Monday, March 28, 2011


One of the most common issues with being of mixed race is developing a sense of identity. I grew up in the 60s, when you were forced to choose Black or White; there was no other option. Add to this confusion growing up in the South--New Orleans--where miscegenation was common yet secretive. I remember asking my grandmother, who beat it into our heads every chance she got that we were not Black, "What are we?" and being told, "None of your business"!

Tracing my ancestry has proven to be a great mystery. didn't even list my grandparents when last I checked. According to my aunt (my grandmother's sister), there were Black, White and French on both sides of the family, and my maternal great-great grandmother was Cherokee. My father's lineage is a bit easier to trace, as his father was Honduran and his mother was Mayan Indian.

I have come to realize that self-identity has less to do with a reflection in the mirror and more to do with values and validation. It is about where you feel the most comfortable; where you perceive others can relate to you regardless of skin color, creed, or gender.

Race discussions seem to take root in diversity. Understanding the concept of diversity can lead to valuable insights into the core of who we are as Beings.

I was privileged to conduct a qualitative phenomenological research study on diversity and leadership. The themes inherent in the concept are self-esteem, identity, stereotyping, perception, and oppression. In my latest book, Diversity is Me (survival guide for mixed race people), I discuss these themes at length and share and apply historical overviews of five major American ethnicities (African American, Asian American, Latino American, Creole American, Native American, and White American) as appropriate. These ethnicities were included because they were each represented by my 20 study participants. (4 Asians, 4 Latinos, 3 Whites, 3 Blacks, 3 Native Americans and 3 Creoles--9 males and 11 females)

The study was fascinating, humbling, and insightful. The book is a must read for any course on diversity or mixed race studies. Sometimes, it's not who you exclude, but who you include that makes the difference.