In light of the discussion surrounding race on campus, an entire racial category has so far been disregarded from the conversation: the mixed-race. The exclusion of mixed-race students from these discussions mirrors the feelings of exclusion many of us often feel day-to-day. As a female born to an Asian mother and a white father, I am a member of the mixed-race community. Through my experiences, I have realized that the prejudice I face is not that of malice; rather, it stems more from the ignorance and lack of conversation that surrounds such an “ambiguous” cultural and racial identity.
Society has pressured mixed-race Asians to limit our complex identities and conform to a single race: in a predominantly white society like Andover, the Asian identity is easier and therefore more commonly suppressed. Coming to Andover, I, like many other mixed-race Asians, felt the desire to disassociate myself from the “foreign Asian” stereotype, publicizing my “white side” and completely ignoring the other. This approach, however, is only a short-term solution that perpetuates a long-term problem.
We need to change the way we look at mixed-race identities: mixed does not mean “half and half” — rather, we are two full cultures, a dual race. As a dual-race student I am fully Japanese and fully Australian; both are equal. If anything, we should be considered “doubles,” full members of both races.
I consider the main problem surrounding my mixed-race identity to be the fact that my ability to fully assimilate to both cultures is complicated by the way I look. This ignorance surrounding my dual identity creates a hurtful and inaccurate culture that perpetuates the same prejudice other races experience. Intended compliments such as “You look so exotic,” “But you’re not fully Asian” or even the inherently limiting word “half” are actually microaggressions. In both white and Asian communities I am either exoticized or viewed as “whitewashed.”
This mentality surrounding my mixed-race identity is not only inaccurate and restraining, but insulting. Mixed-race people are too often dumped into one or the other category, frustratingly pigeon-wholed in a tray because they don’t fit neatly with the other races. We have a double identity and an exposure to both communities, but our “exotic” appearance often unfairly marginalizes one of our cultures.
President Barack Obama ran for office as the first “black President,” when in reality he is half-black and half-white. Some claimed that many white voters voted “black” — a minority to them — unable to see that he is just as white as they are. On the other hand, others claimed black voters voted for “one of their kind,” ignoring the President’s white heritage. Even on the Andover homepage, there is a double asterisk placed next to our racial statistics: **Students of color include mixed-race students as well. Despite the progressive milieu of our school, we are still not comfortable with creating a singular place for dual-race students.
This attitude is a modern interpretation of the racist “one drop rule” — that a single drop of non-White blood automatically makes one non-White, and limits one to a minority identity. Despite Andover’s reasonable intentions to show the diversity present on campus, the fact that it flaunts its inaccurately represented diversity encapsulates the same generalizations and ignorance we are trying to tackle.
Most people are especially comfortable with racial purity, and are consequently uncomfortable with cultural ambiguity. The only thing hindering me from being fully able to appreciate both my cultures is the ignorance and mistrust surrounding mixed-race people, and the ensuing discrimination. We preach the motto of “youth from every quarter,” and mixed-race students can both further diversify our school and act as a cultural liaison for the community, but they cannot do so unless we equally acknowledge each culture with which they identify. Being different makes it difficult to assimilate, and often it is simply easier to run away from the problem than it is to tackle it head-on.
People of mixed races are often superficially glorified for their “exoticness,” but fundamentally still face the same supremacy and exclusion from the single-race communities here. Despite Andover’s progressive push into the 21st century, maybe it is time we took a step back to examine our schools constitutional values. As a school we should strive to embrace the unique diversity and broad-minded perspective dual-race students have to offer, while accepting a mixed-race student like me, for example, as both fully white and fully Asian.
The status quo here at Andover and the world at large oftentimes alienates mixed-race people. To achieve a harmony amongst mixed-race students at Andover, we must first stop overlooking the cultural ambiguity we are too reluctant or scared to face. As a community, students of all races must call for some serious racial dialogue, learn about the complexities within such a diverse Asian society and acknowledge the still omnipresent microaggressions on campus that profoundly impact mixed-race students every day. I urge students of all races, especially the ones that often feel left out, to get involved. Every student has a valuable role in the dialogue regarding mixed-race heritage.