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From Multiracial to Multicultural

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Media representation and psychotherapeutic interventions for multi-cultural families. ...

Media representation and psychotherapeutic interventions for multi-cultural families.

Jillian Packer
Dena Rosko
Sherry Janda
Joseph Kemp

Gonzaga University 2008

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  • 1. From Multiracial to Multicultural By Jillian Packer Dena Rosko Sherry Janda And Joseph Kemp
  • 2. The issue at hand
    • As children, we observe the world around us. We gain knowledge through what we see. We begin to form identity based on the members of our families and peer groups, the world around us, and images we see on television.
  • 3. Ever feel like you don’t exist?
    • But what if no one looks quite like you?
    • What if you can’t identify with the images on television or in your books?
    • What if there are no dolls that match what you see in the mirror?
  • 4.
    • These are some of the common problems children of multiple races face as they grow up—problems that carry over into adolescence and adulthood.
    • Multiracial identity can cause an individual to feel torn between cultures. When combined with an under-representation in mass media, a multiracial person can begin to feel like a non-person and have an aggravated and fractured sense of self.
    Common Struggle: Fractured Sense of Self
  • 5. Team Members' Experiences with Multiracial Identity
    • Jillian Packer: My experience with multiracial identity is actually not my experience at all. Rather, it is the experience of my brother, Chris. Chris is Hawaiian and Filipino. He was adopted by my parents before they had my other brother Jeff and then me (and of course, this was back before the days of Brad and Angelina who brought attention interracial adoptions). In addition, all three of us were taught at small schools that had primarily Caucasian student bodies and teaching staffs. My parents were careful to expose him to other races and cultures, to make his heritage a part of our lives, to buy dolls that looked like him, and to decorate during the holidays with Father Christmases that weren’t Caucasian and some that were. Although he has never said he felt torn between his Hawaiian and Filipino cultures and that of the Caucasian family in which he was raised (and also his peer group), stories from when we were little suggest that Chris did struggle with identity. My mom sadly recalls a time he said he wished he knew who he looked like, realizing that it was neither my mom nor my dad.
  • 6. Team Members' Experiences with Multiracial Identity Continued…
    • Jillian Packer Continued: By having Chris in our family, I think all three of us kids became aware of the differences in race at a much earlier age and it never seemed out of the ordinary. A lot of families don’t have such circumstances that bring race into the forefront right away. Because of that, differences in race are learned from society and the external messages we receive. But society and the media often neglect interracial families. Chris is every bit my brother; however, people sometimes assume that because he does not look like me, he couldn’t possibly be my brother. People have made insensitive comments, assumed stupid things, and acted shocked when they find out we’re siblings. Perhaps if the media represented different familial compositions and diversity in more ways than just a “traditional” family makeup, our family would not seem so “unusual.”
  • 7. Team Members' Experiences with Multiracial Identity
    • Joe Kemp: My personal experience on our topic relies heavily upon my brother, Chris. Chris is my half brother from my mother’s first marriage, and he is half Puerto Rican. While Chris is often mistaken for being African American, I’m as Caucasian as one can get. It’s safe to say we look nothing a like and most people do not believe me when I say he’s my brother. I’ve seen him try to juggle these two different worlds. He was raised by my mother and my biological father, who is also white. There isn’t really a Puerto Rican community in our town and although he has visited his father in south Florida many times, he hasn’t truly felt “at home” here in Panama City. When we were in grade school, he was often left alone, because he wasn’t fully accepted by the white or black children. Many of the issues from our work are apparent in Chris’ own experiences. There wasn’t an action figure that looked like him, nor many celebrities, and he has commented before that he felt left out of the mainstream views on race and culture.
  • 8. Team Members' Experiences with Multiracial Identity Continued…
    • Joe Kemp Continued: As he is grown now, Chris has a family of his own, and a business he owns and operates. He did not allow himself to be placed into a box, and that is one of the many reasons I’m proud of my big brother.
  • 9. Team Members' Experiences with Multiracial Identity Continued…
    • Dena Rosko: My husband and I are the uncle and auntie of a now 11-year-old niece who is African-Caucasian-American. I nannied her during the formative ages of 3 to 6 years old. In this time she surprised me with her awareness of difference. For instance, I used to wear a shirt that had three bands of colors: Brown, cream, and white. One morning, she pointed to my shirt, and asked me, "Why am I this color [brown], and you guys are this color [white]?" I worried that she might feel she is not part of our family because she looks different. I also worried she feels must please two cultures while feeling she is part of neither.
  • 10. Team Members' Experiences with Multiracial Identity Continued…
    • Dena Rosko Continued: I have observed my sister include both families in celebrating our niece's birthdays and family holidays. I think this interaction normalizes race relations as a family event and helps our niece feel a part of both cultures. I give props to my sister for her efforts.
  • 11. Team Members' Experiences with Multiracial Identity Continued…
    • Dena Rosko Continued: I am also proud of our niece for befriending girls from a variety of cultural backgrounds. For instance, she befriended an English language learner who spoke Spanish as her first language. The girl spoke little English, but our niece played with her and they worked to communicate. Here our niece befriends people based on what she values in a friend rather than on surface impressions. In this way she makes herself, without even knowing it, part of the solution to a disparate sense of self due to the challenges of navigating multicultural identity.
  • 12. What it means
    • To begin, multiracial refers to a person born of parents of different races (e.g., Caucasian American, African American, Hispanic American, Asian American, etc.).
  • 13.
    • “ While it is clear that biracial children can grow up happy and healthy, it is also clear that particular challenges associated with a biracial identity must be negotiated. One such challenge is embodied in the frequently asked question, ‘What are you?’” (Tatum, 1997, p. 175).
  • 14. Putting you in a box
    • Society as a whole has a general need to classify according to race (Tatum, 1997, p. 175).
    • This is evident on forms that ask a person to check a box indicating which race they are.
  • 15.
    • Furthermore, throughout life, according to Martin and Nakayama (2006), an overall societal need to organize according to racial groups pressures individuals to choose a social group because humans “largely communicate with others in their own racial group,” (p. 76). For many of us, this is not a problem.
  • 16. Take a side
    • “ The existence of the biracial person challenges the rigid boundaries between black and white and the questioner may really be asking, ‘Which side are you on? Where do you stand?’” (Tatum, 1997, p. 175).
  • 17. Not so simple
    • When individuals must choose, even subconsciously, which racial group they consider themselves tension is created.
    • For these individuals to define their identity—to fit themselves into the neat little boxes society provides—they must, in a way, deny the other aspect or aspects of their identity.
    • How does one choose? For a multiracial person, choosing an identity is a lifelong process (Tatum, 1997, p. 175).
  • 18.
    • According to Tatum (1997), “Biracial children, like all children, begin to develop their racial awareness during the preschool years. They notice physical differences between themselves, their parents, and others” (p. 176).
    • In addition, it seems that children of multiracial families become aware of race at an earlier age, most likely due to their exposure to various racial identities within the home (Tatum, 1997, p. 176).
  • 19. Tension in the home
    • Early on, tension is evident as a child tries to make sense of the world and identify with one parent or the other.
    • Tatum (1997) offers one such example: As a mother and daughter were riding in the car together, the child was playing with a “magic wand.” The white mother asked, “If you really had magic, what would you do?” Without any hesitation, the [multiracial] daughter replied, “I would turn your skin brown” (pp. 177-178).
  • 20.
    • In this example, the child shows some anxiety over the fact that she and her mother “don’t match.” She has problems relating to her mother because of the fact that they don’t look alike.
    • Although this is her reality and to her should be “normal,” her wish to turn her mother’s skin into a color that matches her own shows she feels cognitive dissonance, which can be linked to the media’s lack of representation of multiracial families.
  • 21. Birds of a feather
    • Mass media as a whole tends to show families in the most “traditional” sense. The images that are communicated in television programs and commercials, movies, magazines, etc., are typically of families that are one race.
  • 22. Persona non grata
    • This is problematic because “external messages also necessarily affect both attitudes and behavior” (Boster, 2006, p. 185).
    • In this case, the external message being conveyed, either explicitly or implicitly, is that multiracial families are nonentities. This impacts the belief of the multiracial individual.
  • 23.
    • Boster (2006) says, “Communication necessarily impacts beliefs. Moreover, the effects of communication on attitudes and action are powerful” (p. 185).
    • These powerful messages create the fragmented self and conflict within the multiracial individual who feels they must choose between two halves of themselves in order to be defined.
  • 24. Understanding the problem
    • The theoretical basis for understanding the challenge of multicultural identity representation in mass media is twofold.
    • Relies heavily on the phenomenological tradition and the cultural studies of Stuart Hall.
    • With the aim of helping people navigate towards a connected person, vis-à-vis reframing terms and improving a sense of self and identity.
  • 25. Stuart Hall’s cultural studies
    • Stuart Hall’s theory of cultural studies is based on media studies, ideology, and how media  has become a cornerstone of support for those in power, while at the same time, exploiting the poor and powerless (Griffin, 2009, p. 338).
    • Hall believes that media controls how we think about our world and ourselves through “weapons of propaganda, live coverage, nationalism, and censorship” (Griffin, 2009, p. 334).
  • 26. Myth of words
    • “ As for mainstream mass communication research in the United States, Hall believes that it serves the myth of democratic pluralism--the pretense that society is held together by common norms, including equal opportunity, respect for diversity , one person-one vote, individual rights and rule of law” (Griffin, 2009, p. 335).
  • 27.
    • Hall’s cultural studies theory addresses the symbols that multiracial members of society attach to their ethnicity, e.g., African American, Hispanic, Asian, isolating those members on the farthest edge of society.
    • Since multiracial members’ appearances are not that of white European American, they are already marginalized (Griffin, 2009).
  • 28. Diversity Disconnects: From Classroom to Newsroom  
    • A two year study by the Ford Foundation, concluded that media under represents multiracial members of society because the pipeline connecting the classroom to an integrated newsroom does not exist (de Uriarte, 2003).
    • This is because journalism education does not offer a diverse curriculum of required courses.
  • 29. Not always welcome
    • Unfortunately, news rooms are also a revolving door for minority journalists—nearly as many African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, and American Indians are exiting as are being recruited.
    • When asked why minority journalists leave, one reason remains constant: the unwelcoming environment (Geisler, 2003).
  • 30. Does Ford know?
    • The Ford Foundation’s study recommends two paths for full integration.
    • A conscious effort to include individuals drawn from different racial and ethnic population regardless of their intellectual preparation and perspectives.
    • To draw across demographic population groups with a conscious effort to include diverse intellectual world views.
    • The findings conclude that one cannot be achieved without the other. Current newsroom intellectual culture remains steadfast and does not prepare minority journalists for mainstream press or mainstream journalists for minority coverage.
    • This helps explain why minority journalists have increased on the average of only one-half of one percent per year since 1975.
  • 31. Power structures protect status quo
    • The Ford Foundation study blames the lack of diversity in the newsroom due to an unchanging intellectual culture that creates an unwelcoming atmosphere for multiracial members and puts the burden of diversifying news coverage on minority journalists (de Uriarte, 2003).
    • Hall blames lack of diversity in media on corporate power and social structure that controls what we see and hear leaving the rest of us powerless (de Uriarte, 2003).
  • 32. Not always black & white
    • Jannette Dates’ article, “Cultural Diversity in American Media History,” discusses African American participants in the media and seeks to explain how and why mass media evolved as they did with respect to African American citizens (Dates, 1991).  
    • Dates (1991) says that “majority rule” led the way to white domination which led to endorsement of the status quo (p. 65).
    • The black image was split due to two things: White developed images of African Americans, and black developed images of African Americans (Dates, 1991, p. 65).
  • 33. Age of confusion
    • Further confusion arises as multiracial members do not feel they fit into either group.
    • As society seeks to classify multiracial members, multiracial individuals feel further exasperated in their journey to unify their sense of fractured self.
  • 34. Do you belong?
    • Finding others who understand their struggle can be difficult, as they deal with how the media portrays (or ignores) them.
    • As self concept of multiracial members of society is already quite fractured, mass media under representation of multiracial members can lead to such individuals viewing themselves as a non-person.
    • As a significant social influence on our culture, media under represents multiracial members giving the perception they are an oddity who do not blend in with the rest of society (Shepherd, 2006, pp. 180-185).
  • 35. Phenomenological Tradition
    • The phenomenological tradition can first establish the social problem as individual to recognize mass media influence on individuals with multicultural or multiracial identity.
  • 36. Personal communication
    • Erica Goos is a Seattle-based counselor who specializes in counseling multicultural families and individuals (personal communication, October 10, 2008).
    • Goos defines biracial as coming from two cultures and bases her definition on her personal experience as a Korean daughter of parents who immigrated to the United States in 1976.
    • She defines her multicultural identity as a "home culture," or the traditional Korean culture her parents taught at home, and her culture outside of the home, or her interaction with peers at school, work, church, and other institutions (E. Goos, personal communication, October 10, 2008).
  • 37. Fractured self
    • Growing up, parents and peers did not talk about the "complexities" of multicultural identity.
    • At home she felt pressure from her parents to be only Korean (E. Goos, personal communication, October 10, 2008).
    • This tension between two cultures resulted in a "fractured self" (E. Goos, personal communication, October 10, 2008).
  • 38. Et tu, Brute?
    • "I often felt like I was betraying one or the other culture" (E. Goos, personal communication, October 10, 2008).
    • She identifies this fractured self as the core problem in a person resolving her own multicultural identity.
  • 39. Be yourself
    • As a counselor she seeks to resolve this sense of torn loyalty by helping her clients to explore their identities, accept that their identities may fail to unite at times in a nice cohesive whole, allow them to accept or reject parts of their identities they like or dislike, and answer the key question: "Who do you want to be?" (E. Goos, personal communication, October 10, 2008).
  • 40. Answer the question
    • This question stems from the phenomenological tradition, the first of two theoretical bases for the social problem, where Rogers (1989) defined the ideal result in counseling as helping a person "be content to be a process" of becoming a person (pp. 122, 341).
    • This question, when answered, allows clients freedom to form their own framework by which they approach their identity (E. Goos, personal communication, October 10, 2008).
  • 41. Maintaining control
    • Dates (1991) also quotes theorist Hall, “the dominant culture secures subordination by weakening, destroying, displacing, or incorporating alternative institutions of defense and resistance thrown up by the subordinate class” (Dates, 1991, p. 65).  
  • 42. Solutions
    • Hall thought it a "mistake to treat communication as a separate academic discipline" as "academic isolation tends to separate messages from the culture they inhabit" (Griffin, 2009, p. 335).
    • As such, Hall sought to "'deconstruct' the current structure of a media research establishment" because such establishments often fail "to deal with ideology," such as how we interpret and understand multicultural identity (Griffin, 2009, p. 335).
    • The communications field and mass media are intertwined and both influence how society approaches multicultural identity. Therefore, we suggest reframing key terms and phrases in the communications field in general and the mass media specifically to more accurately reflect the complexity of multicultural identity.
  • 43. Not easily classified
    • For example, framing multicultural identity as "bi-" (e.g. "biracial") or even "race" or "-racial" does not encompass a person's cultural experience. Thus, we suggest changing "biracial identity" or even "race" and "ethnicity" to "multicultural identity" to better reflect how people may identify with more than two cultures and to acknowledge how complex and ingrained multicultural identity is for people.
    • This change can be implemented in mass media discussion of multicultural identity and in all application forms where one must identify his or her multicultural identity.
  • 44. Continued…
    • Also, referring to a multicultural person as a "person of color" can reduce a complex issue to a simple one, even though multicultural identity "is a huge thread" in a person's life (E. Goos, personal communication, October 10, 2008).
    • Multicultural identity effects the food a person eats, the holidays a person celebrates, the social group with which a person associates, a person's belief identity, and so on.
    • Lastly, we suggest implementing multi-cultural curriculum in required journalism courses for high school, undergraduate, and graduate students.
    • Cohen, Lombard, & Pierson (1992) suggest such curriculum should "go beyond sensitivity training" to academically examine mass communication's social influence and the roles of mass media in American society (p. 6).
  • 45. Community action!
    • "Communication necessarily impacts of belief. Moreover, the effects of communication on attitudes and action are powerful and pervasive," where "the most striking consequence of communication is social influence" (Boster, 2006, p. 185).
    • We hold mass media, other organizations, and ourselves to a standard because we assume that communication has consequence, and by its nature consequence influences society
    • Ideally, mass media can promote multicultural identity as "ours" and not "mine by possession or right" to better reflect the "value constructs" we place on interaction (Kelshaw, 2006, p. 162).
  • 46. In the end
    • This transition will dissipate dominance by transferring focus from personal power and freedom of choice to community verbiage (Kelshaw, 2006, p. 162).
    • In this fashion, mass media can reframe multicultural identity and the problem of racism as a communal process by using community-oriented words.
  • 47. References
    • Boster, F. (2006). Communications as social influence. In Shepherd, G., St, John, J., &
    • Cohen, J., Lombard, M., & Pierson, R. (1992). Developing a multicultural mass communication course. Journalism Educator , 2-12.
    • Dates, Jannette L. “Cultural Diversity in American Media History” Film & History . XXI/2&3.
    • de Uiarte, Mercedes. (2003 April). Diversity Disconnects: From Classroom to Newsroom. Retrieved October 15, 2008 from http://journalism.utexas.edu/facstaff/deuriarte/index.htm
    • Griffin, E. (2009). A First Look at Communication Theory . New York: McGraw-Hill Higher Education.
    • Images courtesy Dena Rosko Photography, Erica Goos, et al.
    • Martin, J., Nakayama, T. (2006) Communications as raced. In Shepherd, G., St, John, J., & Striphas, T. (Eds.), Communications as perspectives on theory (pp. 75-83). Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications, Inc.
    • Rosko, D. (2008). Building community one picture at a time. Retrieved October 14, 2008 from, [Posted note] http://www.facebook.com/people/Dena_Rosko/523328784#/note.php?note_id=44187270792&id=523328784&ref=share
    • Shepherd, G. (2006). Communications as transcendence. In Shepherd, G., St, John, J., & Striphas, T. (Eds.), Communications as perspectives on theory (pp. 26-27). Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications, Inc.
    • Tatum, B. D. (1997). Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria: And Other Conversations About Race . New York: Basic Books.