When Worlds Collide: Culturally Responsive Practices for Multiracial Students and Families

When Worlds Collide: Culturally Responsive Practices for Multiracial Students and Families

C. Peeper McDonald (Mercer University, USA)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 19
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3331-4.ch012


This chapter will equip any person with culturally responsive practices to engage with a multiracial student or family. Relevant literature and research on the multiracial population will be provided, including multiracial identity development models and common microaggressions that often occur within this population. Using fictitious case examples, common culturally insensitive mistakes will be reviewed. Through these case examples and follow-up questions to support critical thinking, the reader will clearly see the culturally insensitive practices that often occur with the multiracial population and ways to change language, interactions, and even documentation to support cultural responsiveness and interventions. The conclusion of the chapter summarizes key points and reminders when working with the multiracial population and serves as a “call to action” for readers to act as agents of change in educational settings by supporting and advocating for inclusivity and research-based, culturally responsive practices.
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Given the recent growth of individuals who identify as Biracial or Multiracial, it is evident that their unique experiences need to be better understood, especially within the education system where there is heavy interaction with teachers, counselors, and administrators (Charmaraman, Woo, Quach, & Erkut, 2014; Jackson, Yoo, Guevarra, & Harrington, 2012; Tran, Miyake, Martinez-Morales, & Csizmadia, 2016). Estimates of Multiracial population growth state that one in five individuals will identify as Multiracial by the year 2050 (Tran et al., 2016). With this in mind, it is imperative that the educational system work to build intentional and inclusive communities that acknowledge the unique experiences of Multiracial students and families while working to achieve the goals of each student within the education system.


Before one can seek to practice cultural responsiveness with the Multiracial population, it is important to define what is meant by this complex term (Lou & Lalonde, 2015). Broadly defined, Multiracial describes anyone who identifies as non-monoracial where monoracial describes anyone with one racial identity (i.e., Black/African American) (Franco & O’Brien, 2018; Tran et al., 2016). Oftentimes, further terminology such as Biracial is used to describe the quantity of racial identities in a person, where Bi quantifies two racial identities within a person, (i.e., Native American and White). However, Multiracial is often used as an umbrella term for non-monoracial identity where Biracial is included. Though the terms can be synonymous in that they both mean non-monoracial, for many people, the distinguishing factor is how many racial identities form their identity. Sometimes individuals use Multiracial as an indicator of three or more racial identities. Additional terminology that could be used to describe a non-monoracial individual include: Mixed-race, Multiple Heritage, and Interracial. What is important to remember is to use the terminology that the individual or family uses to describe their identity, while not assuming identity based on preconceived notions of racial make-up. This will be discussed in more detail later on in the chapter.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Fifth Minority: The term coined by Tutwiler (2016) AU28: The citation "Tutwiler (2016)" matches multiple references. Please add letters (e.g. "Smith 2000a"), or additional authors to the citation, to uniquely match references and citations. to describe the unique identity and developmental experiences of the Multiracial population (specifically Multiracial children) that are distinctly different than that of White/European Americans and the other four major minority groups in the US.

Microaggression: The term coined by Sue (2007) AU29: The in-text citation "Sue (2007)" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. used to describe common and often brief interaction that communicates negative messages about one’s identity (or various identities) that are often experienced as derogatory, invalidating, and hostile where the microaggressor often lacks conscious awareness about the impact thereof.

Broaching: A multicultural concept that is underscored by the assertion that we all have important identities that we hold and that these identities cannot be removed from interactions with others. Broaching is the process of entering into conversations about these identities in order to aid in understanding of how these identities impact one’s way of being.

Multiple Heritage: The term used to broadly describe a variety of characteristics that make up an individual’s identity (e.g., race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and national origin).

Microaggressor: A person who commits a microaggression against another person, either intentionally or unintentionally.

Biracial: The term used to describe two racial identities within a person (i.e., Native American and White).

Invisibility: This term describes the lack of representation of the Multiracial population within research endeavors given that a large portion of Multiracial identity research is based within existing conceptualizations of monoracial identity.

Monoracial: The term used to describe anyone with one racial identity (i.e., Black/African American).

Multiracial: The term used to describe anyone with a non-monoracial identity. Sometimes this term is used to indicate three or more racial identities.

Culturally Responsive Pedagogy: The term by Ladson-Billings (1995a) used to describe strategies that support student development in critical thinking and help challenge the inequalities that exist in schools. Additionally, these strategies serve as a way to address student achievement while affirming and accepting student cultural identity.

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