Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Beyond FACTS: Mixed Heritage Center

MAVIN has done it again. In conjunction with the long-standing Association of MultiEthnic Americans, the still-young and ever-hip MAVIN Foundation has established the Mixed Heritage Center to providing information and highlight resources for “people of mixed heritage.” I love the simple yet comprehensive definition of “people of mixed heritage” presented in the MHC mission statement: people of “mixed heritage” are “multiracial, multiethnic, transracially adopted, or otherwise affected by the intersection of race and culture.” That covers a lot of ground, and so does the Mixed Heritage Center, a site designed to grow as visitors contribute their own knowledge and experience either through discussion forums or by suggesting relevant resources.

The MHC is clean, accessible, and chock full. Number two on the list of recommended resources is Dr. Maria P.P. Root’s popular Bill of Rights for People of Mixed Heritage, a 15-year-old document I’ve referenced before that bears repeating, especially at the beginning of a brand-spanking New Year. As a parent of children of mixed heritage, I can’t tell you the extent of the comfort I draw from these words.:

Bill of Rights for People of Mixed Heritage

I HAVE THE RIGHT...
Not to justify my existence in this world.
Not to keep the races separate within me.
Not to justify my ethnic legitimacy.
Not to be responsible for people’s discomfort with my physical or ethnic ambiguity.

I HAVE THE RIGHT...
To identify myself differently than strangers expect me to identify.
To identify myself differently than how my parents identify me.
To identify myself differently than my brothers and sisters.
To identify myself differently in different situations.

I HAVE THE RIGHT...
To create a vocabulary to communicate about being multiracial or multiethnic.
To change my identity over my lifetime—and more than once.
To have loyalties and identification with more than one group of people.
To freely choose whom I befriend and love.

© Maria P. P. Root, PhD, 1993, 1994

When I showed this document to my teenage son, he reacted with surprise and concern that people of mixed heritage require such a statement in order to defend their identities. I know he’s aware of mixed-race issues not only because our family is mixed but because I’ve written a book on it and spoken at his school about these issues. While at first I asked if he’d rather simply not consider this Bill of Rights something that applies to him, he repeated that he’s concerned about others, not himself, leading me to believe he’s comfortable with his identity and doesn’t see the need to explain it to anyone. I chalk that up to the fact that he’s always “fit in” with friends and classmates since he resembles me more than his biracial dad and we’ve always lived in predominantly “white” suburbs. Still, he got me thinking. My daughters, on the other hand, look nothing like me and my older girl has already run into friends’ questions about her race and identity. I have a feeling when both my girls are old enough to fully understand the implications of Dr. Root’s words, they’ll feel empowered every time they read them.

For me, the most important statement in this unique Bill of Rights is the last. As someone who married across color lines, I hope everyone who reads Dr. Root’s words will consider this right to choose any time they question another’s choice of mate, friends, or lovers. We all have the right to freely choose those we love, even if that choice causes some discomfort to those around us. What matters most is what brings each of us comfort and joy all through the year, from this January to next. Thanks to resources like the Bill of Rights for People of Mixed Heritage, the Mixed Heritage Center, the Association of Mixed Heritage Americans, and MAVIN, and thanks especially to my immediate family and my extended families and friends who’ve always supported us, I find a great deal of both every day.

Yep, it’s a family photo, though a little dated: It was taken in 2006 on the hubby’s birthday. Our son is now 15, has his driving permit, and is about two feet taller!

17 Comments:

Blogger Larramie said...

Why the need for a Bill of Rights for anyone of mixed heritage, the disabled, the elderly, or anyone else who doesn't fit into demographic group? It's the heart and mind of any individual that already has that right under the Constitution! Or so it's stated...

2:28 PM  
Blogger Sustenance Scout said...

Exactly, Larramie! I believe a Bill of Rights like the one written by Dr. Root helps those within certain groups identify obstacles that may arise in their lives while also helping those outside those groups understand what others face. The bottom line, as always: increased understanding, mutual respect, living the Golden Rule, etc. It could be so simple! K.

4:25 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

I think it's wonderful that the Mixed Heritage Center is there as a rich resource to promote acceptance and understanding, but also think that your son's reaction to the Bill of Rights is a wonderful sign that our culture is evolving and changing in the right direction.

7:06 PM  
Blogger Jen P said...

YAY! A Family Portrait! I love it!

I also love this post. THis is something I have had to deal with all my life. My parents are 1st gen Filipino and me and my sibs are 1st gen American who grew up in a small town that was probably equal black/white, but we were the only filipino family in a town of only ab 2000 back then. My brother and I both married "white" and my sister will be marrying a latino. I'm hoping our children never have to go through what we did. Mine both have my colorings except their hair is much lighter than my pitch black. But aside from appearance, often times it was the cultural differences can be just as isolating. With the higher percentage of mixed heritage children in their generation, and the fact we live in a bigger city, I'm hoping that they will have an easier time than me and my sibs. But like the case with your son, sometimes being on the "inside," gives you the perspective of our normality, so having the need for a Bill of Rights can seem absurd.

With all the research I've been doing it just make you wonder who this "they" is that has created "normal" and who gives THEM the Right?

Thanks for a great post and pic!

9:27 PM  
Blogger Pam said...

Great pict, and great blog!! This post was awsome.

You are simply amazing!

((Hugs))

Pam and Rhett

10:25 PM  
Blogger Larramie said...

I've tagged you today for a rather interesting meme. Please see my post, Karen.

10:57 AM  
Blogger Sustenance Scout said...

I think you're right, Lisa...and I'm not just being hopeful! I'm still amazed when adults react to my book by insisting discrimination is a thing of the past but it's so gratifying to talk to students and hear them say they've learned something new about tolerance issues through our discussions.

Jen P, thanks for your unique perspective on all this! I'm sure you've got plenty of stories to tell on this front. Glad you like the family photo. :) Your boys are adorable and so sweet; I like to point out to my girls that while they may not look like me or even like each other, we all have a lot in common. And then I try to emphasize the good points we share as opposed to our emotional tendencies, fiesty tempers, etc. etc.!

Hugs to you and Rhett too, Pam! Glad you liked the post!

Larramie, I just stopped by; thanks for the tour of NE Ohio and the tag! I'll post my reply soon. K.

1:20 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

I absolutely don't believe discrimination is a thing of the past. I think that many people believe that but that the truth is that if you don't see it, you're not looking. I also know that to your point, your son's experience in our little enclave is going to be much different than it would be in another part of the country or another part of Denver. It is changing, but discrimination is not gone. Anybody who believes we don't still have a high degree of discrimination in our culture needs to start paying attention. We don't like to see it, but we need to.

1:59 PM  
Blogger Niksmom said...

K, another great, eye-opening post. It's true, the discrimination and biases still exist but it seems that they are taking on more polarized forms. by that I mean they are either grossly and egregiously offensive OR they are veiled in the cloak of political correctness and subtle cultural bias. I'm not sure which is worse (I think the latter as it seems so much harder to discern and fight).

Your family is beautiful. I'm so glad I found your blog a while back.

7:12 AM  
Blogger Sustenance Scout said...

Lisa and Niksmom, you're both right on target; subtle forms of prejudice are very real but very hard to pinpoint, address, and yes fight. I guess that's why I write about all this! Niksmom, I feel the same way about your family and blog! Thanks! K.

8:04 AM  
Blogger Carleen Brice said...

Nice post! You know I'm writing about similar issues now. Good to know about this center.

6:43 PM  
Blogger Sustenance Scout said...

It's definitely worth checking out, Carleen. I just caught up on your latest posts; you're on a roll! K.

6:56 PM  
Blogger steve said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

8:58 PM  
Blogger steve said...

Karen,

I hope my daughter Sarah and her soon-to-be husband do not have to endure discrimination, but I wouldn't be at all surprised. He's from India, and a Hindu. Sarah's blond, blue-eyed, and Catholic. But it's nice to know that there is a Mixed Heritage Center.

8:59 PM  
Blogger Sustenance Scout said...

Hey Steve, Just the fact they have support from their families puts them way ahead in their ability to cope with whatever forms of discrimination they face down the line. I'm looking forward to hearing about Sarah's wedding! You do know you'll have to post at least one photo, right? :)

9:18 PM  
Anonymous Adoption said...

i knew a family that had a A. Indian dad, a Chinese Mom, 2 adopted kids, 1 from S. Africa, and the other from Russia; it was quite the mixed heritage.

10:18 AM  
Blogger Sustenance Scout said...

Adoption, what a beautiful family portrait theirs must be! K.

7:36 AM  

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