Social Constitutionality of Race in America: Some Meanings for Bi/Multiracial Families



In this chapter we examine how the concept of race has been conceptualized and used as a mechanism of social control. We argue that race is a complex concept, one that has always been difficult to define. The fluid nature of race over time has kept it as a powerful concept and one that has maintained a unique hegemony allowing it to subordinate some groups to other who do not share the traits of those in power. Hegemony that has allowed some groups to be subordinated to others who do not share the traits of those in power. Race has particular meaning for those who share more than one race grouping or those who we call bi/multiracial. We use an ecosystemic paradigm to examine race as a person, process, and context element. It is examined across time as a critical element to any social change and development. Through each of the epochs examined here we see that race, that is being non-White in any variation, remained a basis for differential treatment and outcomes. We also conclude that although the country is slowly altering its population distribution with growth among the bi/multiracial communities, without changes within the hegemonic structure of the culture definitions of race will just be expanded to place these new racial categories on the existing color line that has existed within this country.


Bi/multiracial Chronosystem Color line Ecosystemic Family Hegemony Hegemonic structure Hierarchy of races Person-process-context-time (PCCT model) Race Racism Racial diffusion Social construction Social control Stereotypes 


  1. Alexander, M. (2010). The new Jim crow: Mass incarceration in the age of color blindness. New York, NY: The New Press.Google Scholar
  2. Allport, G. W. (1954). The nature of prejudice. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.Google Scholar
  3. American Sociological Association. (2017). Retrieved from
  4. Axt, J., & Trawalter, S. (2017). Whites demonstrate anti-black associations but do not reinforce them. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 70, 8–18. Scholar
  5. Billingsley, A. (1992). Climbing Jacob’s ladder: The enduring legacy of African American families. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar
  6. Blassingame, J. W. (1979). The slave community: Plantation life in the antebellum south. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Bobo, L. D. (1997). The color line, the dilemma, and the dream: Racial attitudes and relations in America at the close of the twentieth century. In J. Higham (Ed.), Civil rights and social wrongs: Black-white relations since world war II (pp. 31–55). University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Bobo, L. D. (1999). Prejudice as group position: Micro-foundations of a sociological approach to racism and race relations. Journal of Social Issues, 55, 445–472.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bonilla-Silva, E. (2010). Racism without racists: Color-blind racism and the persistence of racial inequality in the United States (3rd ed.). Lanham, MA: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar
  10. Bronfenbrenner, U. (1979). The ecology of human development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Bronfenbrenner, U. (1993). The ecology of cognitive development: Research models and fugitive findings. In R. H. Wozniak & K. W. Fischer (Eds.), Development in context: Acting and thinking in specific environments (pp. 3–44). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  12. Bronfenbrenner, U. (1995). Developmental ecology through space and time: A future perspective. In P. Moen & G. H. Elder Jr. (Eds.), Examining lives in context: Perspectives on the ecology of human development (pp. 619–647). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Bronfenbrenner, U. (2005). Making human beings: Bioecological perspectives on human development. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  14. Brown, T. N. (2003). Critical race theory speaks to the sociology of mental health: Mental health problems produced by racial stratification. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 50(1), 292–301.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Brown v Board of Education, 347 US 483 (1954).Google Scholar
  16. Bryan, N. (2017). White teachers’ role in sustaining the school-to-prison pipeline: Recommendations for teacher education. The Urban Review, 49(2), 326–345.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Burrell, J. V., Webb, F. J., & White, V. A. (2014). Americans’ perceptions of commitment to strong families across race and ethnic groups. Journal of Marriage and Family Review, 50(3), 199–215.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Carlson, I. M. (2017). The Tulsa race riot of 1921. Retrieved from
  19. Carter, P. L. (2005). Keepin’ it real: School success beyond black and white. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Civil Rights Act of 1875. Pub L 335-337, 71, Statute 18 (March 1, 1875).Google Scholar
  21. Civil Rights Act of 1957. Pub L 85-315, 71, Statute 634 (September 9, 1957).Google Scholar
  22. Civil Rights Act of 1960. Pub L 86-449, 74, Statute 89 (May 6, 1960).Google Scholar
  23. Civil Rights Act of 1964. Pub L 88-352, 78, Statute 241 (Oct 3, 1964).Google Scholar
  24. Civil Rights Act of 1968. Pub L 90-298, 82 Statute 73 (April 11, 1968).Google Scholar
  25. Civil Rights Cases, 109 US 3 (1883)Google Scholar
  26. Conklin, J. (2005). Dialogue mapping: Building shared understanding of wicked problems. New York, NY: Wiley.Google Scholar
  27. Conley, D. (1999). Being black, living in the red: Race, wealth, and social policy in America. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  28. Davis, D. J., & Boyer, P. G. (2013). Social justice issues and racism in college classrooms: Perspectives from different voices, International perspectives on higher education research (Vol. 8). Bingley: Emerald Group Publishing.Google Scholar
  29. Davis, F. J. (2017). Frontline. Retrieved from January 12, 2017, from
  30. DuBois, W. E. B. (1903). The souls of black folks. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  31. DuBois, W. E. B. (1935). Black reconstruction: An essay toward a history of the part which black folk played in the attempt to reconstruct democracy in America, 1860–1880. New York, NY: Russell & Russell.Google Scholar
  32. Farley, R. (2004). Identifying with multiple races: A social movement that succeeded but failed. In M. Krysan & A. E. Lewis (Eds.), The changing terrain of race and ethnicity (pp. 123–148). New York, NY: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  33. Fischer, J. (2016). The history of hate in Indiana: How the Ku Klux Klan took over Indiana’s halls of power. Retrieved from
  34. Fisher v University of Texas at Austin, 570 US ___ (2013).Google Scholar
  35. Fisher v University of Texas at Austin, 579 US ___ (2016).Google Scholar
  36. Franklin, J. H. (2011). From slavery to freedom: A history of African Americans (9th ed.). Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  37. Genovese, E. D. (1989). The political economy of slavery: Studies in the economy & society of the slave south. Middletown, VA: Wesleyan University Press.Google Scholar
  38. Goffman, E. (1963). Stigma: Notes on the management of spoiled identity. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  39. Goodman, A. H. (2000). Why genes don’t count (for racial differences in health). American Journal of Public Health, 90, 1699–1702.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Gordon-Reed, A. (2008). The Hemingses of Monticello: An American family. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company.Google Scholar
  41. Gregory, J. N. (2005). The southern diaspora: How the great migration of black and white southerners transformed America (1st ed.). Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press.Google Scholar
  42. Grutter v Bollinger, 539 US 306 (2003).Google Scholar
  43. Hacker, A. (1995). Two nations: Black and white, separate, unequal, and hostile. New York, NY: Ballentine.Google Scholar
  44. Iceland, J. (2017). Race and ethnicity in America. Oakland, CA: University of California Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Kerby, S. (2012). The top 10 most startling facts about people of color and criminal justice in the United States: A look at racial disparities inherent in our nation’s criminal justice system. Center for American Progress. Retrieved April 24, 2017, from
  46. Lavender-Bratcher, D., & Dunn, J. L. (2016). Culture, race, and the self: How mixed-race Alaskan people counter micro aggressions, stigma, and identity dilemmas. Journal of Sociology and Social Work, 4(1), 134–145.Google Scholar
  47. Lee, J., & Bean, F. D. (2010). The diversity paradox: Immigration and the color line in 21st century America. New York, NY: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  48. Lee, S. M., & Edmonston, B. (2005). New marriage, new families: US racial and Hispanic intermarriage. Population Bulletin, 60(2), 3–40.Google Scholar
  49. Lockett, L. (2015). Black propinquity in 21st century America. Retrieved from K-Rex, http// Scholar
  50. Lockett, L., Webb, F.J., & Chancler, L. (2013). The effects of black ancestral group on perceptions of blacks. Paper presented at the National Conference on Family Relations meeting, San Antonio, TX.Google Scholar
  51. Loving v Virginia, 388 US 1 (1967).Google Scholar
  52. Madigan, T. (2003). The burning: Massacre, destruction, and the Tulsa race riot of 1921. New York, NY: Thomas Donne, St. Martin’s Griffin Press.Google Scholar
  53. Maillard, K. N. (2005). The Pocohontus exception: The exemption of American indian ancestry from racial purity law. SSRN Electronic Journal.
  54. Mallet, C. A. (2017). The school-to-prison pipeline: Disproportionate impact on vulnerable children and adolescents. Education and Urban Society, 49(6), 563–592.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Massey, D., & Denton, N. (1998). American apartheid: Segregation and the making of the underclass. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  56. McAdoo, H. P. (2007). Black families (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  57. McLaughlin v Florida, 379 US 184 (1964).Google Scholar
  58. Mitchell, J. (2016). Mississippi RV park owner evicts interracial couple receives support and criticism. The Clarion Ledger. April 5, 2016. Retrieved January 12, 2017 from
  59. Oklahoma Commission. (2001). A report by the Oklahoma commission to study the Tulsa race riot. Retrieved from
  60. Pace v Alabama, 106 US 583 (1883).Google Scholar
  61. Patten, E. (2015). Who is multiracial? Depends on how you ask: A comparison of six survey methods to capture racial identity. Washington, DC: Pew Research Center. Retrieved November from
  62. Perez v Sharp, 32 Cal.2d 711, 198 P.2d 17 Oct 1 (1948).Google Scholar
  63. Perry, I. (2011). More beautiful and more terrible: The embrace of and trancendance of racial equality in the United States. New York, NY: New York University Press.Google Scholar
  64. Pew Research Center. (2015). Multiracial in America: Proud, diverse and growing in numbers. Washington, DC: Pew Research Center. Retrieved June 11, 2015, from
  65. Pew Research Center. (2016). On views of race and inequality, blacks and whites are worlds apart. Washington, DC: Pew Research Center. Retrieved June 27, 2016, from
  66. Plessy v Ferguson, 163 US 537 (1896).Google Scholar
  67. Regents of the University of California v Bakke, 438 US 265 (1978).Google Scholar
  68. Ricci v DeStefano, 557 US 557 (2009).Google Scholar
  69. Rocque, M., & Snelling, Q. (2017). The new displinology: Research, theory, and remaining puzzles on the school-to-prison-pipeline. Journal of Criminal Research. Retrieved May 2, 2017, from
  70. Root, M. P. P. (1992). Racially mixed people in America. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  71. Shelton, N. J., & Richeson, J. A. (2006). Ethnic minorities’ racial attitudes and contact experiences with white people. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 12(1), 149–164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Shih, M., Sanchez, D., Bonam, C., & Peck, C. (2007). The social construction of race: Biracial identity and vulnerability to stereotypes. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 13(2), 125–133.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Simmons, L. (2017). The prison school: Educational inequality and school discipline in the age of mass incarceration. Oakland, CA: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  74. Smedly, A. (2007). Race in North America: Origin and evolution of a worldview (3rd ed.). Boulder, CO: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  75. Smith, G. (2012). 29% of Mississippi republicans still think interracial marriage should be illegal. Daily Retrieved from
  76. Smith, M. M. (2009). How race is made: Slavery, segregation, and the senses. New York, Accessible Publishing Systems, PTY, Ltd.Google Scholar
  77. Spickard, P. R. (1992). The illogical of American racial categories. In M. P. P. Root (Ed.), Racial mixed people in America (pp. 12–23). Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  78. Thomas Jefferson Foundation. (2017). Thomas Jefferson and sally Hemings: A brief account. Retrieved February 5, 2017, from
  79. Thomas, W. I., & Thomas, D. S. (1928). The child in America: Behavior problems and programs. New York, NY: Knopf Publishing.Google Scholar
  80. United States v. Stanley; United States v. Ryan; United States v. Nichols; United States v. Singleton; Robinson et ux. v. Memphis & Charleston Railroad Company. 109 US 3 (1883).Google Scholar
  81. Wang, W. (2012). The rise of intermarriage: Rates, characteristics vary by race and gender. Washington, DC: Pew Research Center, Pew Social & Demographic Trends. Retrieved from
  82. Washington, B. T. (1999) [1901]. Up from slavery. New York, NY: Modern Library.Google Scholar
  83. Webb, F. J., & Cortez, A. (2016). Creating a program of success for underrepresented students at research institutions. In J. M. Jananagelo (Ed.), A critical look at institutional mission: A guide for writing program administrators (pp. 59–74). Anderson, SC: Parlor Press.Google Scholar
  84. West, C. (2014). Black prophetic fire. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.Google Scholar
  85. Williams, E. (1994). Capitalism and slavery. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press.Google Scholar
  86. Young, D. M., Sanchez, D. T., & Wilton, L. S. (2016). Biracial perception in black and white: How Black and White perceivers respond to phenotyped racial identity cues. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 23(1), 154–164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. Zack, N. (1995). American mixed race: The culture of microdiversity. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of Health and Human DevelopmentCalifornia State UniversityNorthridgeUSA
  2. 2.Kentucky Community CollegesVersaillesUSA
  3. 3.Department of Family and Consumer SciencesCalifornia State UniversityNorthridgeUSA

Personalised recommendations