Five Things to Know When Interacting With Someone Who is Mixed Race
My early adolescent years were quite confusing, especially while continuously attempting to grapple with my own sense of identity. There was a period where I felt like I was going through one identity crisis after another. While one would think it may be easier to discuss with my parents (both of whom were born during the inception of the Civil Rights Movement), trust me, it was not. To be honest, there were very few occasions growing up where my family candidly discussed the concept of race with me. The proud child of a mother who is Black and White and father who is Filipino and Cuban, my family focused on uplifting and encouraging me, and explaining that I would traverse environments with a sense of versatility that many others may never know.
It was not until I was applying for college that I discovered the both literal and fictitious boxes that institutions were trying to place me in. However, by the time I was 17, had successfully sifted through my identity whirlwind, and was exploring the college application process, I knew enough to know that there should be a box for multi-ethnic/or check all that apply. Needless to say I refused to apply to certain schools that did not meet this criteria some years ago. Fast forward to August of 2013. As a recent college graduate, fresh off two consecutive Summer internships, I was ready to kickstart my career with my new Corporate job. I did not know then but the insistence on putting me in a box would continue for a long time. My first jarring experience was when I was at training and a bi-racial woman who was half Asian and half white said to me, "Okay, I get that you are mixed, but like what side do you really identify with? Like what type of music do you listen to?" This would start a painful trajectory within my career (one primarily dominated by white males) where I would constantly have to explain my identity to others, on their terms as opposed to mine. It is bad enough that as a minority female, in middle management, I am occupying a space in which I do not see versions of myself at the highest ranks of leadership, and yet I still must answer questions about my hair, my features, the origins of my last name, and where I am from. So with that, I leave you with these. A few key takeaways to consider when interacting with a mixed race person:
1. My identity is to be discussed on my terms when I feel comfortable investing the time and energy to have that conversation with you.
2. I am not a Rubik's cube that needs to be figured out. I am simply complex like most other human beings in this world.
3. If I occupy a space where I find myself as a double minority (female POC) I need not explain to you which aspect of my identity defines me "more".
4. I, like many others do not enjoy back handed compliments about why things are "different" for us. You cannot explain what is different if you have never lived or experienced life through the lens of a mixed person.
5. I am willing to make an investment and discuss the nuances of this experience with you, but first you need to be willing to actively listen and learn.
Written by Ariel Johnson-Peredo