By: Catherine Zhang
Identity: the distinguishing character or personality of an individual, according to Webster’s dictionary. But what does this word really mean? To break it down, one’s identity is made up of many factors, including religion, sexual orientation, how someone views themself, and the people someone surrounds themself with. One factor that many oversee is racial background. Most people see this as either black or white; your background is either one or another. However, this is not the case for the multiracial community.
The multiracial community, unlike most of the world, is not just one race. They may deal with a life-long struggle of figuring out who they are simply because of their racial background. For example, when filling out a survey or job application, a question asking about racial background may come up. This question is so simple for most of the world, yet so hard for this community to answer. Often, there is no option to check off more than one box. Because racial background is something many take advantage of everyday, this may not appear to be a significant problem. But put yourself in someone else’s shoes, wonder what it feels like to be a multiracial person.
The multiracial community, like other racial communities, also faces stereotypes and discrimination. They are labelled as ‘exotic’ simply because they are different from the norm. Although many use this term as a compliment, it ultimately dehumanizes this community and is harmful to one’s self-esteem. As well, they may be excluded from racial groups because they are not fully one race. People assume one’s race because of their physical appearance and as a result, invalidate one’s identity. Another form of discrimination that this community faces is the denial of realizing that this discrimination even exists. To explain, someone might say that you do not experience the struggles of being a black man because you look white.
Here is Angie Yingst’s story: “‘My mother is a Panamanian immigrant and my father is a white guy from Pennsylvania. I've always felt liminal, like I drift between race and culture… I would get asked multiple times a day where I was from, where my people were from, because Allentown, Pennsylvania, clearly wasn't the answer they were looking for ... It always felt like the undercurrent of that question was, 'You aren't white, but you aren't black. What are you?'
"But truthfully, I don't feel like I fit with Latinas either. My Spanish is atrocious and I grew up in rural PA. Even my cousin said a few weeks ago, 'Well, you aren't really Spanish, because your dad is white.' Which gutted me, truly. I identify as Latina. I identify with my mother's culture and country as well as American culture. In shops, I'm treated like every other Latina, followed around, then ignored at the counter. I married a white guy and had children who are blonde and blue eyed, and I'm frequently asked if I'm the nanny or babysitter. And white acquaintances often say, 'You are white. You act white.' And I saltily retort, 'Why? Because I'm not doing your lawn, or taking care of your kids?”” For more stories like Angie’s, visit this link: https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2017/06/08/462395722/racial-impostor-syndrome-here-are-your-stories
It is time for light to be shed on the many struggles of the multiracial community. These struggles are real and just as big as the ones minorities face everyday; the first steps to make a change are to inform yourself and realize that this is truly a problem.