Racial Binary

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Dylan Frank 9/30/16 ANT 190 FSEM Professor Knauft
Existing Outside of the Racial Binary
The way an individual perceives his or her own personal identity can differ greatly from how he or she is seen by society. Although race is a social construct, its impact has been profound. Although appearance is based on genetics (with some limited environmental influences), our categorization of physical features that are not Euro-centric (such as darker skin, mono-lid eyes, etc.) as outside of the mainstream contributes to discrimination against individuals having them. The essay anthology Mixed: Multiracial College Students Tell Their Life Stories highlights the issues that multiracial individuals face in trying to come terms with their identities
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While living in Cape Verde, a society with many Black/White mixed-race individuals, De Brito had seen herself (and was perceived by others) as White. Upon arriving in the US, however, De Brito began to see herself as different from White people. For De Brito, her experience as a multiracial individual in America involves others questioning her Black identity. Because of her physical appearance (hair that was not "nappy," light skin), De Brito was not seen as being truly Black. In response to the invalidation of her Black identity by her peers at Dartmouth, De Brito tires to act more Black. She wears her hair curly, and feels pressured to take up the "accents and mannerisms" of her Black friends, becoming "a great actress in the role of black American" (De Brito, 28). In changing her "accents and mannerisms" to conform with the cultural expectations of being Black in America, De Brito is inauthentic to herself, and thus deprives herself of the opportunity to become more comfortable with her multiracial identity. De Brito 's feelings of self-doubt stem from the fact that she feels caught between two races. Although De Brito 's Cape Verdean mixed-race ethnicity grants her some things that can be perceived as privileges within the Black community (light skin, easy-to-manage hair), it also comes with exoticization,…show more content…
While De Brito struggle to be accepted as Black, Vance must cope with the prejudice that comes with being part of two ethnic groups (Black and Middle Eastern) that are both greatly discriminated against in America. For example, if Vance goes to a coffee shop and wants to get in and out "without any hassles," he will dress in accordance with African-American stereotypes. If he wants to chat with the other customers (or get work done) in the coffee shop, he will wear different types of outfits. In being able to work with the "social constructions" associated with Blackness to "portray both positive and negative racial images," Vance demonstrates a greater agency over his multiracial identity as opposed to De Brito. In describing his identity, Vance proclaims the following: "I am not half of anything: I am fully black and fully Iranian. Moreover, my identity cannot be reduced to mere fractions...I am mixed, and there is no personal distress in my being so" (Vance, 144). In saying that he experiences "no personal distress" in being mixed, Vance demonstrates that he has triumphed over societal categorizations of race in a way that De Brito has not. Vance seems to have much more fully accepted his multiracial
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