June 12, 1967: the Loving vs. Virginia Supreme Court case overruled the ban on interracial marriage in the United States. A significant day in our country’s history, but especially for those of us who gathered at the Check One Symposium here at Kismet Chestnut Hill. The idea came from a high school club for mixed-race kids — a reclamation of the idea that we are asked to check just one box to define our ethnic/racial identity on any formal survey or document.
The Check One Symposium was a celebration, a way to honor and highlight the multi-faceted experiences of those of us that grew up (and are still growing up) in multi-racial households. We listened as people shared variations of the same microaggressive behavior (“What are you? No, what are you really?” or “But you don’t look (insert racial/ethnic identity here)” or “I must have confused you with the other ethnically ambiguous kid in the class”). We laughed at the ridiculousness of it all, smiling at each other with the comfort of finally, finally, not feeling alone.
It was impressive that every panelist represented a different mixture, although given the multitude of possibilities and definitions of “mixed,” it was not that hard to have a diverse group of representatives. Jose “Gonzo” Gonzalez started the panel with a story on his identity as a “Polo Rican” (Polish & Puerto Rican); Sara-Chen bravely followed by sharing her experience not with a racial or ethnically mixed background, but as someone who was adopted from China to a family with two moms; Daralyse took the seat with energy and enthusiasm as she explained her less complicated relationship to her mixed identity; and Takashi’s story made sure to highlight the impact of generational history on his identity formation.
We ended the evening with an opportunity for the audience to ask questions. We discussed Interracial dating, multi-generationally mixed families, and strategies for dealing with the every day confrontation with microaggressions (and even blatant racism). Our goal for the night was to leave feeling more grounded and more rooted in who we are, to feel loved and affirmed in our identities, and to feel honored and celebrated for our resilience. Thank you to Maria Beatty, Jose Gonzalez, Daralyse Lyons, Takashi Moriuchi, and Sara-Chen Ogorek for helping us leave with a little bit more magic than what we came with.
I began the evening with a small poem and I’ll leave it here to ponder:
“what about this theory. the fear of not being enough. and the fear of being ‘too much.’ are exactly the same fear. the fear of being you.” — Nayirrah Waheed
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By Isabel Ballester, Community Associate at Kismet Chestnut Hill