Racial and Ethnic Identity of Elected Officials of Color: A Closer Look at a Complex Matter
39 Pages Posted: 29 Aug 2013 Last revised: 30 Aug 2013
Date Written: August 29, 2013
This research seeks to understand how our non-White elected officials identify themselves ethnoracially and to what extent they report an identity or background made of more than one race. In this paper we deconstruct the complexities of racial/ethnic identity among elected officials of color from the intersecting angles of gender and race. We first examine the numerous challenges facing researchers in understanding the contested nature of racial and ethnic identity. These challenges lead us to explore the very distinctive relationships Latinos, Blacks and Asian Americans have with racial identity due to their very different experiences in this country and elsewhere. Using a model whereby the individual is considered within competing notions of race/ethnicity and the varying methods of state-sanctioned categories for classifying them, we then examine the distinctive patterns of racial and ethnic identity among a previously unexamined group: elected officials of color in the United States. Using data from the Gender and Multicultural Leadership Survey, we describe the ways elected officials of color reveal backgrounds that are more complex than commonly understood. In this paper we use descriptive statistics to examine the degree to which elected officials of color, in describing their backgrounds, have “claimed identities” that are more multiracial than their ascribed identities and to compare the extent of these multiracial identities to those found in the general population. We then present both bivariate and multivariate analyses to test two hypotheses, first on the predictive factors associated with a multiracial identity, and second on the intersecting roles of race and gender as well as a measure of inter-minority solidarity (i.e., linked fate) on structuring multiracial identity.
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