Students share stories of multiracial identity

By Rebecca Sweeney

Being from multiple ethnic or racial backgrounds means more than just choosing which ethnicity box to check on applications.

During last night’s Diversity Dialogues, sponsored by Student Diversity Engagement and the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs and titled “Breeding Between the Lines: Exploring the Bi-racial and Multi-racial Experience,” three panelists discussed their experiences.

Jasmine Whitlow, a journalism freshman, said her mother checked the “Other” ethnicity box on school forms until she was in sixth grade.

“In middle school, I filled out my own forms and checked African-American,” said Whitlow, whose mother is black, white and Native American, and whose father is white, Chinese and German.

Whitlow said when she was younger, the majority of her friends were white because she was more comfortable with them. In middle school, both whites and blacks shunned her, and Whitlow said she was hurt because she couldn’t choose one race or the other and realized how ignorant people could be. Now, she has friends from many different backgrounds.

“I hope people realize (multiracial people) are here, and we struggle with who to identify with,” Whitlow said.

Justin Stewart, a biology sophomore, said he wishes everyone could be multiracial so they would understand cultural differences.

Stewart, who has a black father and a white mother, said he felt like he had to pick sides growing up, but always tried to associate with both groups.

“In high school, a girl in choir told me to stop being fake and dress more black, so I went out and bought FUBU clothes,” Stewart said. “But they didn’t look right on me, and they just weren’t who I am.”

Stewart said he feels more socially comfortable hanging out with white people, but more physically comfortable hanging out with black people.

“If I walk down the street with a group of white people, I stick out like a sore thumb,” Stewart said.

When people ask him what race he is, Stewart said it does not bother him because he is glad people are making assumptions or setting their own expectations for him.

“I just don’t like being called mixed because it sounds too much like a dog,” Stewart said, “I prefer biracial.”

Mahjabeen Rafiuddin, the director of Student Diversity Engagement, said the dialogue was a celebration of the beauty and complexity of people who are multiracial.

“I hope students came with preconceived notions about biracial and multiracial experiences, and this dialogue has helped change their minds and gotten rid of the myths,” Rafiuddin said.