Having more than one ethnic identity brings both benefits and challenges, two students said at a recent Zoom workshop at Highline.
Highline students Malaysiah and Marrisah Banuelos are student leaders in of Highline’s AANAPISI (Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institution) program, and spoke as part of the college’s observation of Asian American and Pacific islander heritage month.
“The term mixed is used for people who are more than one racial identity,” Malaysiah Banuelos said.
Being mixed can bring many challenges to an individual, Malaysiah Banuelos said.
Throughout the workshop, participants were put into breakout rooms to discuss topics such as the positives and negatives of being mixed, or how people manage individual cultures with the American culture.
“Stereotypes can be really tough because it is often that we do not look like one particular race,” a participant said.
“People often say, ‘Oh, you don’t look like this or that’ and it’s hard to take in,” Marrisah Banuelos said.
“People come and ask what I am, and I say that I’m mixed and they think it’s cool, but they don’t see the hardship,” Malaysiah Banuelos said.
“I feel like I’m never fitting in completely into both ethnicities,” Malaysiah Banuelos said. “I feel left out and awkward not knowing enough of one culture.”
“The check-one-ethnicity boxes are tough because I don’t want to disrespect either parent,” Malaysiah Banuelos said.
Many Pacific islanders come to American for better opportunities and better lives, Malaysiah Benuelos said, but she also says it can be difficult to balance both cultural aspects.
In a breakout room, a participant said, “I want to fully be myself but it’s risky.”
Malaysiah Banuelos shared an experience she had at Mount Rainier High School about when she was practicing an islander dance.
She was wearing an ie, a traditional piece of clothing in the Pacific islands, while dancing with her friends.
“There were some white kids that looked at us like ‘What are you wearing?’ and I felt out of my comfort zone,” Malaysiah Banuelos said. “I was just practicing something a part of my culture and they were judging me.”
“Being a part of multiple cultures is a gift and it takes time for many people that are mixed to appreciate it,” Malaysiah Banuelos said.
“You get to experience and broaden your understanding of other cultures, and you can start to see connections and similarities within them,” Malaysiah Banuelos said.
“I think it is something we can cherish and except,” Malaysiah Banuelos said. “Being mixed is part of our individual heritages.”