Students discuss their experiences as multi-racial individuals
The Multi-Racial Student Organization (MRSO) hosted an event on Monday entitled, “The Psychological Impacts of Being Mixed.” The event was hosted by three of the club’s student leaders and allotted time for group discussions.
Specifically, students were asked to analyze and evaluate their experiences as mixed-race individuals and how they saw their racial identities playing a part in their emotional well-being.
MRSO is a new club at APU and falls under the Student Center for Reconciliation and Diversity (SCRD) office. According to MRSO President Hanae Gonzalez, the club was created for students who do not feel they are fully represented in any of the mono-racial organizations like the Black Student Association (BSA) or the Latin American Student Association (LASA).
“Since my freshman year, there’s been some situations or just dynamics on campus between the other ethnic organizations where a lot of mixed students that were going to these other organizations weren’t connecting,” Gonzalez said. “Because … they’re mixed, right? They may be African-American and they may be Asian, but they’re going to these other clubs that are just solely this one thing, but [the mixed-race students] are not just that one thing.”
Gonzalez explained a recurring theme of the evening: the idea of community, belonging and acceptance. It is her wish that MRSO will continue to be established as a safe space for mixed-race students to engage with their identities, speak about the issues they face and not feel pressured to fragment themselves to solely one identity.
MRSO has a roughly 20 percent crossover between mono-racial ethnic organizations to their club, according to Gonzalez, but the majority of students who come to MRSO meetings are not involved with other ethnic organizations. Gonzalez said this is because most of MRSO’s members have never felt that they belonged in the other ethnic organizations and only now have a place where they feel they can be fully themselves.
“My hope, when I was networking with everyone, was that individuals, when they step away from this club, can feel like they can accept themselves fully and express themselves fully and celebrate that factor,” Gonzalez said. “Because a lot of times, it’s like, ‘Oh, you’re a mutt; you’re a half-blood; you’re blended.’ Like, ‘You’re not something fully — you’re diluted,’ but no. It’s a beautiful, unity of cultures and races and it’s something to celebrate.
Gonzalez was the first speaker of the night. She showed a video by Button Poetry called “Brown Boy, White Boy,” which spoke of poet Jonathan Mendoza’s experience as a mixed-race individual and the struggles he faced. The video resonated with many of MRSO’s attendees who connected with his issues dealing with the white part of his identity which has historically oppressed the brown side of his identity.
Freshman nursing major Sydney Wood explained that while she is more comfortable identifying as black over white, her biracial heritage has created tension in her life where she has felt the need to choose one half of her identity over the other at times.
“Obviously I should do better about being equally as in love with the one half of me as I am with the other,” Wood said. “I think it’s just like specifically what I am has been in conflict over thousands of years so it’s really hard [when] one half of me [questions] ‘How can I love the side that suppressed half of my ancestry for so long?’”
The second speaker of the evening was Max Wilson, MRSO director of internal and external affairs. As a psychology major, Wilson was interested in discussing some of the psychological impacts of being a mixed-race individual.
According to Wilson, one of the first books he read on the issue was “Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” by Beverly Daniel Tatum. This book and others got Wilson into psychology and the idea of racial identity which plays a pivotal role in childhood development.
The Poston’s Identity Model specifically targets bi-racial identity and goes in depth of the identity formation steps many bi-racial people go through. Wilson said the steps are not necessarily linear, but can fluctuate over the course of a person’s life. This model discusses the creation of personal identity, choice of group categorization such as taking on a mono-racial identity to fit in socially, denial of one’s identity, appreciation of multiple identity and exploration of heritages, and the integration of a multicultural identity.
Students were asked where they fit on this model and the issues they have experienced because of it. Many students agreed that it was easier to identity as mono-racial, or one race, in most situations, but that doing so made them feel as though they were not being true to their full identity. This moved the conversation to internal and external forms of oppression, where students discussed the ways other people have limited their identities and how they have allowed personal issues to affect how they view themselves.
“As far as learning to love both sides, that’s something that somebody of multi-cultures or multi-races has to learn on their own,” Wood said. “The journey of that is something everybody goes through who has more than one race, and people are at different stages.”
The last speaker was Petrina DeLacey, a sophomore psychology major, who said she thought the event went well for everyone, but especially those who may not get the opportunity to speak about issues as often as others.
“I love hearing people share their lived experiences as a multi-racial individual, especially men because so many times there’s a stigma that men can’t share what they feel and what they’ve been through and how it’s affected them,” said DeLacey. “I think it’s also a generational thing because our generation is so emotional now. We’re a bunch of empathetic people realizing our parents didn’t have the best way of helping us communicate our feelings.”
MRSO leaders encourage students to come to more events as they hope to bring in guest speakers and host larger gatherings as the year goes on.