Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


College of Education and Human Services


Counseling and Educational Leadership

Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Muninder K. Ahluwalia

Committee Member

Michael D. Hannon

Committee Member

Matthew Shurts


The influences of race on people’s lived experiences are vast and enumerable. Despite advancements in multicultural counseling literature, the experiences of racially ambiguous people of color, or persons who do not align with preexisting ideas about race (Brown & Brown, 2004; James &Tucker, 2003; Young, Sanchez, & Wilton, 2013), are relatively unknown. Further, the racially ambiguous experience is often conflated with persons of mixed-race heritage (Young, Sanchez, & Wilton, 2013). The goal of this dissertation study was to understand the lived experiences of racially ambiguous people of color. Participants identifying as racially ambiguous were recruited to discuss their lived experiences. Grounded in Critical Race Theory (Crenshaw, Gotanda, Peller, & Thomas, 1995; Haskins & Singh, 2015), this phenomenological, qualitative study included two in-depth, semi-structured interviews. A cross section of 14 participants with varying ages, genders, racial compositions, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and cultures engaged in this study. Findings suggest that the construct of racial ambiguity is not confined to persons of mixed-race heritage, and racially ambiguous people of color have a unique lived experience. Participants identified being racially ambiguous resulted in a distinct understanding of race, varying interpersonal dynamics, and an emotional internal experience, affecting participants’ sense of self, wellness, and belonging. Implications for counseling practice, counselor education and supervision, and future research were provided.

File Format


Included in

Counseling Commons