Interview with Multiracial Student Activist

Q&A: Sophomore creates group to discuss mixed-race issues
This semester, sophomore Walt Martzen plans to expand the conversation on mixed-race identities through a new student discussion group, IC Mixed. As a biracial student himself, Martzen created this group over the summer to bring students of mixed race together and educate other students about what it means to be biracial or multiracial.Though the group is not an official student organization recognized by the Office of Student Engagement and Multicultural Affairs, Martzen hopes the group will inspire an organic discussion about mixed-race identities beginning this semester.Opinion Editor Celisa Calacal spoke with Martzen about his inspiration behind creating the group, why it’s important to talk about mixed-race identities and his personal experiences as a biracial student.This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Celisa Calacal: What inspired you to start this group?

Walt Martzen: I think one of the things that really got me thinking about how mixed people define themselves is when I went to ECAASU [East Coast Asian-American Student Union] last year with Asian-American Alliance. … There was a lot of good discussion that happened around talking about what it means to be Asian in that context and also what it means to be mixed. … It’s something that I struggled with at first and I didn’t realize, but I would call myself half-Chinese or half-white and that kind of language, I didn’t realize how it kind of isolated me. And so, I think from those conversations I kind of realized how important it is that, even while as mixed people, we are allies for different people, especially when maybe you look more white and people can’t tell you’re Asian or you look more like a certain race, and it’s important that we also take care of ourselves and that we look after our own health, and I think that’s one of the things that we want to do.

CC: Why do you think talking about biracial and multiracial identities is important?

WM: Because it’s not really talked about. One of the things that really strikes me in reading in media and politics is that people don’t seem to highlight that some people are mixed. And I’m not sure why, I want to maybe figure out why that is. But you know, for example, President Obama, people don’t say he’s the first mixed president, he’s the first black president, but he’s mixed and that’s something that doesn’t seem to be highlighted. … And in my mind, I feel like oftentimes it comes back to that kind of binary — the need to think in terms of binary. People want to be able to identify people by race, and mixed people come along and we’re like, ‘I’m sorry, it’s not that easy.’ And I think that’s one of the things that we want to try and talk about and see if there’s some way to define it or some way to step away from the need to define it or something like that.

CC: What are some misconceptions about being biracial or multiracial?

WM: I guess the notion that we’re half-something or half-that, or that being mixed or being biracial or multiracial is easier. I think, a lot of times, people talk about people who are mixed as, “Oh, you’re so lucky.” And in a lot of senses, I will say, you know, I think I’m super privileged and super lucky that I’m mixed and I get to have my feet in two very different worlds, two very opposite continents. But at the same time, it’s a struggle. … To find community as a mixed person, and you try and fit yourself into different communities and be a part of that but sometimes you’re not fully seen as part of that community, and that’s something that I think personally — I can’t speak for all mixed people — but personally, it’s sometimes a struggle to be identified as much as you identify.

CC: How have your personal experiences been impacted by the fact that you are biracial?

WM: There have been times where I’ve been mistaken as somebody other than my parents’ child, like there was once where … it was mistaken that my mom was my nanny, which was really terrible. … And then there’s other times where people know you’re mixed, and then people are like, “Wow, that’s so cool, you’re mixed.” … And I don’t know, there’s just a different kind of feeling when some people … just think it’s cool. They tokenize it. They don’t really want to know any details about that, and they will just say that’s cool and then that’s it. … They’re not willing to expand their knowledge about what it means to be mixed because for the most part, if you’re not mixed, how can you know what that’s like? And I think it’s just sometimes being seen as this exotic, tokenized, super pretty bird or something, and it’s kind of a compliment. … People are always saying if you’re mixed, you’re super attractive and stuff. … But I think it becomes this big umbrella thing; it’s like saying all Asians are hot. … These ‘all’ statements, they sound like compliments, but they’re actually harmful because they set an expectation, a stereotype that, if ever it’s not met, it’s like you’re not really mixed.

CC: What do you hope to accomplish?

WM: I mean, I definitely have ideas about what I would love to do from this. I’m a theater major, and I’m an anthropology major. I love the possibility of planning performative qualities to take out of this. Through the group, we might like to do theater games. I just love to use those because I think they’re great for helping us have these conversations. But like I said earlier, although I have these ideas that I would love to happen, I really just want to see what everyone else wants to do. The main thing is, if I were to define what I want to get out of this, is that I want us to cultivate a stronger community as mixed people. I want there to be a place for mixed people to come and be able to talk about things and feel like their identity as mixed — we are not just allies, we are also people, and we have our own complex identities that need to be explored and we need to have a space to explore that. The second thing I guess is education for people who are around us who are not mixed. It’s just a great opportunity for us to be able to share that and be a part of the larger discussion that happens on campus about race and just talking about, “How can you define race?” I think mixed people have a lot to bring to that conversation.

Finding My Choice

2016-05-18-1463609140-1974673-12919738_10156682336945398_6347453400125733083_n-thumbvia Huffington Post

By Alexander Jasienowski

As a young girl, I remember my grandfather saying to me, “You’re black, you’re black, you’re black. It doesn’t matter how much white blood you have, you’ll always be, and always be seen as black.” My black grandfather said the words but my white relatives reinforced the message with their actions.

Growing up with a black mom and a white dad has been central to my life experience. I struggled to fully fit into one identity as each side of my family imposed its views on my identity. The black side of my family said it directly: I could never completely fit into the white community. My white grandfather, aunts and cousins were never comfortable enough to directly confront the strain that race placed on our relationships. Yet the tension of race always slipped into our encounters.

When we were young, my father would regularly take my sister and me to visit his family in upstate New York. Looking back, these memories are tinged by recollections of strange behaviors. One day, after my sister and I took one of our many swims down to the lighthouse, my aunt looked at our hair and said, “your hair is too wild, it’s so difficult!” I cringed — her words filled me with disgust and frustration. The behaviors of my father’s family continually pointed to this singular difference of race — when they gave us skin colored band-aids (which were actually too dark for our skin tone), volumes and volumes of Temptations CDs, and the strangest gift of all, eleven black dolls dressed in different animal costumes. With each visit upstate, my feelings of discomfort became stronger. My sister and I were always included in the family, but there was a growing sense of awkwardness that seemed to justify the words of my black grandfather. No matter how hard my white relatives tried to make it appear that they were comfortable with our racial differences, their behavior ultimately helped push me to choose an identity, black.

The choice proved to be complicated. I began to identify as black internally, and at the same time, externally, I was still seeking acceptance from the white community. Early on, I used my hair as a way to conform to white expectations. I tamed my wild curly locks by straightening them, changing an aspect of myself so that I would blend in with my friends at school. Gradually, I realized that more of my friends were people of color, and I experienced a level of comfort I had never felt before. By the end of 9th grade, after years of conforming to the expectations of others, I let my hair go natural, freeing both my hair and myself. Feeling liberated, I felt a new sense of confidence and pride in my multiracial identity as I embraced my black heritage more than my white roots. I made this choice under pressure from both my black and white sides. They made it seem that one culture had to dominate.

Looking back, having to make a choice at all is unsettling. In making one side dominant, I abandoned a piece of myself. People shouldn’t feel that it is necessary to abandon a part of their identity in order to be accepted.

Now, identifying as multiracial, I am learning to get beyond the pressures that were placed upon me as a young girl. While my connection and sense of affinity with the African-American community grows increasingly stronger, I continue to lean into my multiracial identity, although I sometimes feel a lingering sense of unease. I work through these vulnerabilities by reaching out and supporting others who seem to be experiencing similar struggles. Every now and then, I feel the urge to safely lock away my curls, but I do not give in to this temptation.

Alexander Jasinowski, a graduate from The Spence School, graduated from Pitzer College last Saturday

Data & Identification of Multiracial Students

    Contrary to Prior Publication, Minority Enrollment Increasing

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from The Miami Student – Opinion

 

To the editor:

In the Feb. 26 edition of The Miami Student, the article “Campus Climate Forum Discusses Minority Retention” cited a decrease of “between 25 and 80 percent” in domestic minority student enrollments at Miami in recent years, based on a study by James Porter. This statement is incorrect — enrollments of domestic racial and ethnic minority students have steadily increased on the Oxford campus, from 1,610 students in 2009 (9.5 percent) to 2,286 students in 2015 (12.1 percent).

The data to which Dr. Porter refers came from our office (the Office of Institutional Research) but were incorrectly interpreted by Porter and his students. Porter reviewed five years’ worth of enrollment reporting. During that five-year period, the guidelines for reporting race/ethnicity to the federal government changed.

Beginning in 2010, students were allowed to self-identify more than one race/ethnicity. Prior to 2010, multiracial students could only identify one race/ethnicity. For federal reporting, this coding change means that multiracial students who previously identified as a single race are now included in the category multiracial.

As the result of this classification change, Miami has gone from zero multiracial students on the Oxford campus in 2009 to 568 multi racial students in 2015.

Internal reporting allows us to see that 144 of the multiracial students identified Black or African-American as one of their races, but they are not counted as Black or African American for federal reporting — they are counted as multiracial. The same is true of the other racial categories — the number of students self-identifying as a single racial category has decreased because students are now able to self-report as multiracial.

Essentially, Miami University’s enrollment of domestic minority students has increased in recent years. More students are identifying as multiracial rather than a single racial category.

I respectfully request that you print a correction indicating that enrollment of domestic minority students on the Oxford campus has actually increased in recent years, not decreased.

If you would like to review the data, detailed historical enrollment information by racial/ethnic category is publically available on our website.

Denise A. Krallman
Director, Office of Institutional Research

krallmda@miamioh.edu

Andrea I. Bakker
Associate Director, Office of Institutional Research

bakkerai@miamioh.edu

Bill Clinton Says ‘We Are All Mixed-Race’

cbsnews.com

cbsnews.com

Former President Bill Clinton has been called the first black president before, but he had a strange response when the phrase came up recently.

Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) introduced Clinton Friday at a Memphis campaign rally for Hillary Clinton by saying that while he clearly was not the first black president, he was a “heck of a stand-in.”

“The other thing I want to make a funny comment about is Steve Cohen’s remark that I was just a stand-in for the first black president,” Clinton said. “I’m happy to do that, but you know what else we learned from the human genome? We learned that unless your ancestors, every one of you, are 100 percent, 100 percent from sub-Saharan Africa, we are all mixed-race people.”

Clinton’s remarks came only a day after actress Meryl Streep told reporters in Berlin that “we’re all Africans” when asked about her experience with Arab and North African films.

Writer Toni Morrison wrote of Clinton in 1998 that “white skin notwithstanding, this is our first black president. Blacker than any actual black person who could ever be elected in our children’s lifetime.”

Morrison later clarified her comments. “I said he was being treated like a black on the street, already guilty, already a perp,” she said, in reference to Clinton’s sex scandal.

Clinton, who initially took on a role as a backstage adviser, began campaigning for his wife last October. He intensified his attacks on Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) last week, accusing him of living in a “hermetically sealed box.”

Hillary Clinton will face off against Sanders in the Tennessee primary on March 1. She carries a three-to-one lead there over Sanders, according to a recent MTSU poll.

She is currently leading in the national Democratic primary polls with 50.2 percent, while Sanders trails at 39.1 percent, according to HuffPost Pollster.

Study Participants Wanted!

RACIAL IDENTITY STUDY

 

You are being invited to participate in a research study. If you have one biological parent who identifies as White/Caucasian American and one biological parent who identifies as Black/African American, you qualify to participate in a research study exploring the relationship between one’s racial identity and one’s self/body esteem. If you choose to participate in this study, you will be asked to complete a short demographics questionnaire, participate in one in-depth phone interview, and complete a follow up questionnaire. Your involvement in the study is expected to last about 2 hours. Some of the risks associated with the study include potential discomfort from recalling personal experiences dealing with race. The questions may also bring up negative feelings related your racial identity, self-esteem, or body-esteem. However, the questions may also help you become more aware of your personal beliefs regarding your identity, and bring forth positive attitudes you have about yourself. For your time, you will be entered into a drawing to receive a $25 Visa gift card. If you decide to withdraw from the study at any point, you will still be eligible to enter the drawing. Your chances of winning are 1 out of 25. If you have questions about this study, please contact the primary researcher, Dr. Nikol Bowen, PCC, via email, bowenn@ohio.edu.

 

Click the link below to participate

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/9ZJJY9N

MSNBC Host Blunder Raises Question

Our family is often talking about the latest current events; at the dinner table, in the car, wherever and whenever, and often these conversations get pretty, let’s say, passionate. Frequently they lead us off on a tangent, and that is what happened here. By now, I imagine most of our readers have heard about the segment on Melissa Harris-Perry’s MSNBC show where she and her guests joked about Mitt Romney’s adopted black grandson. Perhaps you have seen the video of her apology and read of Mr. Romney’s assurance that he accepts that apology and hold’s no ill will.  This was the topic of a recent family discussion. No one could make excuses for the insensitive comments, and we all agreed that there is no place for poking fun at the children of politicians, or anyone else for that matter. We agreed that it was disappointing that someone who is typically a champion for civil rights and racial equality would use her platform carelessly, but our family discussion also uncovered another interesting question.

But first let me say that I have a great deal of respect and personal gratitude for Melissa Harris-Perry. She has proven herself to be, not only a brilliant woman, but a caring and giving person. When my daughter, Kayci was awarded the Princeton Prize in Race Relations, Melissa was a professor at Princeton University. Kayci, who was a high school junior and serving as Project RACE Teens President met Melissa at the Princeton Prize Symposium on Race and was mesmerized by her knowledge and passion. Melissa graciously kept in touch with Kayci and, on several occasions, responded to Kayci’s requests for advice on racial advocacy issues, choosing a college and more. I see Melissa’s influence as a contributing factor to Kayci graduating as a Sociology concentrator from Harvard this spring. Additionally, when we were surprising my husband with birthday wishes on his 5oth, Melissa was happy to oblige by mailing him a warm and wonderful birthday greeting. She had nothing to gain from her kindness to my family, but that is seemingly the kind of woman she is.

Beyond what I know of her character, I am inclined to extend grace because I have been there. I have been in conversations that have taken a wrong turn and, to my shame, have not always spoken up. I have laughed at things that really were not funny and I have sometimes gone along with the crowd when I should have taken a stance against it. I suspect most people, at one time or another, have done the same and been fortunate enough not to have it recorded for posterity before a national television audience. Therefore, it is not difficult for me to forgive an uncharacteristic blunder.

So when we heard this story, after just a brief moment of disappointment, our conversation turned to the main area where our family philosophies have diverged from Melissa’s. We differ on our ideas and choices about racial identification. Melissa has, as do my own children, a white mother and black father. Many reports refer to her as a black woman and that is likely in part because, while acknowledging her multiracial heritage and openly praising her mother, she identifies herself as black. I believe strongly that doing so is as much her prerogative as it is my children’s prerogative to identify as multiracial.

That recollection then brought to mind an interesting (albeit perhaps extraneous) question; a question to which we do not claim to know the answer, but one which I believe would make for very interesting research. (Can you tell we have a budding sociologist and a budding psychologist among us?) We wondered whether there exists a difference in the racial ideologies among biracial people who choose to identify with one part of their racial heritage and that of those who choose to identify with both parts of their heritage. Do the views on race and society that shape the self identification choice of multiracial people also shape their race-related views of others? Does the way they perceive themselves to be viewed by society help form both their own self identity and their categorization of others?

None of us were in any way implying that we believe Melissa had this lapse in judgement because she self identifies as black rather than multiracial. That would be ridiculous. Or that those who identify as multiracial have not been equally guilty of racial insensitivity. I am simply stating that this unfortunate event led me to wonder what we can learn about the intersection between the self identification of multiracial people and their broader racial views.

Thanks for bearing with our latest family musings! We’d love to hear about yours!

Multi-Racial Americans’ Biggest Challenge: Explaining Themselves To Others

Be sure to check out this very pertinent video from Huff Post Live:

 

http://live.huffingtonpost.com/r/archive/segment/multi-racial-americans-biggest-challenge-explaining-themselves-to-others/524f11e178c90a74fa0002b8

Multiracial Like Me: Cory Booker takes NJ!

It’s great to hear that Cory Booker, the multiracial mayor of Newark, was elected New Jersey State Senator last night. As an eleven year old, I don’t know a whole lot about politics yet. But I do know that for multiracial kids like me, hearing this is fun and exciting. Not only do I live in a country led by a multiracial president, but I also live in a state that will be led in part by a multiracial senator. Very cool.

Karson Baldwin

President, Project RACE Kids

Breaking News from Teen Project RACE President

 

Last Wednesday I met with the Dean of Admissions at my high school and was very excited when he agreed to make a change on the Delbarton application forms in order to allow multiracial students to identify all parts of their heritage. I explained our mission at Project RACE and showed him a sample of the recommended wording for inquiring of a student’s race on an application. Our preferred wording, if you don’t know, is “If you are multiracial, you may select two or more boxes”. I am thankful that our dean saw the importance of making this change even though, in a private school, he was not legally obligated to do so. I am very proud of our mission, and look forward to working with the Teen Panelists on changing many more applications in the future!

 

Delbarton’s student body comprises students from more than eight New Jersey counties and 60 communities. Minority students represent about 12% of the student body.

 

 

MULTIRACIAL IDENTITY

Racial Misidentification: Experiments Find Multiracial People Likely To Be Mistaken For ‘White’

A review of recent research finds that multiracial participants are more likely to be misidentified than monoracial people.

Who are you?

  • (Photo : Alexander Horn) A review of recent research finds that multiracial participants are more likely to be misidentified than monoracial people.
(Photo : Alexander Horn) A review of recent research finds that multiracial participants are more likely to be misidentified than monoracial people.

Certainly, gender and race are among the first qualities we perceive when first meeting someone new. Although our bodies are central to our identity, many individuals would never consider either quality, race, or gender their most important attribute. Reviewing recent studies that focus on perceptions of race and daringly pose the question “Who are we?”, one thing is clear: American perceptions of race are continuing to evolve and doing so in a positive direction.

Let’s experiment

At a recent conference of the American Psychological Association, Jessica D. Remedios, Ph.D., of Tufts University, presented her work on the accuracy of perceptions of race. Because monoracial people are typically identified correctly whereas multiracial people are typically misidentified, she hypothesized that multiracial people would value another’s accurate assessment of their race during social interactions moreso than monoracial people. Race, then, is a characteristic that people of multiracial backgrounds understand as a less visible aspect of their identity, yet one they nevertheless hope others will verify.

“Our research found that multiracial people expect positive interactions with people who accurately perceive their racial backgrounds because that affirms their self-perceptions,” Remedios said. Her study, conducted with co-researcher Alison Chasteen, involved 169 undergraduates divided into two groups. For the first experiment, the group consisted of students with parents of different races and single-race students, but no whites. The second experiment combined multiracial and single-race students including whites.

In the first experiment, researchers took photos of participants and told them they would trade the photo with another participant located in another room. Although this second participant was actually fictional, the researchers presented a photo of a white man and asked the actual participant to identify his race and add comments. Next, the participants received and read fictional comments from the pretend white man, though actually written by the researchers. Finally, the participants answered questions that assessed their interest in meeting this pretend person. Whites were not included because, according to Remedios, past research suggests they are not usually concerned with their race.

In the second experiment, researchers showed actual participants a photo of either a (fictional) white man or woman who either accurately or inaccurately identified the actual participant’s race. They were then asked if they felt surprised by the identification. They were also asked how they felt about themselves after reading the other participant’s comments on their race.

“Multiracial (but not monoracial) participants reported heightened interest in interacting with an accurate partner,” wrote Remedios and her co-author. “The results suggest that multiracial (but not monoracial) people view race as an aspect of the self (like personality traits or values) requiring verification from others during interactions.”

Other researchers suggest that race for their multiracial participants is a category that provides a collective identity where one ‘fits.’

Well-Being

The Rejection-Identification model, a theory of behavior developed in 1999, posits that perceived rejection by one group may lead someone who identifies as a minority to increasingly identify with their ‘in-group’ in order to buffer themselves from negativity and to enhance their psychological well-being.

In a study testing the Rejection-Identification Model in a sample of multiracial people, Canadian researchers hypothesized that perceived discrimination would encourage multiracial people to identify more strongly with their perceived in-group and that, in turn, this multiracial identification would foster psychological well-being. “Multiracial identification is conceptualized as a coping response,” wrote the authors.

Conducting a variety of experiments, the researchers found that, consistent with their hypothesis, members of the multiracial group stereotyping themselves as similar to other multiracial people, perceiving people within the multiracial category as more homogenous and expressing solidarity with the multiracial category. Their work suggests, according to the authors, “that multiracial identification’s protective properties rest in the fact that it provides an collective identity where one ‘fits.'”

And clearly it works. Previous research has found that people who identify as multiracial have as many or more positive experiences than those who identify as a single race, regardless of that group’s status in society, according to Jacqueline M. Chen, Ph.D., of the University of California.

GroupThink

At the recent APA conference, Chen discussed her own study, conducted with David Hamilton, that involved 435 ethnically diverse undergraduate students.

In six different experiments, participants were asked to identify the race of black, white, Asian or multiracial individuals in photos while researchers recorded their accuracy and response times. In two experiments, the researchers used a memorization task as well as a time limit; would either affect a participant’s accuracy of race identification?

In another experiment, participants were told the study was about reading comprehension and attention; after perusing articles about scientists claiming to find a genetic basis for race, they were asked to view several photographs and identify the person’s race.

Chen found that participants were consistently less likely to identify people as multiracial than single-race. Perceivers were often uncertain, hesitant, and slow in categorizing multiracial individuals. “In the real world, this additional time, hesitation, and thought during face-to-face interaction could be interpreted by a multiracial interaction partner as signs of intergroup anxiety or prejudice,” said Chen. And, when misidentifying a person’s race, perceivers were more likely to categorize someone multiracial person as white than black.

“Today the race label ‘white’ includes Italians and Eastern Europeans, who were once actively discriminated against in U.S. immigration legislation,” wrote Chen and her co-author. Any categorization of race is really just a social construct that changes over time. Meanwhile, multiracial people are becoming increasingly prevalent. “Will the shifting demographics of American society instigate cultural changes in the way we understand and perceive race? Only time will tell,” wrote Chen and her co-author.

Source: Medicaldaily.com