Essay Sample on Biracialism: The Identity Development

Posted on November 22, 2011

Essay on Explication from Two Themes:

This novel is based mainly on the theme of biracialism. This theme has been clearly brought out in the fact that the novel is set in a family of parents from two different races. The main character in the story, Birdie, is a white girl whose parents are from different races. Her father is black, while the mother is white. She is confused to be of a Jewish-American origin. The theme of biracialism is contrasted with the theme of identity rationalization. This is well observed in the fact that the main character, Birdie, has no clear race due to the difference in the race of the parents. Her father, who is black, does not approve of her, since she is white, and often disregards her. Birdie is helped by Cole, who understands the difficulties she is going through identifying herself with her family and the rest of the world.

A child identifies herself with her parent’s origins. If the parents are from different races, the child may identify herself with the race of one of the parents. Birdies mother on the other hand, is so involved with civil activities that she barely has time for her children. She is the white parent, and is the most suitable one to indentify herself with Birdie. Birdie in this case cannot be classified as an American or a Jew. She has to search for her own identity. They even go ahead and come up with their own language with her sister. They can communicate in the language very well but it cannot be understood by other people. It is in the search for her identity that one night her father, his black girlfriend and her sister leave, for a place they are later to understand to be Brazil. In the United States, interacialism is not supported. The Americans believe that the land is strictly for the whites and those from other races are considered to be evil people and may be arrested by the government on grounds of underground illegal activities. Biracialism in the States is often faced by many challenges.

Those individuals from different races have troubles identifying themselves with the Americans. This is the reason as to why Birdie is forced to live a lie. She is forced to adopt a white identity in order to remain safe in America. The issue of biracialism in the states can be considered a disadvantage in the sense that parents from different races may be forced to separate in search of secure places where there is no racism, and where Biracialism is accepted. Biracialism often leads to individuals, especially children, lacking racial identity. This is what happened to Birdie. She does not have a race to identify herself with and is forced to adopt a different identity to be safe in the United States of America.


In the modern world, various different races have come in contact and have over the years learned to coexist together in a cosmopolitan world. However, this does not come or did not come without various challenges, which threatened the coexistence which many strived for. Even so, many people are faced with issues of identity and the roles that they should play in order to achieve their identity.

In the novel, Caucasia by Danzy Senna, these issues are illustrated through a mixed family setting involving a mixed family in which the mother is white and the father being a black man. The white woman and the black man have got two daughters one named birdie while the other is called Cole.

From this perspective, it is evident that this is a family, which is faced with a lot of racial and cultural issues, which are expressed throughout this book. The writer has illustrated the issues from one of the daughter’s perspective and managed to analyze them in an interesting way which grips the reader (Senna, 39).

In the story, issues of race are outlined in various ways. As such, the novel talks of the two blood sisters who are very different in appearance. Although born from a white mother and a black father, birdie the younger sister looks white while her elder sister looks black. This fact has brought out various issues one being that people believe that birdie is an adopted child of the family.

The book was set in the 1970s and 1980s a time where America was still struggling with racism issues. Such racial politics are seen to distort the lives of the two girls as they struggle with finding their own identity in a society with little or no mercy for other races. At the time, racial intolerance was still rampant, and the girls had to deal with racial politics every single day given the nature of their family.

Birdie who looked white had to deal with the issue of having a black sister, as well as a black father. For birdie, it was rather difficult for her to commit to an identity since she was of mixed race but looked white. She had to also deal with her socially accepted identity on one hand and her psychological construction of her identity. The society identified birdie as a white person and for this reason she was said to be adopted by the family. To further highlight this, her sister Cole looked black in a way which did not raise any form of doubt. It was difficult for her to be able to relate with other people in society without having being declared a misfit one way or the other. It was a constant battle of family relations and identity issues over societal expectations. The family eventually splits under various racial issues as well as politics of race having the separation of the daughters when the family breaks apart. Cole goes with her father while birdie goes with her white mother. This shows the strain of maintaining a multiracial family at the time which is posed by society, as well as family individuals.

The splitting of the family also posed a lot of strain on the two girls finding their own identity amidst social and personal expectations. Birdie is said to be like a chameleon that has to keep changing in order to fit in society.

At one point Birdie in Caucasia asks “what is the point of surviving if you have to disappear?”(Senna 29). This line shows how issues eg identity will influence the lives of many people. The reason for this being that every person such as birdie in this novel will have to construct their own identity either based on societal expectations or in relation to personal and individual views. From the novel Caucasia, it is evident that multiracial marriages at the time were encountered with very many issues leading to such marriages being dissolved. Birdie and Cole’s parents split due to strained relations brought about by issues of race (Senna 55). This further brought about issues of identity confusion especially to children born the mixed families.

Interracial differences at the time of setting the novel was highly magnified leading to rampant and reckless discrimination. Even multiracial families brought together by love seemed to crumble with time due to strained interracial relations affecting both parents and children alike. However from the novel it is evident that children in such families were much more tolerant of racial differences as opposed to their parents (Hooks, 66). Birdie lee and Cole lee despite their appearances were very close and were traumatized by their untimely separation. They also had to struggle to find their own identity amidst the racial tension evident in the book at the time.

From this we learn that people have got different views about issues relating to identity and how to deal with role confusion due to construction of identity.


In conclusion, therefore, the novel has highlighted that identity issues will have to be determined by the person in relation to the social placing and in relation to societal expectations. The issue of man overcoming adversity shows how people will strive to overcome challenges in life. This has also been elicited well by the author.

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