CULTURAL ADAPTION & Among multiracial adults, racial identity can be fluid #PewResearch

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: “It’s important that we don’t see culture as concrete or fixed, but something that is fluid and morphing. This Pew Research highlights that fact. I have explained in my book, “The Healthy Church” how healthy congregations see culture the way that anthropologists do, in three broad categories of cultural adaption. ‘Constant adapters’ are those people who adapt and enjoy taking on the cultural behaviors, ideas and products of another culture. ‘Selective adapters’ are those who adapt to some behaviors ideas and products of another culture but still want to retain parts of their historical culture. ‘Dissonant adapters’ adapt very little and are very proud of their historical culture celebrating the behaviors, ideas and products of it. For more about how people move in and out of these categories and the importance of the church to not view people as concrete cultural silos, read this Pew Research article.”

BY RICH MORIN, Pew Research, 6/16/15.

Is race purely about the races in your family tree? A new Pew Research Center survey of multiracial adults suggests there’s more to racial identity that goes beyond one’s ancestry.

Attempts to Change How Others See Their RaceThe survey of 1,555 multiracial adults found that three-in-ten multiracial adults say they have changed how they viewed their racial identity over the course of their lifetimes.

About one-in-five multiracial Americans, including about a third of all black mixed-race adults, have dressed or behaved in a certain way in an attempt to influence how others see their race.

Taken together, these findings suggest that, for many multiracial Americans, racial identity can change over the life course. It is a mix of biology, family upbringing and the perceptions that others have about them.

According to our survey, fully 21% of mixed-race adults have attempted to influence how others saw their race. About one-in-ten multiracial adults have talked (12%), dressed (11%) or worn their hair (11%) in a certain way in order to affect how others saw their race. A similar share (11%) says they associated with certain people to alter how others saw their racial background. (The survey did not ask respondents to identify which race or races they sought to resemble.)

These efforts to change or clarify how others saw their race varied widely across the largest multiracial groups. Among black multiracial groups, fully 32% have looked or acted in ways to influence how others perceived their racial background. That includes 42% of black and American Indian biracial adults, 33% of those with a white, black and American Indian background and 20% of white and black biracial adults.

Some Mixed-Race Groups More Likely than Others to Try to Change How People See ThemA quarter of white and Asian biracial adults say that, at some point, they have tried to look or behave a certain way to influence how people thought about their race. Among the largest biracial subgroup—white and American Indian adults—only about one-in-ten (11%) say they have done this. A third (34%) of Hispanics who report two or more races also say they have made an effort to change the way people saw their race…

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