Teen Voices

Teen Voices

 Multiracial Teens Talk About Their Identity Rip Tides

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The pressures and rejections come from within, from peers, from different sides of their families. “No matter how hard I tried I was always too white for the black kids and too black for the white kids,” says one girl. The second in a three-part series on multiracial teens.

 Geier-Lexi-BrockLexi Brock is co-president of Project RACE’s teen initiative.Credit: Courtesy of Lexi Brock
WOODSIDE, N.Y. (WOMENSENEWS)–In middle school, Allyson Gonzalez thought befriending white girls would stop the other Brooklyn public school students from teasing her about her thick eyebrows and hairy arms.

However, her new friends acted outright, “horribly” racist to certain students. Gonzalez went along with them, but would be nice to the other students in private. After witnessing this behavior, she then decided “if anything was bad, it was being white.”

Now a college freshman at Hunter College, Gonzalez, who is German, Irish and Puerto Rican, identifies as a “multiracial white-Hispanic woman.” She blames “social pressure” for the delayed acceptance of her mixed background, she said in an email interview.

Young people who are multiracial are four times more likely to switch their racial identity than to consistently report one identity, sociologists Steven Hitlin, J.Scott Brown and Glen H. Elder found in their 2006 research, cited by sociologists Kerry Ann Rockquemore, David Brunsma and Daniel J. Delgado in their 2009 piece published in the Journal of Social Issues.

This is part of the multiracial “journey,” according to freelance writer Hannah Gomez, who also works with the advocacy organization We Need Diverse Books. In her 2013 paper “This, That, Both, Neither: The Badging Of Biracial Identity In Young Adult Realism,” she combined evidence from modern fiction and scientific research to identify a three-step process in multiracial identity development. First, individuals are confronted with a situation causing them to reject one side of their race. They then seek a community that does not pressure them to disconnect with one of their sides. Finally, they achieve a sense of empowerment that successfully leads to identifying with a mixed label.

“Structural, systemic racism says that people must be easily defined and sorted into groups, and race is an easy way to do that,” said Gomez in an email interview.

While she added that no one needs to embrace all of her background, individuals are often told to embrace just one, resulting in “a lot of undue stress.”

Peer Pressures

Not fitting into one easy category led Lexi Brock, who is white and African American, to Project RACE, where she is co-president of its teen initiative. The 16-year-old Georgia native grew up in the predominantly white suburb of Toccoa and did not realize she had a blended background until middle school. The adversity she faced there toward multiracial people lowered her self-esteem and increased her need to “blend in,” she said in a phone interview.

Every morning for three years, Brock would spend two hours straightening her thick curly hair to conform to the sleek thinner hairstyles of her white peers.

“I did not want to bring to light my African American features,” Brock said. “I would look in the mirror and think ‘I don’t look like the other girls.’ I tried losing weight to make my hips not be so protruding.”

“I remember people saying ‘oh you can’t date her, she’s mixed’ as if having tanned skin affected my character,” Brock said in a speech this spring at an event celebrating people in Toccoa who overcame personal obstacles. “No matter how hard I tried I was always too white for the black kids and too black for the white kids.”

Like Brock, 18-year-old Raina Salvatore from Queens, N.Y, faced peer pressure that made it feel hard to embrace her Italian, Portuguese and Indian heritages.

“When I was younger, I’d have peers who’d tell me, ‘you’re not Indian’ or ‘you’re not Portuguese,'” she said in an online interview. “I have friends who make jokes about it, but truth be told, it’s really rude.”

She was often told she was “too white” to be Indian or couldn’t be a certain race because she wasn’t “culturally proficient in any.” Thus, until seventh grade, she identified more with her Italian heritage.

While teenage sisters Angela and Julie Lavarello never rejected their background, some members of their cultural community did make them feel self-conscious about being mixed at weekly Polish classes in Queens and Brooklyn. The girls, who have a part-Polish mother and Peruvian father, recalled students asking them why they were there.

“Nobody [at Polish school] really takes you seriously,” said Angela Lavarello during an interview in the Bronx, N.Y. “I feel like every time you come upon somebody who thinks you’re an oddity . . . you have to explain why you’re there.”

Family Pressures

Still other multiracial teens have felt uncomfortable with their identity due to familial rather than peer pressures.

Sarah DeFilippo, 16, felt more pressure from her family than her friends when it came to her mixed heritage. DeFilippo, who is from Queens, N.Y, has a Trinidadian mother and Italian-German father.

She said in an online interview that her mother’s side of the family treats her differently.

“They assume we can’t handle pepper in our food, that we don’t know what anything is, and that’s hurtful because it’s like ‘here’s my family,’ but I don’t think we’re much alike,” she said.

Her Italian-German aunt “acts really confused” whenever DeFilippo plays soca music, a highly rhythmic genre of Caribbean music originating in the 1970s from a subculture in Trinidad and Tobago. She remarked, “I think it’s harder for her because that whole side of the family was pretty racist against people of color, so there was a lot of culture shock for her.”

Others have experienced more explicit familial pressure.

Stephanie Surjeet, 22, who is Punjabi and Haitian, said being multiracial was “kind of like a curse” because her family wanted her to follow differing cultures.

“I could never really relate to my father’s side because I just felt ostracized. They would talk about my hair being too curly,” she said in a phone interview from her home in Brooklyn, N.Y. “They would say we would act too African American.”

Thus, she felt more at home with her Haitian family, who accepted her race.

Surjeet’s predicament is an issue that Gomez touches on in her paper. People, she writes, tend to perceive certain mixes “as a sort of betrayal” on the part of the individual for identifying, or appearing to identify, with just one race and rejecting the other.

Despite these struggles, Surjeet acknowledges that being multiracial also leads to more open-mindedness. “Sometimes it’s hard to fit in, especially as a kid,” she said, “so you have to start kind of figuring out your identity early on.”

Tatyana Bellamy-Walker provided additional reporting for this story.

This story is part of Teen Voices at Women’s eNews. In 2013 Women’s eNews retained the 25-year-old magazine Teen Voices to continue and further its mission to improve the world for female teens through media. Teen Voices at Women’s eNews provides online stories and commentary about issues directly affecting female teens around the world, serving as an outlet for young women to share their experiences and views.

Source: Stephanie Geier is a freshman at Hunter College in New York City. She was the editor of her high school newspaper

Multi Racial Group Jumping

CALLING ALL TEENAGERS!

 

We are looking for our next Project RACE Teen President! Our current president is all set to go to college in the fall and we need our next “special someone” to take his place.

Qualifications:

  • High School Student in the 2015/2016 school year.
  • Believe in the Multiracial Advocacy as stated in our mission statement on our website.
  • Have very strong communications skills.
  • Be able to volunteer approximately one hour per week.
  • Have parental support.
  • Be able to fulfill this position for a minimum of one year.

 

If you think you are the person for the job, please do the following:

  • Write an essay no longer than 500 words about why you want to be the next Project RACE Teen President.
  • Send the essay with name, address, phone number(s), and any additional information to susangraham@projectrace.com
  • All essays and any accompanying information (pictures, resume, awards, volunteer information, etc.) must be received by June 1, 2015.

***PLEASE PASS THIS ON TO ANY TEEN WHO YOU THINK MAY BE INTERESTED***

New Project RACE Teens President Appointed

Project RACE Teens President
Tommy McManus

On behalf of the Project RACE Advisory Board, I have the honor of introducing Tommy McManus as the next president of Project RACE Teens! Tommy, who has served as a PRT National Panelist, will be PRT’s sixth president since the youth arm of the Project RACE organization was founded in 1999. We want to thank Olivia Mukendi for her time of service and wish her well as she steps down to prepare for college.

As a former Project RACE Teen President I am delighted that my first duty as a newly-appointed member of the Project RACE Advisory Board was to help select our new Project RACE Teens President. As we considered the applicants, Tommy really stood out as the clear choice.

Tommy is a rising junior at Delbarton School in Morristown, NJ who comes from a family with a long-standing commitment to service. He has done incredible things at his young age to make a difference and display compassion for others. At only 12 years old, Tommy shaved his head to stand in solidarity with a friend who was undergoing chemotherapy in his battle against leukemia. As he grew up, his interest in supporting others continued to broaden. He was selected as a Regional Envoy for Teen2Teen RISE, an international youth run non profit responsible for numerous projects to aid teens impacted by natural disasters or poverty in the United States and around the world. With projects across the US, in Haiti, Honduras, the Bahamas and more, Tommy and the other envoys have had a tremendous impact.

A natural athlete and a huge sports fan, Tommy is not only a member of his school’s baseball team but also a pitcher and short stop on the Basking Ridge Babe Ruth All Stars 15U team that just this summer won the New Jersey State Championship. He is also manager of Delbarton’s varsity basketball team. He is an excellent student and he loves to read.

As you can see, he is an accomplished young man with a demonstrated heart to serve. There was, however, one issue to consider in choosing Tommy as PRT President. He will be our first non-multiracial president! After a very brief discussion among the Advisory Board, we agreed that it would (as one board member put it) “fly in the face of all that we stand for” to discriminate against a well-qualified applicant because they are not multiracial. Furthermore, I am of the conviction that significant progress in civil rights can never be achieved when members of the group that is being discriminated against are the only ones in the battle. Real change happens when people who are not a member of that group see the injustice and care enough to advocate for others. Tommy has multiracial relatives and multiracial friends. He knows that you do not have to be multiracial to know that we deserve equality and respect and he is willing to work toward that end for the good of others and the good of our world. We think that is awesome!

Congratulations, Tommy and welcome to the Project RACE team!

Kendall Baldwin
Project RACE Advisory Board
Former President of Project RACE Teens

Are you a Motivated Teen?

Final call for applications for the next Project RACE Teen President

Now Accepting Applications for Project RACE Teens President

Project RACE is seeking a dynamic, motivated multiracial teen to serve as the next President of Project RACE Teens. This is a high profile position at the forefront of multiracial advocacy.  The chosen candidate will work with the Executive Director, Advisory Board and Presidents of our other divisions, Project RACE Kids and Project RACE Grandparents, to advocate for multiracial people in a variety of important arenas.

This is a volunteer position, but the benefits are extraordinary. Previous Presidents have testified before Congress, worked with legislators, held successful bone marrow drives, appeared on the Tyra Banks Show and CNN, given interviews to many of the nation’s top newspapers and syndicates, been quoted in text books, had their writings published, petitioned the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, interviewed multiple celebrities and much much more! The two previous Presidents are both currently attending Harvard University and credit the  leadership experience they gained with Project RACE for helping to get them there. While the position can sometimes be demanding, Project RACE always encourages our volunteers to be first and foremost dedicated to your studies and families.

Interested candidates should submit a brief few paragraphs on why they would like to be PRT President and why they feel they are qualified to projectrace@projectrace.com. Please put “Teen President” in the subject line of your message. Final applications must be received by July 22.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Are you the next Project RACE Teen President?

Now Accepting Applications for Project RACE Teens President

Project RACE is seeking a dynamic, motivated multiracial teen to serve as the next President of Project RACE Teens. This is a high profile position at the forefront of multiracial advocacy.  The chosen candidate will work with the Executive Director, Advisory Board and Presidents of our other divisions, Project RACE Kids and Project RACE Grandparents, to advocate for multiracial people in a variety of important arenas.

This is a volunteer position, but the benefits are extraordinary. Previous Presidents have testified before Congress, worked with legislators, held successful bone marrow drives, appeared on the Tyra Banks Show and CNN, given interviews to many of the nation’s top newspapers and syndicates, been quoted in text books, had their writings published, petitioned the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, interviewed multiple celebrities and much much more! The two previous Presidents are both currently attending Harvard University and credit the  leadership experience they gained with Project RACE for helping to get them there. While the position can sometimes be demanding, Project RACE always encourages our volunteers to be first and foremost dedicated to your studies and families.

The ideal candidate will be mature, confident and creative with strong oral and written communication skills. The individual must embrace their multiracial identity and believe strongly that multiracial people should be allowed to identify with their entire heritage. As we would like the new President to serve a minimum two year term, students entering 9th, 10th or 11th grade are preferable, but others may also be considered.

The responsibilities include: Contributing to the organizations website and blog, creating content on the PRT Facebook and Twitter accounts, giving media interviews, responding to internal and external emails, promoting membership, planning at least one event per year (could be a fundraiser or minority-focused bone marrow donor drive, or a new idea), managing the PR Teens National Advisory Panel, contributing to programs that can be utilized to obtain grants and other activities as they arise.

Interested candidates should submit a brief few paragraphs on why they would like to be PRT President and why they feel they are qualified to projectrace@projectrace.com. Please put “Teen President” in the subject line of your message. The second round of applications will be reviewed beginning June 30th.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Now Accepting Applications for Project RACE Teens President

Project RACE is seeking a dynamic, motivated multiracial teen to serve as the next President of Project RACE Teens. This is a high profile position at the forefront of multiracial advocacy.  The chosen candidate will work with the Executive Director, Advisory Board and Presidents of our other divisions, Project RACE Kids and Project RACE Grandparents, to advocate for multiracial people in a variety of important arenas.
This is a volunteer position, but the benefits are extraordinary. Previous Presidents have testified before Congress, worked with legislators, held successful bone marrow drives, appeared on the Tyra Banks Show and CNN, given interviews to many of the nation’s top newspapers and syndicates, been quoted in text books, had their writings published, petitioned the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, interviewed multiple celebrities and much much more! The two previous Presidents are both currently attending Harvard University and credit the  leadership experience they gained with Project RACE for helping to get them there. While the position can sometimes be demanding, Project RACE always encourages our volunteers to be first and foremost dedicated to your studies and families.
The ideal candidate will be mature, confident and creative with strong oral and written communication skills. The individual must embrace their multiracial identity and believe strongly that multiracial people should be allowed to identify with their entire heritage. As we would like the new President to serve a minimum two year term, students entering 9th, 10thor 11th grade are preferable, but others may also be considered.
The responsibilities include: Contributing to the organizations website and blog, creating content on the PRT Facebook and Twitter accounts, giving media interviews, responding to internal and external emails, promoting membership, planning at least one event per year (could be a fundraiser or minority-focused bone marrow donor drive, or a new idea), managing the PR Teens National Advisory Panel, contributing to programs that can be utilized to obtain grants and other activities as they arise.
Interested candidates should submit a brief few paragraphs on why they would like to be PRT President and why they feel they are qualified to projectrace@projectrace.com. Please put “Teen President” in the subject line of your message. The first round of applications will be reviewed beginning June 15th.
We look forward to hearing from you!

FINAL CALL: 2013 Project RACE Teen & Project RACE Kids National Panelists

Deadline for applications: December, 15, 2012

Want to make a difference in the lives of our country’s fastest growing racial group? 
We are accepting applications for Project RACE Kids and Project RACE Teens National Panelists for 2013.

Qualifications: Creative and passionate Kids age 8 – 12 and Teens 13-18 who believe that multiracial people should be able to identify with all aspects of their heritage. Previous panelists have been called upon to contribute in many ways: writing for our blog and website, volunteerngi at events including bone marrow drives, advocating on behalf of multiracial kids, teens and our families with schools, legislators, and other organizations. Naturally, applicants from all races are welcome. 

 How to apply:
Please email the following information to:  
Projectracekids@projectrace.com

Name:
Age:
Hometown:
And a short explanation of: “Why I would like to be a Project RACE National Panelist.”