Multiracial Asian Families: “Passing” “Presenting” & the Troubled Language of Mixed Race

By Sharon H. Chang


We use “passes” and “presents” as if multiracial individuals have full say and control over their racialization. When they don’t at all. Could I work to pass as white? Yes. But would it work? Maybe. It all depends on the reader. Meaning this: we only pass when others let us pass. Full agency does not rest with individuals. Similarly when we say someone “presents as” we imply the person is choosing that presentation. Sometimes that’s true. But sometimes that’s not true. For example I often hear adults describe multiracial children as young as infancy as “white presenting.” How in the world is a child less than a year old presenting their race at all? Who is actually presenting their race? WE are. When we assign a description. Regardless of whether the assessment is true, why aren’t we saying “I read the child as white” which claims accountability rather than asserting our perception on someone else and insinuating they made that decision on their own?

Sourced through from:

A detailed and powerful article on who is defining mixed people and the dangers in exclusion. 


Also talks about power dynamics that adults have over children and warns about taking away the child’s agency to define themselves. 

One thought on “Multiracial Asian Families: “Passing” “Presenting” & the Troubled Language of Mixed Race

  1. Lisa July 30, 2016 / 3:46 am

    Apparently for multiracial families with a White mother and Asian father for instance, the children are not White passing at all. They’re still considered Asian due to the father’s surname.


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