Against a burgeoning worldwide discourse on how individuals from interracial parentage construct an identity in racialised societies, I conducted a study to explore and describe the way in which young biracial adults construct and negotiate their identities in post-apartheid South Africa. The study was informed by a qualitative and narrative research design within a postcolonial feminist paradigm. Theoretically, the study is informed by both Root’s ecological framework of multiracial identity and Gaventa’s power-cube theory.
I purposefully selected young biracial adults (n=10, 5 males, 5 females) adhering to specific age criteria (18 to 25) who are first-generation offspring from interracial relationships. For snowball sampling, I used social networks such as Facebook and twitter, as well as word of mouth, to locate participants. Written narratives and narrative interviews (audio recorded and transcribed verbatim) served as data sources and were supplemented by researcher field notes.
By means of inductive thematic analysis, the following four themes emerged: the influence of family on biracial identity construction; participants negotiating an identity within social milieus and relationships; expressions of multiple identities in the construction of biracial identity; and the stigma, discrimination, stereotyping and dominant discourses associated with biracial identity construction.
The identity construction of the young biracial South Africans in this study did not follow a clear linear progression, but changed and evolved in the participants’ life course. This concurs with findings in existing literature. Racial identities included predominantly a white identity during the earlier years, followed by a progressively more black identity, and a biracial identity in later years. As also seen in other studies, the young biracial South African adults opted for non-racial qualifiers of identity, including cultural, religious and national identities. They said that their parents had been influential in their choice to identify with their biracial identity/heritage, which was in line with the findings of other studies. However, contradictory to what was found in other studies, the young biracial South African adults in this study did not experience rejection from both black and white peer groups and identified with peers from various racial groups.
The young biracial adults purposefully constructed identities that allowed them to experience power and privilege, as opposed to oppression. This also entailed the young adults’ voicing their preferred choice of identity in a post-apartheid South African society, thus moving away from the prescribed racial categories by choosing new racial identities, such as biracial and mixed-race identities. I posit that constructive identity manipulation appropriation explains how South African young biracial adults may construct their identities in post-apartheid South Africa.