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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

Cultural Attachment
Ra ce n
c ia n
lA e rie atio
p liz
nc Ex cia
es rly So
t ry a
E nd
a

Physical
Choice
Political Awareness and
Appearance of Racial Orientation
Identity

d Sp
l an l iri
cia rica
tu
Other Social

o al
S isto xt ity
H onte
Identities

C
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 light-
skinned 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

Cultural Attachment
Ra ce n
c ia n
lA e rie atio
p liz
nc Ex cia
es rly So
t ry a
E nd
a

Physical
Choice
Political Awareness and
Appearance of Racial Orientation
Identity

d Sp
l an l iri
cia rica
tu
Other Social

o al
S isto xt ity
H onte
Identities

C
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