Native Village Youth and Education News

March 1, 2009 Issue 195 Volume 2


Multiracial Children Attracting Interest as Visibility Increases
By Debra Viadero
Condensed by Gina Boltz, Director, Native Village

Barack Obama made history by becoming our country's first mixed-race president.  This has raised awareness of our nation's growing multiracial student population. Yet little is known about their school progress.  Few studies have examined the unique challenges they may face, and even fewer have tracked their academic progress. 

In the 2000 U.S. Census, 6,800,000 people listed themselves as multiracial. The majority were under 18. In 10 states, more than 25% of students were listed as multiracial.

"The academic community and the political community are way behind the reality," said Francis Wardle, a Seattle educator involved in biracial education.

Early studies on multiracial children and young adults suggest:

Despite visible successes by mixed-race celebrities such as Halle Berry and Tiger Woods, there are still concerns about the difficulties  multiracial children face;

Multiracial students struggle with their identities and fitting into their communities.

Multiracial students more often repeat a  grade, skip school, and are suspended or expelled. 

Multiracial students also smoke, drink and suffer depression more than single-race students.

These descriptions resonates with Tracy Rector, a 37-year-old filmmaker and educator of mixed-race heritage who lives in Seattle.

"[In 6th grade] I was so alone and withdrawn that the principal called in my parents to talk about my so-called 'drug problem,' " said Rector who is Native American, African-American, white, and Mexican-American. In middle school, Tracy's depression finally lifted and her grades improved when a group of Asian-American students befriended her.

A new study by Melissa Herman from Dartmouth College found that how students identified their own race had a more impact on their grades than their actual ancestry. "I think teachers need to be more aware of multiracial kids, that they exist, and to notice them, and treat them as individuals," Ms. Herman said.

Center for the Study of Biracial Children


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