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The Racial Elevator Speech: How Multiracial Individuals Respond to Racial Identity Inquiries

The Racial Elevator Speech: How Multiracial Individuals Respond to Racial Identity Inquiries Scholars have increasingly acknowledged that race is composed of multiple dimensions and that these dimensions do not always match. For example, an individual’s sense of personal identity can differ from the race they mark on surveys and/or how others interpret their racial identity based on appearance. The potential for racial mismatch is even greater for multiracial individuals, who are commonly asked racial identity inquiries by others wanting to know their racial background. In this article, I focus on multiracial individuals’ responses to racial identity inquiries to examine how these instances of expressed race may “mismatch” their internal race. Drawing on in-depth interviews with 30 multiracial young adults, I find that despite the wide range of identity options that multiracial Americans are presumed to have, participants typically responded to inquiries about race with consistent scripts that did not necessarily align with their personal identities. I refer to these scripts as “racial elevator speeches,” and discuss how they are primarily constructed not to express personal identity but to meet the expectations of others and mitigate the microaggressive nature of these questions. However, by constructing racial elevator speeches designed to be legible to others, individuals’ scripts inadvertently reify U.S. racial structures. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Sociology of Race and Ethnicity SAGE

The Racial Elevator Speech: How Multiracial Individuals Respond to Racial Identity Inquiries

Sociology of Race and Ethnicity , Volume 8 (3): 16 – Jul 1, 2022

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Publisher
SAGE
Copyright
© American Sociological Association 2022
ISSN
2332-6492
eISSN
2332-6506
DOI
10.1177/23326492221098949
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Scholars have increasingly acknowledged that race is composed of multiple dimensions and that these dimensions do not always match. For example, an individual’s sense of personal identity can differ from the race they mark on surveys and/or how others interpret their racial identity based on appearance. The potential for racial mismatch is even greater for multiracial individuals, who are commonly asked racial identity inquiries by others wanting to know their racial background. In this article, I focus on multiracial individuals’ responses to racial identity inquiries to examine how these instances of expressed race may “mismatch” their internal race. Drawing on in-depth interviews with 30 multiracial young adults, I find that despite the wide range of identity options that multiracial Americans are presumed to have, participants typically responded to inquiries about race with consistent scripts that did not necessarily align with their personal identities. I refer to these scripts as “racial elevator speeches,” and discuss how they are primarily constructed not to express personal identity but to meet the expectations of others and mitigate the microaggressive nature of these questions. However, by constructing racial elevator speeches designed to be legible to others, individuals’ scripts inadvertently reify U.S. racial structures.

Journal

Sociology of Race and EthnicitySAGE

Published: Jul 1, 2022

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