Although several quantitative studies have shown that multiracial students experience race, discrimination, prejudice, and school support differently than monoracial students, Jessica C. Harris found a lack in qualitative studies on the experiences of multiracial students on college campuses. She conducted such a qualitative study to understand these narratives and how embedded racist structures and systems of oppression at higher education institutions affect multiracial students through a Critical Race Theory (CRT) framework. She focused her study on multiracial women as they experience race and discrimination differently than both multiracial men and monoracial students as multiracial women are likely to experience “triple jeopardy” discrimination (Harris, 2017, p. 476). Triple jeopardy discrimination refers to the probability of these women being discriminated against due to their gender and multiple racial identities.
In her study, Harris examined the experiences of ten (10) undergraduate multiracial women at one HWI. Under the pseudonym Midwestern University (MU), this HWI is a public, 4-year research college located in a small town in the Midwest with a student population of about 41,000 undergraduates, 74% of which identified as white and 3% identified as multiracial. Harris recruited participants through network sampling, utilizing campus identity and social justice organizations listservs. Ten self-identified multiracial women participated in the study, whose racial identities include Black/White (4), Asian American/White (2), Asian American/Native American (1), Latina/White (1), Latina/Black (1), and Black/White/Asian (1). Harris collected research data through three interviews with each participant individually, ranging from 65 to 120 minutes. The first interview was a sit-down interview to hear the participant’s narrative and why she chose to attend MU. The second interview was to gather observations and understanding of multiracial women’s experiences while walking around campus.
The last interview was a sit-down interview to discuss and clarify the themes that emerged from the first two interviews. Harris used a thematic analysis, informed by narrative inquiry, CRT, and existing literature on monoracial and multiracial stereotypes. She analyzed the participants narratives for themes and explored the similarities and differences of their experiences using open and axial coding. Three common themes emerged from Harris’ data.
First, multiracial women are judged based on a beauty hierarchy dominated by White ideology that women with white or light skin are, “. . . better, more beautiful, and more deserving of resources than women with dark skin” (Harris, 2017, p. 485). Therefore, several participants to feel stereotyped by others as “exotic and more attractive” and “she thinks she’s better than everyone else” due to being placed near the top of the beauty hierarchy as opposed to non-White monoracial groups (Harris, 2017, p. 482).
Second, multiracial women expressed times in which they were stereotyped due to being perceived as monoracial, denying or ignoring her multiracial identity. Harris notes, “. . . monoracial stereotypes may be further complicated for multiracial individuals . .
. because monoracial stereotypes attempt to. . . fit multiracial peoples into monoracial understandings of race” (Harris, 2017, p. 483-4).
Third, multiracial women feel “stereotype threat,” where if they align themselves or broadcast affiliation with one of their races of color, they would be socially perceived through the lens of the negative stereotypes associated with that race, highlighting White domination in society. Harris’ research focused on one question: What are multiracial women students’ experiences with racial stereotypes at a HWI? Focusing on the narratives of ten multiracial women, I don’t think that this small sample of experiences fully addresses the question or intent to challenge systemic and institutionalized racism within higher education. However, this study is a start for future research to further understand multiracial identity and how universities need to implement, “. .
. ongoing, intentional, and mandatory . .
.” interventions to actively focus on altering and dismantling policies, procedures, and programs that preserve White privilege and power (Harris, 2017, p. 488).