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The Explosion In Mixed-Race Studies

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    The Explosion In Mixed-Race Studies A new generation of academics is pushing the boundaries of ethnic studies, compelling people to look beyond the traditional
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 2, 2007

      The Explosion In Mixed-Race Studies

      A new generation of academics is pushing the
      boundaries of ethnic studies, compelling people to

      look beyond the traditional minority groups, to the
      experiences of Mixed-Race individuals in America .

      By Erica Schlaikjer


      Just five years ago, you would have
      been hard-pressed to find a college
      course that addressed Mixed-Race issues.

      But ever since … people self-identified as multiracial
      in the 2000 census by choosing two-or-more races,

      the interest in Mixed-Race studies has exploded.

      At least sixteen universities across the country

      —from New Haven , CT to Santa Barbara , CA

      —offer classes that explore the social

      implications of being Mixed in America .

      A Mixed-Race Movement is clearly taking form: 

      politically, socially, and now, educationally.

      "We start at the personal level, and then move
      to the social and historical issues of race," says

      Professor Robert Allen, who teaches a class

      called People of Mixed Racial Descent at
      the University of California , Berkeley .

      The students' first assignment is to write a 2-3 page

      autobiographical essay describing how they became

      aware of their racial and ethnic identity, what

      they learned, and how it has defined them.

      The class, one of the first of its kind, was established

      in 1981 by Native American professor Terry Wilson.

      It began as a response to the growth of the
      Mixed-Race population, especially in California 's

      Bay Area, as well as student interest on campus.

      Historically, the West has always been very

      multiracial because of high immigration levels and
      an early end to laws against interracial marriage.

      Forty percent of the 6.8 million U.S. residents who

      checked off more than one box for race live in the

      West, so it's no wonder many Mixed-Race studies

      courses originate in states like California .

      Allen's class has over a hundred students.


      About half are Multi-Racial (of "all imaginable,
      possible combinations,") -- others are involved in

      interracial relationships -- and some are neither.

      Allen uses a variety of literature, texts, readings,
      films, and speakers to teach the subject matter.

      An anthology edited by Teresa Williams-Leon and

      Berkeley Graduate student Cynthia Nakashima

      "The Sum of Our Parts" and Dr. Maria Root's

      "The Multiracial Experience: Racial Borders

      As the New Frontier" serve almost as "textbooks"

      in the class, although, many fictitious novels telling

      stories of Mixed people around the world are also

      included in the course's critical analysis of race.

      Another approach to Mixed-Race studies is
      `finding where one fits' in the bigger picture.

      Prof. Steven Ropp teaches Biracial

      and Multiracial Identity in the U.S. at
      California State University, Northridge.

      He stresses the importance of "being a part of
      all the communities we belong to, by having a

      presence, communicating, staying active."

      The class he currently teaches began about six years
      ago under the tutelage of Teresa Williams-Leon,
      professor and co-editor of "The Sum of Our

      Parts: Mixed Heritage Asian Americans."

      This year is the first year Ropp has taught the class.

      His vision is to create a general Multi-Racial studies

      class, in hopes that it will draw more students
      than a class catered to a specific ethnic group.


      There are three course objectives:


      1) to understand the history of race and racism,

      2) to gain an understanding of the Multi-Racial

      experience in different communities, and

      3) to examine the integral role Multi-Racial people
      have in post-civil rights "identity politics."


      The class is diverse, comprising Asians,

      part-Asians, Mono-Racial students, and one Creole.

      "I want the students to understand their

      role in the community and society," he says.

      Ropp asks the students to organize a campus-wide

      event and share it with the college community

      to emphasize service and activism.

      However, Ropp believes, "We [Multi-Racial

      people] shouldn't have to be the only

      ones to be a bridge, to facilitate harmony."

      Racial issues affect society as a
      whole, not just the individual person.

      On the east coast, Professor Jennifer

      Chan teaches `Asian-Americans of

      Mixed Heritage' at New York University .

      She believes that "thinking about Mixed-Race
      allows us to understand most clearly the way
      that race is shaped and defined in this country."

      She is excited about the emergence

      of Mixed-Race studies.
      "I think it's terrific.
      For a long time, Mixed-Race individuals

      have been both very present and yet

      absent in the cultural discussions over race.
      I am glad to see a discussion about
      Mixed-Race becoming louder, more

      articulate and more sophisticated."


      Mixed people have traditionally been forced to fit into

      one racial category, and oftentimes, they assume the

      role of "the other" - those that aren't Caucasian.

      But Prof. Allen insists that these categories

      "don't make sense except from the standpoint
      of racial oppression," and therefore are
      becoming "more and more archaic."

      "The concept of Mixed-Race is ambiguous

      and evolving," Allen observes, "but at least

      there is a recognition of it now." …

      However, there still exists an "exoticism"
      towards people of Mixed racial descent.

      Allen says, "that makes it hard for them
      to express their personal identity."

      There are disagreements, even amongst

      students, about the best way to

      approach Mixed-Race studies…

      Paul Young, Co-President of the Hapa Issues

      Forum (HIF) founding chapter at UC Berkeley

      was a student in Robert Allen's class …

      While realizing that learning about history

      is important, Paul says he was
      "looking for a more contemporary approach

      ... about what was going on NOW.
      Real-life experience.
      I liked that," he says.

      Prof. Allen's Ethnic Studies lecture was bigger and

      more diverse than Paul's Asian American Studies

      class (130 students from all ethnic backgrounds

      compared to 40, mostly Mono-Racial Asian

      students), but he felt "closer to home." …

      Professor Gloria Bogdan teaches a class
      called Mixed Heritage Asian Americans
      at California State , Fullerton .

      At first she thought her class was going to be "a whole
      bunch of White people, because they should be the
      ones who should be learning about Mixed-Race."

      But it turns out that only three White students
      signed up, and the rest were Asians and Hapas…

      Bogdan sees the future headed

      towards Mixed-Race Studies …


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