Free to be Me: Growing Up Multiracial in America

“What are you exactly?”

Ahh. The all too familiar question I receive either from complete strangers or from friends who finally feel like they’ve known me long enough to ask. To answer that exact question, I’m just like everyone else. I’m human! But I’ve learned that when someone asks me this, I should assume they are asking about my ethnic background. And even though most don’t mean anything offensive by that poor choice of wording, it still makes me feel like I’m the other or that they’re trying to fit me in one box. To answer the intended question, my mom is part Mexican and part Spaniard while my dad is Khmer (Cambodian) and Chinese.

As if growing up wasn’t confusing enough, I was also constantly battling how I identified myself. There would be phases of my childhood when I was ashamed to be Hispanic and fully embraced my Asian side. Then there were times when I despised the Asian side of me and claimed only the Hispanic part. It’s alright feeling like you identify as one more than the other(s), but that wasn’t my problem. My problem was that I was always hating part of who I knew I already was.  As someone who moved to a small town in Minnesota with a predominantly white population from a diverse area of Houston, Texas, I faced different challenges depending on where I was.

When growing up in Houston, it was always the struggle of being enough of my ethnicities. I was either not a real Mexican because I wasn’t a full one or because I didn’t speak Spanish. I would go home and watch a lot of Mexican novelas on Univision just so I could fit in and prove I was Mexican to my classmates. And sometimes I was told I wasn’t Asian enough because I didn’t speak Khmer or get the top grade in math. No matter where I was or who I was with, I was an outsider.

When I moved with my mother and older sister to rural Minnesota, it was a different situation. This time instead of trying to be enough Hispanic or enough Asian, I was spending all my energy to abandon both identities and be white. In my mind, to be white in small town, Minnesota was to be accepted. It seemed to be working because I was getting invited to sleepovers, parties, and people were even coming to mybirthday parties. But it was still there. The racial remarks were still there. Although not directed at me, they could sometimes tell that it made me uncomfortable. They would then turn to me and say “Oh, but you’re not a fullAsian (or Hispanic), so it doesn’t apply to you!”

So I resorted to smiling and laughing along with them. I chose not to make a scene out of fear of rejection and I just took it. I felt the intense need to fit in. And it wasn’t long until being multiracial was used against me. When I got the top score in the grade for the state writing test, I was told that an Asian must have graded my paper. I was laughed at when I brought homemade salsa and fresh tamales to a potluck because my “Hispanic side was coming out.” No matter how hard I tried to be white, I was always reminded that I wasn’t. I was different. In a small school with the majority being white, I stuck out like a sore thumb.

Soon enough, I started getting tired of hiding who I was. I realized that I was only fooling myself and I wanted to be comfortable in my own skin. I started taking pride in standing out. I am different and that is a good thing. Sure, I won’t always have the most pleasant experience when my race is brought up in conversations, but that’s not my problem. Other times people are just genuinely curious and want to learn more about something they’ve never known about before. Instead of trying to cover who I am or putting too much effort in being something instead of the other, I’ve learned to embrace who I am and share it with other people – regardless of how they choose to take it.

As I was discovering my inner feminist during junior year of high school, I was also finding joy in myself and the importance of intersectionality in feminism. The moment I chose to embrace every aspect of myself, I felt free. I’m not some quiet, submissive Asian you heard about on TV or lazy Hispanic. I’m not a pile of stereotypes. I’m unique.  I no longer felt the need to hide the fact that I am Asian or Hispanic. I finally felt free to watch anime without being ashamed, eat tamales every Christmas, talk Spanglish at random times, grab the chopsticks instead of a fork, listen to Marco Antonio Solis or RBD, get good grades, talk obnoxiously loud, not be ashamed whenever my mom is talking in Spanish in public (or dad talking in Khmer), and let my dark, thick, curly hair flow freely. I’m grateful because I am free to be me. I was always free to be me.

Photo: http://aas340olspring2013.blogspot.com/2014/05/the-identity-crisis-of-multiracial.html 

Mardon Ellen SoMardon Ellen So is a third year undergraduate student. She is majoring in Sociology and is on a Pre-Physical Therapy track. Mardon enjoys talking about social justice, intersectional feminism, health, running, and life itself. When she’s not studying or working Mardon can be found running, listening to music, singing confidently bad in the shower, reading articles and books, volunteering, or eating. She’s essentially a human being just being. 

Self-Care Over Spring Break

Spring Break is nearly here! While you’re using next week to catch up on schoolwork, add more cash to your paycheck, or play a new video game (or like me, a tasteful blend of all three!) self-care is extremely important as we move into the final half of the semester.

What is self-care? Broadly, self-care is anything that allows you to take a deep breath, to center (sometimes, re-center) yourself in your own life. Doing intersectional feminist work is just as exhausting as it is rewarding, and it is essential to make room for yourself. Self-care includes everything from hugging a cat to staying off Facebook for a week to going to the doctor. Try answering the question, “What do I need?”

This awesome article talks about self-care, especially its importance to black women, and aptly quotes Audre Lorde, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” That is, making time for yourself is not selfish–it’s connected to survival, which for some marginalized groups is an act of defiance.

Find more self-care strategies here:

Self Care Resources for Days When the World is Terrible

Self Care Strategies to Reduce Stress

Even Non-Artists Use Art Journaling to Relieve Stress

How to Avoid Burnout and Still Help Others

Self-Care Tips for Activists–‘Cause Being Woke Shouldn’t Mean Your Spirit’s Broke

Enjoy break!

–Collective Feminism

What Race You are Might Affect Your Water Access

Most people know that there are places in the world where water access and quality are bad.  And I’m sure if you have been watching the news, you have also been reading about the quality of water in places like Flint, Michigan.  While I knew issues with water quality existed, I was astonished to learn that these problems affect the United States in enormous ways.  I also didn’t see the connections between race and water access. I thought issues of race didn’t run so deeply, but I was wrong.

According to The Penguin Atlas of Women in the World, “Over one billion people do not have access to improved water supply sources and more than two billion people do not have access to any type of improved sanitation facility.”  This lack of water and sanitation contain a lot of repercussions for women and men, but as with other things in our patriarchal society, women bear the brunt of these issues.  Bearing children becomes much more dangerous without sanitation.  Girls and women are less likely to participate in school once they reach ages of menstruation, due to the cultural unacceptance and lack of sanitation.  Women and girls are also the “collectors” of water in many countries, and on average a woman walks six kilometers a day in order to get water for their family (Link).  Most of the people that live in these conditions are people of color.  Norleen Heyzer, the director of UNIFEM stated, “Women constitute 70% of the world’s…absolute poor.”  This fact means that not only are the people living in these conditions people of color, they are women of color!

Enter Flint, Michigan.  This predominately African-American city is located northwest of Detroit, and most of the residents in this city live below lines of poverty.  In 2014, the city changed its water system in order to get water from the nearby Flint River, because it saved money.  Since 2014 there have been warnings sent to public officials, who haven’t taken any of the warnings seriously (Link). I certainly can’t give reasons why someone in public office would ignore EPA warnings, but it seems as though Governor Rick Snyder didn’t care about the lives of people that wouldn’t be backing him in upcoming elections, as he gave tax cuts to big businesses by about 1.7 billion dollars, while raising individual taxes, and cutting programs in education!  (Link).  And this is the same man that “respectfully declined” to testify at the hearings for the crisis last spring (Link).

Celebrities have been helping provide water and housing to the thousands of residents that can’t afford to leave the city.  Aretha Franklin, resident of Detroit, donated money to pay for hotel rooms; Eminem, Wiz Khalifa, Sean “Puffy” Combs, and Mark Wahlberg have donated a million bottles of water (Link); and filmmaker Michael Moore created “10 Things They Won’t Tell You About the Flint Water Tragedy” (Link).

It seems that even in the U.S., water security is something that we afford to those people who have money, instead of providing safe and clean water to all of our citizens, even when we can afford it!  Surely something can be done to shine a spotlight on the corruption that is obviously happening within the political climate of Michigan. Corruption that is still happening, because Flint STILL doesn’t have clean water.

I’m sure the residents of Flint would agree!

 

 

melissa-anne-frankMelissa Anne Frank is majoring in both Women’s Studies and English Rhetoric at St Cloud State University.  She plans on continuing her education with a Master’s degree and then a Doctorate.  Melissa is a white, cisgender, pansexual who is proud to be part of the Social Media team at the St. Cloud State Women’s Center.  Melissa also writes a personal blog called Musing with Melly on WordPress. Melissa loves reading, writing, video games, spending time with her partner and two children, and crushing the patriarchy! 

 

Why Mindfulness?

Do you know Dr. Beth Berila?  She is the director of the Women’s Studies department here at SCSU and teaches a variety of Women’s Studies courses. Her website, the Mindful Semester is an excellent site to find information on yoga, meditation, and mindfulness aimed at helping students balance their busy lives (Dr. Berila is also a yoga instructor and conducts free yoga classes in Atwood on select Mondays from 12-1pm)!

We feel like her website is a great addition to our monthly theme – Learning to Love Ourselves

Here is an excerpt from her article on mindfulness

Mindfulness is a method of cultivating self-awareness and compassion for yourself and others. To be mindful is to be aware of what you are thinking, feeling, and doing.  Rather than moving through life on automatic pilot or multitasking to such an extent that you aren’t fully conscious of everything you are doing, mindfulness is a kind of “metacognition” in which we are aware of what you are thinking. It helps you reflect on what you habitually do, how you respond to challenges, and learn what you need in order to become both more content and more successful at what you do.

Mindfulness is not a goal so much as it is a state of being.  We often spend a great deal of time ruminating on the past (such as the exchange you had with your roommate yesterday) or the future (such as whether you will get into the Nursing major). When we do that, we devote only marginal attention to the present moment.

Take a look at the rest of the article here.

 

Interacting Respectfully with Other Human Beings – A Guide

By Jo Benson

You might laugh when I describe my fashion/style/the way I dress as “lesbian.” I do! Of course it is, I mean, I am one, right? But it’s a thing. Flannel, short hair, and wearing no makeup sound eerily like a mashup of stereotypes, but to me, it’s scraping the surface of a meticulously constructed wardrobe. Which, now that I think about it, a little like dressing like a 14 year old boy, only 20 and a woman. A little. But let me tell you, I look fucking fresh. I am hot shit.

Unfortunately, this way of presenting myself – my sexuality, my woman-ness, things I deign “worthy” of adorning my body – is usually completely misinterpreted by the non-queer world. Usually this doesn’t matter to me: people in stores don’t usually walk up to me and comment on my clothes, and I’m used to my family and their friends shaking their heads when they see what I’m wearing. But in professional and work spaces, it matters. And I hear about it.

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What Does Yoga Have to do with Social Justice?

Have you met Dr. Beth Berila?  She is the director of the Women’s Studies program here on campus, she teaches many Women’s Studies courses, and she is a certified yoga instructor!  (We would also contend that she is a pretty awesome individual!)

Dr. Berila has a website called The Mindful Semester, where she inspires and challenges students to become more mindful of their college experience.  She has graciously offered for us to post from her site, and today we are pleased to bring you some of her ideas!

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