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(Mixed) Race Matters: Racial Theory, Classification, and Campus Climate


As the expanding post-civil rights multiracial population is likely to transform the demographics of American colleges and universities, its perceived growth is also misused to advance neo-conservative agendas and post-racial views about the declining significance of race. Politicized issues around multiraciality frame and impact the campus climate for diversity, but research is scant on the climate for multiracial students. This thesis uses a three-article format to develop an Integrative Model of Multiraciality (IMM) and apply it to examine interpersonal and institutional dimensions of campus climate. The first article constructs the IMM from extant literature and theorizes racialization processes for multiracial students in college contexts. The IMM depicts that racialized experiences of campus climate vary based on racial classification, which is informed by physical appearance, ancestry, socioeconomic status, cultural knowledge, interest convergence with monoracially-constructed groups, and the fluidity of peer culture. The second study uses a quantitative methodology to look at how racially classifying students who mark two-or-more racial categories changes racial groups' representations of experiencing discrimination and bias in college at fourteen institutions across the United States. When aggregated into a single group, students who mark two or more racial categories experience discrimination more frequently than students who only indicate a white background, suggesting mixed race students do not occupy an "honorary white" status as might commonly be assumed. However, double minority multiracial students have higher frequencies of discrimination than minority/white multiracial students, indicating that relative whiteness may result in comparative privilege for the latter group. The final study applies the IMM to interviews with fourteen multiracial undergraduates at a single campus to show how perceptions of multiple racisms in organizational campus structures vary based on socioeconomic status, white cultural knowledge, and whether or not they publicly identify with student organizations reflecting their non-white background(s), which were more important than racial ancestry in climate perceptions. Similarities and differences in the quality of campus climate for multiraciality emerge in each study, allowing these students to be examined both as a group and as members of their respective monoracially-constructed groups. The articles critically connect racial theory, classification, and campus climate. This research gives voice to multiracially-identifying students and their poignant experiences around race and racism in college with implications for further research and institutional practice for developing inclusive campuses.

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