ASM: Julie Lythcott-Haims Explores the Sense of Belonging within A Mixed-Race Identity

Following a week of discussions, posters, movie screenings, and specially-designed cakes, Mixed Heritage Awareness Week was concluded with an All-School Meeting (ASM) featuring Julie Lythcott-Haims. Novelist of four books, Lythcott-Haims delivered a thirty minute speech centered on her experience as a bi-racial Black and white woman. Her books include commentary on parenting, adulting, and writing prompts. Lythcott-Haims also has a phone line dedicated to providing people a space to vent and seek advice. She encourages anyone interested in learning more about her work to follow her social media handle @jlythcotthaims.

Natasha Muromcew ’22 and Christine Michael ’22, co-heads of MOSAIC, an affinity group for mixed-heritage students, opened Friday’s ASM with Lythcott-Haims’ introduction. Mixed-heritage week, planned by the MOSAIC board members, brought to light the experience of being a mixed-heritage person in today’s world.

Camila McGinley ’23, a board member of MOSAIC, offered information on the challenges of grappling with her own heritage as a mixed white and Latinx person. McGinley reflected on her perception of her own mixed race identity and how it has changed over time.

“For me being a mixed heritage person always meant not fitting in. I always felt too much or too little of my ethnicities. Before I was able to meet other mixed heritage people I felt very alone in my identity. However, as I have gotten older I have been able to recognize the beauty of my mixed identity and what it means for me. For me now being mixed means having the capacity to withhold assumptions and connect with folks of different groups,” McGinley wrote in an email to The Phillipian.

Lythcott-Haims first opened up about how much of her experience as a biracial woman has been defined by hardships inflicted upon herself by others, specifically non-mixed race people. During the ASM, Lythcott-Haims offered examples of challenges that mixed people may encounter.

“These are just some of the things mixed race people have to work out. This part of my family hates this part, and vice versa. Perhaps relatives resent me or are outright cruel or reject me or disown me. Or they overly praise me because I ended up with the good features; the good hair… Being misidentified by others, mislabeled. Feeling a kinship to an ancestry of a people yet not looking enough like them, so our own people don’t recognize us as one of them. Seeing evidence of violence in our DNA… As Agnes [Agosto ’24] said, ‘we are grasping for the approval of others’… This can lead to a profound sense of unbelonging,” said Lythcott-Haims.

Eleanor Tong ’24, a mixed white and Asian student who regularly attends MOSAIC meetings, appreciated Lythcott-Haims’ discussion surrounding the mixed race experience. Tong felt that Lythcott-Haims was willing to address the complexities in the journey to self-love.

“I was pleasantly surprised, I actually really loved it. I think that she was able to put a lot of people’s feelings, especially mixed race people into words, which I think is very hard to do. Because there’s a lot of conflicted feelings. And, there’s a lot of invalidating yourself in some areas that she was able to talk about. Because she talked about loving yourself and relationships with parents where you don’t necessarily feel hatred towards them, but you feel mad at some of the things that you feel are their fault… I think that she was able to highlight a lot of that,” said Tong.

Preceding Lythcott-Haims’ speech, Agnes Agosto ’24 recited a poem regarding her experience as a mixed white and Latinx person. She agreed with Tong’s sentiments on the value of the vulnerability that accompanies the discussion and self exploration of one’s mixed-heritage. Agosto felt that Lythcott-Haims’ comments on the duality between accepting oneself while being mindful of certain privileges one may have were insightful.

“I know that Emily [Turnbull ’24] asked the question about claiming a part of your identity even if you don’t look like that part of your identity with it, like how to claim that part of identity without coopting experiences and traumas that aren’t yours… I know that she talked about understanding that you have privilege as, for example, a white passing person or just somebody who doesn’t have to experience that trauma because you look a certain way. And understanding that privilege and acknowledging it but at the same time still saying ‘Here are things I have in common with you. I hear you and I do belong with you, even if I don’t share that trauma.’ Because I think that although trauma and shared trauma is a huge part of cultures, at the same time, there is so much more and I think that she talked about that really well,” said Agosto.