choice of Racial Identity
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Political Awareness and Orientation

Other Social Identities

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Racial Ancestry
•For many people being multiracial and having a multiracial identity are matters of family tree. Some people who identify as multiracial base their identity in large part of the racial makeup of their families. •Multiracial people who choose Monoracial identities may rely of racial ancestry to a lesser degree. •For example: some Multiracial people who identify as black may acknowledge and appreciate their White ancestry and the experiences they have in relation to it. But they may feel it has little relevance to their day-to-day lives since they look Black and live as Black people and have a strong connection to Black culture.

Early Experiences and Socialization
o Multiracial people’s family, community, and social institutions create a system of socialization which can have a strong effect of choice of racial identity. While some multiracial people retain their original racial identity throughout their lives, others may change their choice of racial identity in response to later experiences in life.
– Example of Parental assignment » “I’ve always said the same thing, which is that I’m Black. And if they say, “well, what are your parents?” Then I say, “my father’s this and my mother’s that.” I remember having a conversation with my father when he told me that because of the history of race in this country, that people who had any Black ancestry were considered black.” (Quoted in Wijeyesinghe 1992:23)

Cultural Attachment
– Aspects of culture that Multiracial people are exposed to in their past and present environments can also affect their choice of racial identity. – A Multiracial person’s choice of a Multiracial identity may reflect, in part, exposure and attachment to cultural traditions that encompass all of a person’s racial background. However, such experiences do not guarantee the choice of a Multiracial identity in childhood or adulthood. – The relationship between cultural attachment and choice of racial identity Is affected by at least some of the other factors represented in the FMMI. For example, claiming a Black identity, based on a strong preference for Black culture, may be less of an option for a Multiracial person who looks White than for a person who appears to be Black.

Physical Appearance
o Physical appearance can support some Multiracial people’s choice of racial identity and facilitate their acceptance into particular racial community. For others, appearance can lead to a speculation or questions from people they encounter. Appearance can also create barriers for some Multiracial people choosing certain racial identities, or being seen as members of certain racial groups.
o A Multiracial woman who looks white commented:
o “What I have to offer [the Black community] is a lot, but because of my physical appearance, I’m not gonna be taken serious. It’s hard in a way hat I almost want to be able to wear a sign or something letting people know of my background and whatever, so that they can accept me first and then hear what I got to say.” (Quoted in Wijeyesinghe 1992:199)

Social and Historical Context
– Living with the legacy of the One Drop Rule the majority of Multiracial people born prior to the last two decades of the twentieth century could only identify with their “minority” ancestry. – For many reasons such as increase in population, increased public awareness and emerging Multiracial rights movement. Multiracial people born during the 1980’s and 1990’s have greater options for claiming various racial identities, including a Multiracial identity. – Most visible outcome of the changing times and circumstances can be seen in the U.S. Census forms which began in the year 2000 to allow individuals to check more than one box to indicate their race.

Political Awareness and Orientation
o Choosing a Multiracial identity may be seen by some people as a politically oriented response to social systems that, for the most part still expect Multiracial people to choose a Monoracial identity. o This influence of political orientation on choice of racial identity can be seen in the comment of a Multiracial woman who identified as Black.
o “If I were married to a White man and had a lightskinned son, that would also be for me a political implication because it would be in a sense watering down the African American, which I don’t think needs to happen” (quoted in Wijeyesinghe 1992:151).

Other Social Identities
o Other social identities beyond race can mediate the choice of racial identity for some Multiracial people. In some instances, immediate issues related to identity may not include race at all, but be based on nonracial aspects of Multiracial people’s experience. o Racial identity may reflect an integration of racial and nonracial social identities, such as gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic class.
o Quote from young Multiracial man.
o “The majority of my life isn’t spent thinking about racial anything. It’s spent thinking about paychecks, and money, and moving, and day-to-day sort of things” (quoted in Wijeyesinghe 1992:240).

Spirituality
o Racial identity within the FMMI represents the result of an individual’s internal meaning-making process at a given point in life. For some Multiracial people, part of this process is influenced by personal spiritual beliefs, traditions, or experiences.
o Quote from a Multiracial woman who identified as Black and was also a Bah’ai.
o “I think that man is the one that gives all theses names, plus the need to identify certain things. When we break down man and say “well, he’s this and he’s that,’ but we’re all one people” (quoted in Wijeyesinghe 1992:123).

Multi-racial Identity Development
Ra c

Cultural Attachment

ia lA

nc

es t

ry

e nc on ie i er zat p li Ex cia ly o ar S E nd a

Physical Appearance

Choice of Racial Identity
nd l a al ia oc toric t S is x H onte C

Political Awareness and Orientation

Other Social Identities

Sp iri

tu al

ity

Questions regarding FMMI
• Do some factors represented in the FMMI play a more significant role in Multiracial people’s choice of racial identity? Which factors tend to underlie the choice of a Monoracial identity, and which ones tend to support the choice of Multiracial identity? How do individual Multiracial people address major discrepancies between the factors underlying their racial identity, such as when a person identifies as Multiracial but is perceived by others to be White, based on appearance? What factors, in addition to those represented in the FMMI, affect choice of racial identity in Multiracial people? •

Thank You!
• For more information contact FUSION at fusion@hamline.edu. • Additional Resources: • Loving Day
– Lovingday.org

• Mavin Foundation
– mavinfoundation.org

• IPRIDE
– ipride.org

• National Mixed Race Students Coalition
– mixedstudents.org

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