It seems like there is no identity crisis quite like that of mixed black heritage in America. With differing views on how mixed race Black people should self identify, people often think of themselves as “too Black” or “not Black enough.” Take Barack Obama for example, he is a mixed race African American with a white mother and a Black father. On the 2010 census, Obama had the option to hit mixed race, or Black and/or white, however, he only checked one box: Black. After researching Obama more, it seems likely that he emphasized his Black side in his racial identity at that time. In his book about race and inheritance, Dreams of My Father, Obama elaborates on how his Black father and extended family in Kenya shaped his identity, even though his father was only in his life for part of his younger childhood. 

This story of identity differs from another mixed race Black American, Tiger Woods, who is Caucasian, Black, American Indian, and Asian. Tiger Woods identifies as “Cablinasian.” However, when Mr. Woods was pulled over by the police, he said, “the police only saw Black.” In the police report, the police described Mr. Woods not as mixed race, but just one word; Black. 

Arjun Akwei, a mixed race African American student at Harvard University says, 

“Race in America today is at one level a nuanced feature— it incorporates heritage, chosen community, phenotypes, and more. But on another level, for people with dark skin it’s really quite simple; if I get pulled over by a police officer, they don’t care about any of that. At that moment I am Black, and no other nuance matters.”

 In this quote from Mr. Akwei, we see that racial identity in America is complex and can have to do with African Americans’ relationship and trust with the police among many other factors. In the end, how mixed race Black people identify is largely a societal construct rather than individual choice. 

Amity Detroit Counseling, in Detroit, Michigan, specializes in racial identity counseling. They describe racial identity therapy as for those who may be feeling exhausted by fielding microaggressions, unsure of their place in a racialized world, or processing rage over racial inequity. Amalia Miralrío is a therapist specializing in racial identity. She recognizes how identity issues can impact all areas of your life and helps clients with issues like “racial imposter syndrome, lack of cultural home, navigating multiracial and multiethnic family dynamics, internalized racism, racism in dating, and transracial & transcultural adoption.” 

If you are grappling with these concerns, here are some recommendations we have on how to find a therapist who may be qualified to help you work through these issues: 1) See if the therapist identifies as mixed race in the About Us section in their website. 2) See if any of the  therapists in the About Us section of the website offers this specialty in their profile. 3) See if the practice offers racial identity counseling under their Services Offered section of the website. 4) If you are in college, and your school offers a mixed ethnicity affiliation club, you could ask if they have any therapists specializing in this area that they would recommend.

-Written by student intern (2022-2023) contributor Logan Walker-Liang.