SOC 120-Research Proposal Part III_Including Extra Credit_Lisa Camarillo
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December 19, 2016
Social Identity and Marginalization of the Bi-Racial Community
The sociological issue I am addressing is social identity and acceptance of people
from a bi-racial or multi-ethnic background by members of their mono-racial ethnic in-
groups and the effects it has on these individuals’ self-acceptance and self-esteem.
It is important to study this issue sociologically because there is a rapid growth of
bi-raciality in America today. Actually, the numbers of bi-racial members in society have
been around for quite some time. These members have been marginalized by race
categories. People of dual races have had to choose between their two races as which
to identify themselves as. There is a cumulative voice pushing for “bi-racial” as its own
category. The result of this movement brings me to the question of what effects or impact
does it have on a bi-racial member’s personal acceptance and identity when they are not
fully included and accepted in membership of either race or ethnic in-group?
I will begin my research with the scientific method, creating a theory and
hypotheses to answer my question. Additionally I will use operationalization to test my
hypotheses by asking questions on how bi-racial and mono-racial members view racial
identity and measure the variables at hand.
I will use the Social Identity Theory (SIT) to frame my research because “SIT, in
particular, has been used to explain a wide range of inter-group phenomena, including
inter-group discrimination” (Smithson, 2). My theory consists of understanding why
members of the bi-racial community are not fully accepted by either side. A
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secondary theory I would use to frame my research is the Critical Race Theory which
takes a sociopolitical standpoint on identity and marginalization of race.
According to the article "My Choice, Your Categories: The Denial of Multiracial
Identities" (2009) authors, Townsend et al test theories that “mixed raced individuals
encounter situations in which their identities are a source of tension” (186) and that
constraining a person of mixed race to categorically decide which race they belong to
negatively affects their self-esteem. Townsend et al explain that there are limited
choices in demographic information to identify race on paper and there is usually not an
option available to choose mixed or multi-race category which creates repression for
individuals who identify with more than one race. Additionally, the authors argue that
“compelling multi-racial respondents to select a single racial identity requires them to
categorize themselves in a way that does not reflect their actual identification” (186).
Both of these circumstances result in a denial of self-identity for multi-racial individuals.
Townsend et al use an open-ended questionnaire to determine if the individuals
will mention their complaints regarding the structure of limited demographic forms and
when they do express their judgments, the authors use “self-report methods and an
experimental paradigm which prompts respondents to identify themselves with one
race. This methodology prepares the authors for understanding the effects of
marginalization of multi-racial individuals and the influence it has on their self-esteem.
The research done by Townsend et al was exceptionally thorough. For each
survey they had a sufficient sample amount of participants whom were college students.
I believe the use of open-ended questions were appropriate for their research and what
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was asked of the respondents were extremely clear. The only apparent shortcoming
was that one of their questions was double-barreled and could’ve potentially been
difficult to answer. Overall, their research design was very organized and by the book in
regards to the Sociology discipline.
In the article, "Mixed-Race Women and Epistemologies of Belonging" (2010)
author Silvia Bettez argues that in order to successfully analyze the perspective of a
mixed race woman’s identity, that it is essential to study the way she speaks about and
defines herself within her ethnicity (ies). When interviewing her 6 respondents or as
Bettez refers to it “focus group”, the entirety would not describe their racial background
as “I am White and African American or I am White and Mexican American”, they would
explain their race based on where their parents came from. For example, they explained
how their parents identified their race, “my mom is White-German descent and my
father is African American, from New York”.
Bettez borrows her methodologies from Stuart Hall and Paul Gilroy. She framed
her research with conceptualizing the theory of “understanding identity as being
constituted discursively and that identities are created through discourse” (160) hence
the analysis of how the focus group describes their racial identities. Secondly, she
borrows Gilroy’s theory that “mixed people are hated and feared because they threaten
purity” (161). This justifies why a woman of mixed race may feel rejected by the
ingroups of her racial background. One of the respondents states “how Latino do I have
to be? What counts and what doesn’t? You know, like will the real Mexicans please
stand up?” (159). Bettez operationalizes her research by soliciting a focus group with a
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flier displaying well-known mixed raced celebrities with the question “Are you a woman
of mixed heritage?” in bold.
Although the research done by Bettez did not have a large population size, the
results from her questionnaire were impressively detailed. The respondents were
college students and very willing to answer the questions presented to them. One
shortcoming in Bettez’s research method was it was there was only one method.
According to Babbie, “researchers find the safest ground when they employ several
research methods in studying a given topic” (305).
My initial research question of “is social identity and acceptance from a bi-racial
or multi-ethnic background by members of their mono-racial ethnic in-groups have an
effect on an individuals’ self-acceptance and self-esteem?” directly relates to both of the
articles discussed. The main focus of each literature is an attempt to understand the
difficulties a multi-racial individual experiences in life and how it forms their self-concept.
According to both readings, rejection from the mono-racial in group and marginalization
of race categories creates tension and frustration for a multi-racial individual.
The final portion of my research will go over the methods and preliminary data.
The data collection process I have chosen is to triangulate methods using both
quantitative and qualitative methods. Triangulating methods gives me the opportunity of
collecting versatile information and to be able to understand the issue from multiple
For the quantitative method, I will be collecting data by exploring the use of both
a survey and to research existing data on the issue. The research will be conducted at a
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variety of local colleges. At each college, I will attempt to collect existing data on the
racial demographic of the specific area prior to my survey in order to ensure a diverse
sample amount. The next collection of data will be a survey. The purpose of the survey
will be a census of the participant’s different racial backgrounds. The survey will also
include the participant’s age, sex and contact information. Additionally, the survey will
include a consent to contact the participants for further questioning on the issue. The
target group of participants will be in both the Latino and African American descent
ranging from the ages twenty-one to forty-four years old. They data collection of
surveying and researching of existing data would be done over a time frame of four to
For the qualitative method, data will be collected by performing in depth
interviews with participants. The participants of the in depth interviews will be randomly
selected from the initial survey that was performed. The interviews will consist of both
group and individual data. Below is an illustration of the type of questions that will be
asked to the participants:
How do you describe your race?
How do you identify yourself in terms of race?
Do you connect culturally with members of the race(s) you belong to?
Have you ever felt like an outsider when interacting with or by a member of your
race(s) that are non bi-racial members?
Do you feel like you fit in culturally with either race or both?
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The time frame for the qualitative data collection method will be over a three to
four week period.
In order to analyze the data collected, I will utilize the techniques that coincide
with each type of data which are quantitative and qualitative analysis. A frequency
distribution will be used to find the percentage of participants with a Latino and African
American racial background within the appropriate age range who are interested in
further pursuing and in depth interview. Qualitative data analysis will be used to analyze
the responses from the in depth interviews. During this process, I will read and review
all transcripts collected from the in depth interviews and compare them to any
observation notes I’ve taken during the interviews. I will then compare and analyze any
reoccurring themes in the respondent’s transcripts and conceptualize the data collected.
The next step would to summarize the events and apply them to the theories
which initially framed my research design. The two theories I used to frame my research
design are the Social Identity Theory (SIT), which addresses intergroup discrimination
and the effects of self-identity and the Critical Race Theory, which addresses a
sociopolitical standpoint and understanding of what effects culture and society have on
A limitation to data that may occur during the data collection is the accuracy of
the existing data of the racial demographic of the population of the colleges I will
attempt to survey. Currently, racial censuses do not include a “mixed race” category.
This would create an issue with getting a good sample of the population of a bi-racial
community. I would have to hope from the results that the most diversified college will
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happen to have a strong amount of bi-racial participants to attract. At this point, if the
sample is too hard to collect, I may have to reconsider my data collection method with
“snowballing” which is equivalent to being referred to others in bi-racial community
directly from the participants I have come in contact with during the initial data collection
survey. A secondary consideration that may occur is the possible negative or
restraining perception of the interviewer by the participants. Would the interviewees be
comfortable disclosing personal feelings and information to someone of their own
race(s) or someone outside of their race(s)?
There are many reasons, my research on social identity and the marginalization
of the bi-racial community is paramount. The first and foremost being that current racial
censuses ultimately denies identity to people with a multi-racial background. The current
structure of racial categorization marginalizes people of more than one race by placing
them in a “racial purgatory” seeking entrance into the pearly gates of acceptance and a
healthy self-identity. Secondly, with this research, multi-racial citizens can succeed at
breaking down discrimination barriers within their ethnic groups. Being rejected by one
or both sides of your racial background because you are not fully one or the other
creates tension, resentment and potentially anger. Breaking down cultural barriers
offers a person of a multi-racial background an opportunity to assimilate into their
cultural heritages harmoniously without any guilt or self-consciousness attached. The
integration of identifying with each culture fosters a more positive and healthy self-
identity to the multi-racial community.
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Bettez, Silvia Cristina. "Mixed-Race Women and Epistemologies of
Belonging." Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies 31.1 (2010): 142-
165. Academic Search Premier. Web. 21 Mar. 2016.
Caricati, Luca, and Nadia Monacelli. "Social Hierarchies and Intergroup Discrimination:
The Case of the Intermediate Status Group." British Journal of Social Psychology
49.3 (2010): 637-646. Academic Search Premier. Web. 22 Feb. 2016.
Gaither, Sarah E., et al. "Monoracial and Biracial Children: Effects of Racial Identity
Saliency on Social Learning and Social Preferences." Child Development 85.6
(2014): 2299-2316. Academic Search Premier. Web. 22 Feb. 2016.
Nuttgens, Simon. "Biracial Identity Theory And Research Juxtaposed With Narrative
Accounts Of A Biracial Individual." Child & Adolescent Social Work Journal 27.5
(2010): 355-364. Academic Search Premier. Web. 22 Feb. 2016.
Smith, Sean. "Biracial Identity: Beyond Black and White." Boston College. Web. 22 Feb.
Smithson, Michael, Arthur Sopeña, and Michael J. Platow. "When Is Group
Membership Zero-Sum? Effects of Ethnicity, Threat, and Social Identity on Dual
National Identity." Plos ONE 10.6 (2015): 1-18. Academic Search Premier. Web.
22 Feb. 2016.
Townsend, Sarah S. M., Hazel R. Markus, and Hilary B. Bergsieker. "My Choice, Your
Categories: The Denial of Multiracial Identities." Journal of Social Issues 65.1
(2009): 185-204.Academic Search Premier. Web. 21 Mar. 2016.