Taylor Francis Online
By Aurora Tsai, Brenda Straka, & Sarah Gaither
March 24, 2021
Mixed-heritage individuals (MHIs) are known to face high levels of social exclusion. Here, we investigate how raciolinguistic ideologies related to one’s heritage language abilities add to these exclusionary experiences. The results from 293 MHIs reveal frequent experiences of marginalisation from members of each of their heritage communities because their racial appearance and language practices are perceived as deviant and outside imagined ‘monoracial’ norms. Specifically, over half of respondents described experiences of exclusion for not speaking their minority heritage languages with the same accent or manner or fluency associated with ‘monoracial’ native speakers of their heritage languages or dialects. Another subset described high pressure to speak ‘proper English’ in White dominant work environments. These results extend past MHI work by empirically documenting the ‘monoracial-only’, monoglossic, and ‘Standard English’ ideologies that contribute to the continued social exclusion of MHIs.
I feel like [language] has disrupted my sense of belonging in both cultural groups. I cannot be a ‘real’ Latina because I am not fluent in Spanish. At the same time, I still face a lot of gaps in my white belonging because the English I learned as a child never quite matched the English of my white peers. –Becky*
*To protect the anonymity of participants, all names appearing after excerpts are pseudonyms.
Mixed-heritage individuals (MHIs) like Becky are people who identify with multiple races or ethnicities and often brought up with exposure to multiple cultures and linguistic practices. Like Becky, MHIs often use language to negotiate their racial identities and gain acceptance to different communities, but their group membership is often denied or questioned by others (Albuja, Sanchez, and Gaither 2019a, 2019b). In the excerpt above, Becky expresses a sense of isolation and rejected racial identity due to her linguistic practices. Similar to many MHIs, she is often asked ‘But what are you really?’ after describing her ethnic background (Gaskins 1999). As Becky’s statement suggests, her racial identity is often scrutinised based on whether she ‘sounds’ like a member of her racial or ethnic group(s). Indeed, hegemonic ideologies concerning race and language often require MHIs to pass a certain threshold of linguistic resemblance to ‘monoracial’ members of their heritage language(s) in order to be seen as a legitimate member of their parental racial/ethnic groups.
Read the full paper here.