Exploring the concept of "passing" in biracial Asian-White college students

Natasha Giardino Black, Fordham University


Despite being one of the largest and most rapidly growing subsets of the multiracial population, psychological research on Asian-White biracial identity remains sparse. What is becoming established in the literature, however, is that Asian-White biracials are particularly apt to endorse a malleable, protean identity that shifts based on environmental context. Given the tendency to match one's identity to the given circumstance, this phenomenological study explored the extent to which Asian-White college-aged biracials tend to "pass" for White as a way to cope both with environmental pressures to maintain a monoracial identity and as a way to minimize vulnerability toward discrimination. Twenty Asian-White biracial students participated in semi-structured interviews and emergent themes were classified into six domains: (a) Self-Appraisals, (b) Others' Appraisals, (c) Experiences With Prejudice, (d) Isolation and Marginalization, (e) Receptivity to Resources, and (f) What Do I Write Down? Results suggest that Asian-White biracials are apt to pass for both White and Asian, depending on circumstance, and that passing is particularly manifest in situations when there is perceived social or occupational gain. Findings also indicate that multiracial people continue to experience low visibility and are apt to be viewed by both self and others in monoracial terms. Future research should focus on increasing visibility and validation of a mutltiracial worldview as means to reduce the pressure to pass and to increase utilization of available resources.

Subject Area

Asian American Studies|Counseling Psychology|Ethnic studies|Higher education

Recommended Citation

Black, Natasha Giardino, "Exploring the concept of "passing" in biracial Asian-White college students" (2015). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3703196.