Multiracial, Multiethnic

Multiracial and multiethnic both fall under the category of bicultural identity. I’m still trying to figure out how they differ.

Is it merely a matter of passing? Multiracial individuals tend to be more visually identifiable than multiethnic ones. That theory might hold, until you run into the one-drop rule, the law turned social “common sense” that anyone who is part black is all black.

Is there a stronger sense of duality for multiracial individuals than multiethnic? Again, there’s an assumption that race is a larger category than ethnicity, like saying “Oh, if you’re Vietnamese and Indian, you’re still Asian.” The explanation, in a sense, makes multiethnicity more normal than multiracial.



2 thoughts on “Multiracial, Multiethnic

  1. hey molly! thx for raising this question. i’ve linked to you and responded on my blog. pasting my thots here:

    Molly raises this great question: “Is there a stronger sense of duality for multiracial individuals than multiethnic?” She connects this to the concept of “passing,” and how some might say, well, if you’re two kinds of Asian (like, Vietnamese and Indian), then you’re still ‘just’ Asian. I consider this kind of reaction as demeaning to a multiethnic person who, just like a multiracial person, likely grew up with at least two different cultures in her/his home/life. Even some monoracial people identify as multiracial or multiethnic—say, a person adopted from Korea who was raised by white parents. Lives and identities are endlessly complex, and this has to be our baseline truth from which we act/think/perceive. One kind of “duality” or paradigm is no more valid than another, when it comes to how people identify. Also, in light of how few people are familiar with or care about the semantic difference between “race” and “ethnicity,” teasing out the differences between multiraciality and multiethnicity is increasingly complicated.

    Most importantly, I’d be hesitant to make any kind of generalization across multiracial experience, considering how different everyone’s is—e.g., I wouldn’t say “all multiracial people feel a strong sense of duality.” So, I suppose the original question is based on an assumption of sameness that is problematic.

  2. Definitely, multicultural identity is something that a lot of different groups experience– multiracial, multiethnic, transnational, cross-racial adoptees, etc.

    What I want to consider is how we understand these experiences in connection with each other. There is a large amount of diversity within the multi-racial community. But in order to understand each other, and build movements and solidarity, we need to understand where commonalities lie (where we can draw generalizations.)

    And duality is a generalization I’m willing to make. I’m not saying that exceptions don’t exist, but I think it’s a common enough experience that I’m posing the question: how can we compare bicultural experiences for multiracial and multiethnic people?

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