The Mixed (Me)dia glossary of terms seeks to provide definitions and further information on concepts and terms used throughout the website’s pages.
We will continually update the glossary as our content continues to grow.
Should you come across other unfamiliar terms on the site that you’d like to be explained here, please let us know.
Anti-miscegenation laws refer to laws which prohibited marriage between individuals of different races (particularly between white people and people of color). These kinds of laws are as old as the United States itself, with the first anti-intermarriage laws instituted in the 1600s. Following the Civil War, various Northern states ended anti-miscegenation laws, allowing marriage between whites and people of color. However, it wasn’t until 1967 that anti-miscegenation laws were banned nationwide owing to the Supreme Court case of Loving v. Virginia in which Richard Loving, a white male, and Mildred Loving, a black female, fought to uphold their marriage license (obtained in Washington D.C.) in the state of Virginia. Following the case, state-level anti-miscegenation laws were no longer enforceable. Still, Alabama was the last state to remove anti-miscegenation language from its constitution in 1999.
The "process of shifting from one linguistic code (a language or dialect) to another, depending on the social context or conversational setting. Sociolinguists, social psychologists, and identity researchers are interested in the ways in which code-switching, particularly by members of minority ethnic groups, is used to shape and maintain a sense of identity and a sense of belonging to a larger community" (Carlos D. Morrison, “Code-switching” in Encyclopedia Britannica).
The rhetoric of color-blindness is common in the United States; so-called “colorblind” people “insist that they ‘do not see color’ and, therefore, are incapable of harboring a prejudicial thought in their mind, much less acting in a discriminatory way. Of course, it is impossible to live in the United States and not learn that race exists, that people are fundamentally different according to their racial group, and that racial groups are hierarchically related to one another. Protestations that a person ‘doesn’t see race’ are usually a way of saying ‘I believe all people are created equal.’ It is an affirmation of an egalitarian value. The problem is that ‘not seeing race’ all too often means turning a blind eye to racism and refusing to critically examine one’s own beliefs and behaviors. We especially want to caution parents and caregivers not to confuse the way they wish the world could be and the way it really is. Insisting on a color-blind reality may literally blind a person from the reality of racism at multiple levels. We believe that a vital part of raising healthy mixed-race children involves understanding how racism manifests and using this insight to act in ways that will counteract its potentially damaging effects” (Kerry Ann Rockquemore and Tracey Laszloffy, Raising Biracial Children, page 49-50).
“Colorism involves discrimination against persons based on their physiognomy, regardless of their perceived racial identity. The hierarchy employed in colorism, however, is usually the same one that governs racism: light skin is prized over dark skin, and European facial features and body shapes are prized over African features and body shapes” (Angela P. Harris, “From Color Line to Color Chart?: Racism and Colorism in the New Century” in Berkeley Journal of African-American Law & Policy, page 54).
“‘Colorism’ is the discriminatory treatment of individuals falling within the same ‘racial’ group on the basis of skin color. It operates both intraracially and interracially. Intraracial colorism occurs when members of a racial group make distinctions based upon skin color between members of their own race. Interracial colorism occurs when members of one racial group make distinctions based upon skin color between members of another racial group” (Cedric Herring in Skin Deep: How Race and Complexion Matter in the “Color-Blind” Era, page 3).
In her book “Learning Race, Learning Place,” Erin Winkler coins the term comprehensive racial learning and defines it as: “the process through which children negotiate, interpret, and make meaning of the various and conflicting messages they receive about race, ultimately forming their own understandings of how race works in society and their lives. […] Although messages from many different sources figure prominently in this process, comprehensive racial learning is ultimately a child-centered rather than a source-centered approach. Utilizing this new framework does not mean that we ignore the role of other actors and influences, but rather that we examine them at the children’s prompting, listening to the children’s interpretations of their experiences and allowing them to direct the inquiry. In this way, comprehensive racial learning helps us rethink what, how, and from where children learn about race by looking at the process from children’s points of view” (Erin Winkler, Learning Race, Learning Place: Shaping Racial Identities and Ideas in African American Childhoods, page 7).
Continuum of Biracial Identity: The Continuum of Biracial Identity (“the COBI model”) is presented in Kerry Ann Rockquemore and Tracey Laszloffy in their book “Raising Biracial Children.” According to the authors, the COBI model “suggests that mixed-race people can locate themselves at any place along a blending continuum. Each pole of the continuum represents the singular racial identification of a child’s parents (one end represents black and the other white). The middle of the continuum represents an equal blend of the two, not in biological terms, but in terms of identification. Mixed-race people can locate themselves anywhere along this continuum and that location can change over their lifetime. In other words, among those who have one black and one white parent, we find people who identify as black, white, biracial, all of the above, and none of the above” (page 6). While the COBI model uses mixed black and white children as its example, the continuum model may be applicable for children of other racial combinations.
"Critical race theory (CRT), the view that race, instead of being biologically grounded and natural, is socially constructed and that race, as a socially constructed concept, functions as a means to maintain the interests of the white population that constructed it. According to CRT, racial inequality emerges from the social, economic, and legal differences that white people create between “races” to maintain elite white interest in labour markets and politics and as such create the circumstances that give rise to poverty and criminality in many minority communities. Though the intellectual origins of the movement go back much further, the CRT movement officially organized itself in July 1989.
Despite the relatively recent appearance of CRT in academia, some scholars have found it a valuable perspective on race and racism in America. CRT launched what many race scholars now take as a commonsense view. CRT scholars hold that the laws and policies in the United States are biasedagainst people of colour, and they have focused their scholarship on demonstrating the ways in which the legal institutions support that bias” (Tommy Curry, “Critical Race Theory” in Encyclopedia Britannica).
“‘Exotic,’ a word used to describe multiracial women more frequently than multiracial men, often has a sexually oppressive connotation stemming from the folklore associated with multiraciality” (Maria P. P. Root, Racially Mixed People in America, page 188).
“Statements like “You’re so exotic” are laden with histories of ways women of color have been oppressed sexually and they continue to ‘other’ us by creating both a geographical and ideological distance between us and everyone else. Exotification serves as a way to dehumanize and simultaneously put us up on an unrealistic pedestal.
1. Exotic Implies There Is One ‘Normal’ Standard of Beauty
Exotification is a reminder that women of color fail to meet Western, white standards of beauty that favor light skin and eyes, straight hair, and thin figures.
2. [Exotification] Reduces Women to the Status of Exotic Animals
The perception and treatment of women of color as “exotic” animals shows up in the ways that our bodies are disrespected, exploited, and consumed on a daily basis – like being touched without consent or how our bodies and sexualities are turned into jokes, fetishes, and fleeting trends.
3. Both Media and History Continue to Portray Exoticism in Harmful Ways
Stereotypes of exotic “spiciness” stem from histories that first perceive women of color as uncivilized and savage…..The fetishization of women of color, which also perceives our bodies as less than, as objects to be conquered, as exotic spices to be discovered traces back to colonial legacies that justified rape and enslavement.
4. Violence Against ‘Exotic’ Bodies
Women of color are depicted as always wanting sex or available for sex, but not in a way that actually reflects our desire, our wants, or our needs…..The myths that equate “exotic” with “promiscuous” have led to violent impacts where experiences of sexual assault by women of color are minimized, and worst of all, normalized and legitimized” (Rachel Kuo, “4 Reasons Why Calling a Woman of Color ‘Exotic’ is Racist”).
“Belief in societal negative misinformation about oneself and one’s social identity group(s) that leads one to engage in self-restriction, self-limitation, and self-hate” (Louise Derman-Sparks and Julie Olsen Edwards, Anti-Bias Education, page xii).
“Belief in the entitlement and superiority of oneself and one’s social identity group(s), based on societal myths and misinformation. This leads to the justification of mistreatment of groups outside the entitled group” (Louise Derman-Sparks and Julie Olsen Edwards, Anti-Bias Education, page xii).
We use the term “media invisibility” to refer to the lack of media representation and the overt misrepresentation of people of color in popular media such as movies and television shows. Popular media often misrepresents people of color in overtly racist and stereotypical ways by, for example, criminalizing black men and fetishizing Asian women. Media invisibility and misrepresentation has gained attention in recent years, especially for Native Americans, Asian Americans, and Asian American men, in particular. Asian men are rarely depicted in popular media as romantic interests but are relegated to the role of geek or humorous sidekick. It is rare to see Asian American people playing lead roles in popular films.
Media misrepresentation and invisibility have important and detrimental impacts on the American people. Since our neighborhoods are often racially segregated, many Americans learn about outgroups by consuming media stereotypes, and often uncritically or unconsciously develop or grow their personal biases as a result. Media invisibility in particular is detrimental to children of color and mixed race children who do not often see people who look like themselves depicted as complex protagonists, which can serve to limit their ideas of who is permitted to and capable of taking on certain roles in society.
“The systematic and interpersonal oppression of multiracial persons based on underlying beliefs in singular racial categorization” (Hyung Chol Yoo et al., Construction and Initial Validation of the Multiracial Experiences Measure, Journal of Counseling Psychology 2016, Vol. 63, No. 2, page 198).
“A socially created category referring collectively to the groups that have historically been and currently are targets of racism in the United States — for example, African Americans, Asian-Pacific Americans, Latino Americans, Native Americans, and Arab Americans” (Louise Derman-Sparks and Julie Olsen Edwards, Anti-Bias Education, page xiii).
“A social construct that fraudulently categorizes and ranks groups of human beings on an arbitrary basis such as skin color and other physical features. Historically, it has been used as a rationale for colonization of other peoples’ lands, enslavement, and war and oppression by one group against another. The scientific consensus is that race in this sense has no biological basis in the human species” (Louise Derman-Sparks and Julie Olsen Edwards, Anti-Bias Education, page xiii).
“Racial microaggressions are brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people of color. Perpetrators of microaggressions are often unaware that they engage in such communications when they interact with racial/ethnic minorities” (Derald Wing Sue et al, Racial Microaggressions in Everyday Life: Implications for Clinical Practice in American Psychologist 2007, page 271).
Also known as racial socialization, racial ethnic socialization (RES) is defined by the American Psychological Association as “the process through which children learn about race. RES specifically includes the direct, explicit messages children receive about the existence of racism and the meaning of race, as well as related indirect or implicit messages. Especially for young children, parents and family members are the primary source of RES” (American Psychological Association, RESilience website). Currently, most research on racial ethnic socialization focuses on black parents socializing monoracial black children. There is a lack of research on the RES processes for other parents of color and on interracial parents socializing mixed race children. Research shows that most white parents never discuss race with their white children.
“An attitude, action, or practice of an individual or institution, backed by societal power, that undermines human and legal rights or economic opportunities of people because of specific physical characteristics, such as skin color” (Louise Derman-Sparks and Julie Olsen Edwards, Anti-Bias Education, page xiii).
“Redlining refers to a discriminatory pattern of disinvestment and obstructive lending practices that act as an impediment to home ownership among African Americans and other people of color. Banks used the concept to deny loans to homeowners and would-be homeowners who lived in these neighborhoods. This in turn resulted in neighborhood economic decline and the withholding of services or their provision at an exceptionally high cost. …
As a consequence of redlining, neighborhoods that local banks deemed unfit for investment were left underdeveloped or in disrepair. Attempts to improve these neighborhoods with even relatively small-scale business ventures were commonly obstructed by financial institutions that continued to label the underwriting as too risky or simply rejected them outright. When existing businesses collapsed, new ones were not allowed to replace them, often leaving entire blocks empty and crumbling. Consequently African Americans in those neighborhoods were frequently limited in their access to banking, healthcare, retail merchandise, and even groceries. One notable exception to this was (and still is) the proliferation of liquor stores and bars which seemingly transcended the area’s stigma of financial risk” (Brent Gaspaire, Redlining (1937 - ) on BlackPast.org)
“A system in which public policies, institutional practices, cultural representations, and other norms work in various, often reinforcing ways to perpetuate racial group inequity. It identifies dimensions of our history and culture that have allowed privileges associated with “whiteness” and disadvantages associated with “color” to endure and adapt over time. Structural racism is not something that a few people or institutions choose to practice. Instead it has been a feature of the social, economic and political systems in which we all exist” (The Aspen Institute, Glossary for Understanding the Dismantling Structural Racism/Promoting Racial Equity Analysis).
“A Third Culture Kid (TCK) is a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside the parents’ culture. The TCK frequently builds relationships to all of the cultures, while not having full ownership in any. Although elements from each culture may be assimilated into the TCK’s life experience, the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of similar background” (David Pollock in Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds, page 13).
“Virtually all TCKs share three things which are different from children raised in the more traditional monocultural environments of the past.
TCKs grow up in a genuinely cross-cultural world. During their formative years, TCKs don’t just observe various cultures, they interact deeply with them – moving back and forth between the cultural milieus, negotiating relationships on a daily basis between those of different backgrounds.
The highly mobile nature of the third culture lifestyle is obvious for TCKs who have lived in many countries. But even when TCKs live in one place for an extended time, they still travel back and forth between home and host cultures at regular intervals and others in their expatriate community constantly come and go.
Expected repatriation is another norm for TCK families. Whether or not all do repatriate is another question, but most adults working internationally expect that one day they will return to live in their home country again. Parents make educational choices based on this expectation” (R.E. Van Reken in International Encyclopedia of Education, page 636).
“Racial passing is when someone’s features cause them to be mistaken for another racial or ethnic group. Depend on what race or ethnicity people pass as, they can experience different treatment which can be advantageous or detrimental. White passing privilege is the additional privilege some people of color (POC) are afforded when their features, such as skin color or hair texture, cause them to be mistaken as white. For instance, white passing Latinx people will most likely avoid being racially profiled, questioned about their citizenship or lack thereof, or doubted for their English-speaking skills or education status. Prominent actors of color like Rashida Jones, and Keanu Reeves tend to be white passing — because their white appearances allow them to get larger, more multidimensional roles rather than being typecast.
White passing POC must acknowledge that they undergo different experiences because they are read as “white” by others. People with white passing privilege face little discrimination compared to other members of their communities who are not able to hide their racial identities and are thus constantly fighting for the value of their existence” (Catherine Pham, Feminism 101: What is White Passing Privilege?, in Fem Magazine).
While being white passing certainly comes with privileges in daily life, it can also be a psychologically challenging situation to be perceived as something you are not. It can lead to feelings of being an imposter or as living a lie, and feelings of guilt around implicitly rejecting your true identity without making a conscious decision to do so. It can also make it more difficult to fit into peer groups or ethnic communities that you might identify with.
“Perhaps the most difficult problem that most white parents and other adults will experience is understanding and accepting that they are very privileged participants in a racially rigged game….For many generations now, most whites have been privileged members of society in more ways than they recognize—from privileges in business and employment, in access to good housing and educational opportunities, and even in regard to such mundane matters as not being followed around when in shopping stores” (Debra Van Ausdale and Joe R. Feagin, The First R: How Children Learn Race and Racism, page 210).
“The nature of white privilege is such that few white people ever consciously consider the role that race plays in their lives. Because it is often difficult for white parents to recognize the influence of race in their lives, the extent of their racial awareness is limited to the few occasions when they may find themselves in a situation where they are the racial minority. White privilege affords the opportunity to live one’s life without having to think about how one’s race may be an advantage or disadvantage in various contexts” (Kerry Ann Rockquemore and Tracey Laszloffy, Raising Biracial Children, page 61).