One CSU student organization attempted Monday night to break down the walls of race, offering up to students their perspectives on what growing up in an interracial family is like in today’s society.
Shades of CSU, an organization that looks at the issues of race on campus and beyond, hosted “The Race Boxes” in the Lory Student Center on Monday, which featured discussion, anecdotes and presentations designed to encourage people to break down their “race boxes” and recognize how alike people are despite their differences.
Four members of Shades spoke to an audience of about 20 students and faculty, sharing their thoughts and stories about growing up in interracial families.
The issue of which race each panelist identified with struck a cord among the group.
“Mixed races are just starting to be identified. We’re more than a mixed race group, we’re mixed identities,” said Alyssa Dawson, co-president of Shades.
Dawson stressed how important it was to step outside of the box and accept people for who they are.
“I think it’s remembering to not be put off by races. You need to be proud and educate others,” Dawson said. “Work hard to not be ignorant and try to understand.”
Prior to the 2000 Census, people of mixed race were only allowed to check one box for race in order to identify themselves.
To put this in perspective, the audience was asked to fill out a survey hoping to show the difficulty in having to select one box our of a broad range of categories when trying to identify their majors.
“Take a look at what we go through,” said Kate Wormus, treasurer for Shades.
Shelby Chase, a member of Shades, discussed the strains that selecting one race box had on her mother.
After switching schools in third grade, Chase needed to identify her race using only one box. However, her mother refused.
“She asked me what I wanted to be this year, ‘black or white?'” Chase said. “After that we switched it up every year.”
The speakers affirmed that choosing one race while being multiracial can be a tough decision for many because usually people relate to both races.
Some, however, follow the same path as Carl Olsen, a member of Shades, who takes measures to be recognized as both races.
Olsen refers to himself as “100 percent white and 100 percent Japanese.”
“It confused me when people asked me what (race) I was,” Olsen said to the crowd. “Race was always thrown into my face. I’d respond with ‘Well, I’m human.'”
Throughout the event the Bill of Rights for Racially Mixed People was recited, shedding light on the struggles mixed race people face.
“Assumptions are so common and easy to get into; we all do it,” Wormus said. “I challenge you to seek deeper and spread your wings a little to find diversity.”
Shades of CSU will be hosting monthly mixers within the Diversity Offices to help stir up participation within student organizations on campus.
“We really hope that (people) go out and talk to people about the racism out there,” Dawson said.
Staff writer Justyna Tomtas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.