Tiger Woods. Barack Obama. Is it possible that biracial children have certain advantages when it comes to achieving success in their chosen profession? Certain recent research says yes. But let's get one thing straight: all advantages are large-scale -- individual results vary -- and are sociologically based. More specifically, that thing about biracial children being more beautiful? Even positive stereotypes can be harmful. Ditto "hybrid vigor."
Old Stereotypes Die Hard
For a long time, civilians and social scientists tended to assume that the children of interracial parents faced an extra load of challenges. Surely they would feel like they didn't belong to either parent's ethnic group. They would feel torn between two worlds, belonging to nowhere and nobody. They were exotic, but miserable. This idea was once so pervasive that it has its own name: The Tragic Mulatto. The Tragic Mulatto starred in innumerable movies and books in the first half of the 20th century. As the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia notes, "The tragic mulatto stereotype claims that mulattoes occupy the margins of two worlds, fitting into neither, accepted by neither. This is not true of real life mulattoes. Historically, mulattoes were not only accepted into the black community, but were often its leaders and spokespersons, both nationally and at neighborhood levels."
Interracial Parent Pairs Invest More
In 2007, a study published in the American Journal of Sociology shows that interracial parents invest more in their children's education than similar parents of a single race. They provide more educational tools and materials at home -- from home computers to flashcards -- they pay for higher-quality education and their kids attend more enrichment activities such as dance or sports outside of school. Interracial parents were "aware of the challenges their children will be facing. In turn, they try to compensate for this," according to the report. It's worth noting one exception to this pattern: children with a black father and a white mother had fewer resources invested in them than other children.
Multiracial Kids, Proud and Relaxed
In 2009, another study on biracial children was published in the Journal of Social Issues. This paper demonstrated that kids who identified as multiracial -- as more than one ethnicity or race -- were more psychologically resilient and less stressed out than their peers, on average. An important detail: this was true even if their peers were in a higher-status racial group. The researchers, Kevin Binning and Miguel Unzueta, hypothesized that "it might be that individuals who identify with multiple groups are better able to navigate both racially homogeneous and heterogeneous environments."
Richer Cultural Resources
Kelly Burrello of the Diversity Training Group has another take on the advantages of interracial families. Interracial families tend to live in a more culturally diverse environment -- they live in mixed neighborhoods, have a richer set of family traditions, customs and sometimes languages to draw from and function as living bridges between communities. Perhaps most importantly, Burrello also notes that "In a world marked by racial boundaries, multiracial families provide convincing evidence that races can coexist, not only in the same neighborhood but in the same home." Or even the same person.