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May 4, 2022

“Why you should care about your multiracial friends” (By: Carmen Clemente)

According to the U.S. Census in 2020, the population of “Two or More Races” in America increased by 276% compared to the 2010 U.S. Census. Now, around 10.2% of the U.S. population identifies as being multiracial. Though the population of multiracial adults is growing at a high rate, it is still a relatively new concept. The U.S. Census Bureau had just introduced Americans’ ability to choose more than one race in 2000 (pewresearch.org).  

Growing up as a kid, and even now as an adult, I dreaded the little checkboxes under the question of what race you identify with when filling out surveys and applications.  

I identify as being biracial. My mom is Caucasian, and my dad is Filipino. So, whenever I come across this predicament of which checkbox am I going to choose over the other, a part of me feels as though this indefinitely defines who I am. But it’s only a checkbox, right?  

It is only a game of boxes until I am forced to limit myself to one checkbox that I stumble across named “other.”  

I can’t help but feel the repercussions of this one word for people who identify with more than one ethnicity. All of our unique experiences and identity crises condensed into one word that doesn’t even serve our individuality justice because it dismisses celebration and instead puts us in a box that forbids us to express who we are.  

Instead, we are the “other,” the forgotten, the marginalized. Thankfully, often you will see the checkbox “two or more races,” but even then, this should not dismiss the millions of multiracial people whose stories significantly differ from one another.  

The sad truth is that this is only a small example compared to what multiracial people have to go through throughout their lives.  

My experience as a multiracial child is vastly different from that, say, of a half Hispanic half African American child. Even though we are both biracial, our unique experiences based on our parents’ monoracial identities are completely different.  

One misconception plays out when monoracial people approach or talk to their multiracial peers. A lot of the time, they assume that all of our experiences are the same. More often than not, there is more diversity within the multiracial community than people realize.  

Moreover, I feel disappointed when people think they have me all figured out once they learn that I’m half-white and half-Asian. I’m not the only one feeling this way. According to a Pew Research study, about one in four multiracial adults “have felt annoyed because people have made assumptions about their racial background.”

There is no shame in asking a person of more than one race what they are. There is more to us than our biological makeup. Many multiracial people identify with one race over another. And though we may identify with one race, the world may see us as the other. Working through one’s racial identity, especially when your DNA is made of multiple races, can be challenging.  

For example, I am an ethnic minority, but I also pass as white, so I simultaneously experience white privilege. I feel as though my biological makeup limits me from being able to fully understand and experience the monoracial culture of both my Caucasian and Asian sides. So, where does that leave me? Often, I feel as though I’m left in the margins, that my experiences aren’t valid enough.  

What I long for is for people to be able to recognize my struggle and show compassion. I’m not asking you to understand, but to show up and offer a helping hand when I lose vision of who I am.  

We live in a world that likes to compartmentalize and label, so for multiracial adults who have to navigate through their identity in this world like me, that can be tough.  

I wish I could give you a concrete and straightforward answer to how you can be there for your multiracial friends who may be silently or not so silently going through a racial identity crisis. If I can sum it all up in one word, the best I can give you is this:  

Listen.  

Give us space to express ourselves. Give us time to tell you who we are. Give us grace and understanding when we change our minds about our racial identity.  

And please, do not put us in boxes. 

 

(Carmen is my daughter. This article was published in the Asbury Collegian, April 22, 2022.)