Saturday, February 12, 2011

Reconceptualizing Race Across Campus: Multiracial Youth’s Engagement in Identity Projects

By: Zannie Carlson

In my Critical Race Theory course, we have been discussing a contingent of critical race theorists who asserted that race should no longer be considered a relevant means of self-identification. These theorists’ rationale is that the social construct of race has been used to oppress and divide, and by rejecting these dangerous categories, individuals of color will be better able to create unity based on personality or humanity rather than skin tone.

However, increasing numbers of multiracial youth have been engaging in a different kind of racial project where they assert and embrace both parents’ lineages in efforts to celebrate their multiracial identities. The student organizations offer support for mixed-race individuals, who are more common in American society now more than ever before. Likewise, more individuals are filling “other” as their racial identity on the census so that they do not choose one parent’s racial background over another’s.

 Shifting demographics and attitudes hardly makes us post-racial, however. Part of the reason for establishing these organizations originates from students’ interest in creating a safe space to express their experiences to address a defining characteristic that strangers and friends tip-toe around, misrepresent, or misunderstand. America’s racial hierarchy is not broken, but rather accommodated for multiracial individuals.

What is most moving about these student organizations, however, is the fact that they are encouraging dialogue. Through dialogue, the students promote cross-racial understanding.  These connections may have a more profound effect on attitudes on multiculturalism than the diversity itself.

- Zannie Carlson
   TMA Staff Writer

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