Therapist Thoughts: A Personal Account of Biracial Identity

I identify as someone who is biracial. My father is Mexican American and my mother is White. I became aware of my biracial identity from a relatively young age. The awareness was mixed with both positive and challenging experiences. I remember visiting my paternal grandmother while I helped her make homemade tortillas and she helped me learn Spanish. I remember spending time with my maternal grandmother and noticing stark cultural differences. At school, I remember the kids asking, "What are you?" and, "Why is your last name Lopez but you look White?" In my freshman year of high school, I remember taking a Spanish class for the first time when my teacher, without even knowing me, tried to put me in the advanced class due to my last name alone.

Although my biracial identity development began early, it is still not finished. It has been an ongoing process that has at times been filled with uncertainty. In a way, I feel like I am still figuring out who I am.

But before I delve into more of my own experience I want to give a quick summary of what exactly racial identity development entails. There are three primary models that have been proposed to describe racial identity development: The Contact, Marginalization, and Assimilation model. In the Contact model, individuals develop a positive biracial identity by interacting with both of their racial groups. In the Marginalization model, individuals experience racism and discrimination from both of their groups which leads to feelings of devaluation and separation. And in the Assimilation model, individuals adopt the values of the majority group while rejecting their own racial identity.

These models are not mutually exclusive and many individuals experience aspects of all three throughout their development. In my own experience, I would say that I have felt elements of all three at different points in my life

The truth is I have never felt that I have fit in with either culture or race entirely. I have always felt that I was neither Mexican enough or White enough, whatever that means. I know this feeling of being on the outs, is common amongst biracial individuals. It's a feeling of not belonging to any one group. It can be isolating at times. And it is a feeling that I still feel today, despite all the years of self-reflection. This makes me feel sad at times, because I feel at the age of 26 I should have this figured out. But I am hopeful, that as I continue to grow and learn more about myself, I will solidify my sense of identity. After all, isn't that what life is all about? Finding ourselves and our place in this world.

I think a part of my struggle with my identity development has been feeling like an imposter if I engaged more with my Mexican American identity. It is somewhat difficult to explain, but maybe I am not alone in this feeling. My father assimilated almost entirely into White culture, out of survival and increased ease of navigating through White dominated society. I do not blame him for this. But I feel like because of his detachment from his culture I too fell into a similar pattern of assimilation into the dominant culture. It is only now as an adult, that I am exploring and trying to reconnect with my Mexican American roots.

And so, my journey of biracial identity development continues. It has been a winding road with many ups and downs but I am grateful for the lessons I have learned along the way. And even though I still have much to learn, I am hopeful that sharing my story will help others who are struggling with their own identity development.