This chapter has enumerated the equivocal findings, historical shifts in the construction of multiracial identity, and key variables involved in the process of racial identity. It is crucial to note that the inherent flaw in all of the identity models, whether ecological or linear, is the assumption that racial identity may be static or that it is less optimal for the individual to have a malleable identity (Rockquemore, Brunsma, & Delgado, 2009).
However, qualitative studies, which have captured individual narratives, confirmed that multiracial individuals have complexly constructed their identity and feel that this multiracial identity may be negatively regarded in public domains (Jackson, 2012; Miville et al., 2005). Gilbert (2005) argued that identity has been constructed in a way that is theoretically rigid such that the theory lacked the complexity to capture individuals lived experiences. He suggests that “what must be understood is that identity may be strategic, uneven, unstable, fragmented, heterogeneous; always in the process of change, never static, always in the state of ‘becoming’” (Gilbert, 2005, p.
65). Therefore, this dissertation study attempted to match the complexity of individuals’ lived experience by exploring the role of authenticity, shifting multiracial experiences such as identity questioning, identity challenges, and identity resilience, and the overall malleability of people’s expressed identity in a given social reality. In order to capture the complexity of the lived experience of multiracial individuals, identity is understood as an unfolding narrative. The narrative has been defined by Polkinghorne (1991) as “the cognitive process that gives meaning to temporal events by identifying them as parts of a plot” (p. 136).
Therefore, narratives are ways that individuals organize events into stories in order to construct public or private 47 meaning into an understandable sum of parts. Polkinghorne (1991) posited that narratives are the basis for self-understanding and constructing one’s identity. Further, narratives are a complex weaving together of social contexts, others’ perceptions and one’s experiences. Polkinghorne (1991) acknowledged that narratives unfold overtime and continuously are reconstructed to make new meaning of one’s life. Therefore, selfnarratives, stories constructed to make meaning of one’s aggregated self-understanding, are inextricably linked to self-concept. The narratives individuals are constructing, constantly inform the way one understands oneself, self-concept. Additionally, these narratives are context dependent whereby the individual integrates self-narratives, societal or collective narratives, and potential new information provided by the context. Self-narratives are also informed by others’ perceptions and implicitly agreed upon societal narratives, K.
Gergen and M. Gergen (1983) point out that narratives help us to connect to one another, but may also have implications. As a society there may be agreed upon narratives about how identity is constructed and whether it should be stable. The traditional approach to racial identity has been founded upon this narrative of stability and monoracialism.
Though self-concept literature espoused multiple aspects of oneself and how individuals may complexly construct their self-understanding, racial identity theory has viewed one’s racial identification as a stable construct and inferred negative implications for multiple identities and avowing in a context dependent way. Also, individuals categorize themselves based on the changes in their social reality. Turner and colleagues (1994) highlighted the context dependent nature of how one constructs self and noted that one’s understanding of self is systematic in direct variation with social contexts. Given the tendency of individuals to perceive changes in 48 their social reality and adjust their own categorization and understanding of oneself, it is problematic that multiracial identity development models and methodology do not capture the fluid nature. Further, Good and colleagues (2010) employed this theory to assess the factors that impact multiracial self-categorization and found that social connectedness to the racial group as well as physical appearance were related to selfcategorization. Thus not only is it likely that individuals would re-categorize themselves depending on their social reality, but it is expected (Vasquez, 2010).
Since social realities have been shown to impact one’s self-categorization, the relationship between racial malleability and lower psychological well-being may be impacted by other factors such as experiences within the family, having one’s identity questioned and experiences of discrimination.