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MRKC Book Club Reflections on Mixed: Multiracial college students tell their life stories

Equity, Inclusion and Social Justice Region IV-E Region IV-E
January 14, 2015 Brittany Overstreet

MRKC Book Club Reflections on Mixed: Multiracial college students tell their life stories

I want to start off saying that I appreciate the rawness and straightforwardness from each of these writers. The following paragraphs will consist of my thoughts and reflections on various sections of this book. Lastly, I use the insight that I have gained from this book to critically think about how many of my students identify as multiracial and how I can better serve them as their academic advisor.

Allison Bates writes about the struggle that many kids have relating to their parents who are of another race. Allison expresses, "There is no way my white mother can conceptualize what it's like to be a young black woman in society." (Garrod, Kilkenny & Gomez, 2014, p. 55). I agree with this statement as I share a similar identity. As I continued to read more about Allison Bates's experiences, I began to reflect about how her experiences are related to those of the students that I advise. Additionally, I thought about her experience in terms of first-generation students, considering that is a majority of the population that I advise. How can the parents of first-generation college students relate to their child's collegiate experience? I am a first-generation college student and I remember that my mother did not have a clue of what to expect, so it was hard for us to communicate about the challenges that I experienced. As an advisor, I can be transparent with students about some of my collegiate experiences so that I may help them feel comfortable with opening up about their struggles and ultimately help them through the process of identity.

I love my job! I know this is a cliché statement, but, I do. I enjoy meeting with students who represent such diverse backgrounds. I work in Chicago and majority of the students come from the inner-city. I find that many of the students I advise voluntarily open their life with me and share very personal life experiences. I have students that are from Pakistan, Mexico, Africa, students who identify as Polish, Puerto Rican, Greek, Caucasian, Italian, African American, Mexican, Muslim, and Catholic, male, female, working class, and much more. Students have told me how they have been kidnapped, lived in other countries, homeless, poor, struggled financially, had to raise their siblings, care for parents who do not speak English, and so much more.

Samiir Bolsten writes, “My relationship with my father and other colored people gave me no model for what my identity and demeanor should be as a black person” (Garrod, Kilkenny & Gomez, 2014, p. 113). I think about how many other college students may have grown up with a similar background and therefore feel the same as Bolsten. There may be some college students who identify as multiracial that feel like they do not fit into any single group. Or perhaps some college students can relate to Ki Mae Ponniah Heussner when he discusses how he “created multiple voices to fit the multiple worlds” (Garrod, Kilkenny & Gomez, 2014, p. 103). Maybe this is why so many college students are actively involved in sports, clubs, organization, earning A's and B's and at the same time are the ones who get arrested over the weekend for drinking underage at a house party. Are they trying to blend in with different individuals in order to find their sense of identity?

Mixed (2014) also helped me to contextualize my work as an academic advisor. I meet with students almost every day and I only know what they share with me. Even what may appear as something on the outside (race, social class, introvert, extrovert) can be completely opposite or nonexistent. Through reading this book I realized even more how important it is as an academic advisor to build relationships with students and listen to their stories. Their lives are complicated. Additionally, I realized how important it is for me to be more culturally competent so I can continuously be aware of the complicatedness of student’s lives. I also need to understand my own identities and how that may affect how I am perceived by my students.

Garrod, A., Kilkenny, R., & Gomez, C. (Eds.). (2014) Mixed: Multiracial college students tell their life stories. Cornell University Press.