So… What Are You, Anyway?
One of the greatest challenges we face as an organization that advocates for the advancement of multiracial people is combating the far too common misconception that “multiracial” refers exclusively to those of both black and white racial heritage. The failure to recognize that the multiracial category extends far beyond a single combination of races prevents necessary progress and understanding.
On March 25 and 26, I attended “So… What Are You, Anyway” (SWAYA), Harvard University’s third annual conference on multiracial identity. The conference was organized and run by Harvard HAPA, the Half-Asian People’s Association, to address the important aspects of multiracialism that face our nation today. Looking around and speaking to the attendees, I quickly took note of the racial diversity among both multiracial and monoracial people. While many were a combination of Asian with other races, various other races were also represented among the crowd of well over 100 attendees from across the country.
It was great to hear from the Dean of Harvard College, Evelyn Hammonds, not only because of my interest in her topic “New Technologies of Race,” but also because as Dean, her presence communicated that this was a significant event for an increasingly significant population. Another lecture that I found particularly enlightening was Arnold Ho’s, “The Categorization and Perception of Biracials in Contemporary America.” He spoke about issues of hypodescent, social dominance, and explained several fascinating experiments about people’s perception of multiracial identity.
After the series of educational and entertaining lectures, the participants split into casual discussion groups to discuss both proposed topics as well as personal experiences and viewpoints. I attended the discussion group entitled “Cute but Confused: Assumptions about Multiracial People.” We concluded with a chuckle that we were a pretty cute group, but that we were not the ones who were confused about our identity. Not at all.
Finally, I was glad to have the chance to meet Athena from Mixed Marrow, who we at Project RACE have been communicating with for some time about our respective work on behalf of the multiracial community. Athena had traveled to the event from California and was busy registering a large number of multiracial donors to the marrow registry with a quick and simple swab of the inside of their cheek. It is my hope that the conference will therefore serve not only to unify and encourage the attendees, but that perhaps it will also save a life.