“Coming to Tufts was a really jarring experience because I had never been in a predominantly White institution before, and it was a lot about figuring out who I was when it came to navigating my mixed-race identity,” said Shana Merrifield, a mixed White Asian senior.
For many multiracial students like Merrifield, navigating multiple racial identities is a complicated task because they are too often neglected from conversations about race on campus. Mixed-race students have expressed their frustrations with the University’s lack of accessible multiracial spaces, resources, and courses offered on campus.
This semester, a group of students established the Mixed Peer Leader (MPL) program, which, as described in its application, was designed to be a “support system for incoming students who identify as multiracial, multi-ethnic person of color (POC), transracial adoptee, or third culture kid (TCK) and wish to meet current mixed Tufts students.” Its arrival is the newest addition to existing peer leader programs, such as the Asian American Peer Leaders, Global Orientation Leaders, Latino Center Peer Leaders, Students’ Quest for Unity in the African Diaspora, Team Q, and the Women’s Center Peer Leaders––for the MPL program, however, there is no corresponding space.
Makaylah Respicio, a mixed Black Asian Pacific Islander senior and MPL co-coordinator, explained the importance of having specific spaces to facilitate discussions about being a multiracial Tufts student. “Being at Tufts forced me to confront the multiple identities within myself. The peer leader program was created to build a mixed-race community to talk about these issues so that freshmen had a place to come into. I wanted them to know that there are people on this campus thinking about them.”
Sasha Raveendran Greene, a mixed White Indian junior and an Association of Multiracial People at Tufts (AMPT) E-Board member, emphasized that there was value to having designated spaces for multiracial people. She said, “I think some kind of physical space that could facilitate conversations about being mixed-race would be beneficial because people would really value a place where they can feel safe and be able to talk about things related to their identity and be able to exist.”
Within the Group of Six, there are three centers that specifically cater to race––the
Africana Center, the Asian American Center, and the Latino Center. However, they are all physically separated from each other, inhibiting many multiracial individuals from being in a space that fully encompasses all of their experiences. Additionally, without an existing space dedicated to supporting mixed-race people, students have expressed difficulty with gauging how and where they can find community.
Since she was a first-year, Maya Laughton, a mixed African American Indian White senior, dreamed of a mixed-race center where there was “a solid mixed-race community that was both an affirming and positive space, especially as an emotional support system for mixed-race students.” She described how it was difficult to find a mixed-race community without a physical space and that “it would have been nice to have someone help [her] navigate Tufts as a mixed-race person.”
Some students had also wished there were more collaborative efforts between centers. Daniela Sánchez, a mixed Mexican Native junior, said, “I wish that the Group of Six were not just individual groups, but more of a cohort, so that moving between each space was something that was easier and more fluid. Ideally, it would be so nice to have a multiracial center, but one that served the entire people of color community. I think that allows for other connections within the Groups of Six and within student organized clubs to realize that there is a lot of crossover. Sometimes, we have a lot more in common than we realize.”
Respicio expressed similar sentiments. “The idea that race is compartmentalized and the centers don’t do more together is frustrating to me. I want more spaces to be created where it isn’t just centered on one of these identities,” she added.
In an article published in the Tufts Daily on Mar. 27, 2017, it was announced that Linda Daniels was recently named Senior Director of Diversity, Pluralism, and Inclusion, which works on programs related to intersectionality with several campus offices––one of them being the Group of Six. In the same article, she said that an overall goal of hers was “to find overlap in our community, engage in shared exploration of our varied identities and develop [a] holistic sense of awareness, compassion and empathy for each other.” One of the campaigns she plans to launch is called “Unapologetically Me,” which seeks to “help students express themselves and understand their similarities and differences.”
While these efforts certainly mark a stark difference from previous attempts to create a collaborative space, Raveendran Greene noted her frustration with the administration’s overall lack of support for multiracial students. “With AMPT, which is all student-led, it feels like we’re alone in supporting the mixed-race community, which is not how it should be, since there are so many multiracial students at Tufts,” said Raveendran Greene. “There is a lack of administrative funding and support systems for multiracial students and there is currently no way to meet multiracial students other than AMPT and the MPL program. Tufts doesn’t make an effort to connect them to any resources.”
Additionally, aside from not having a mixed-race space on campus, there are several racial identities that fall through the cracks within the Group of Six––Native and/or Indigenous, Pacific Islander, Arab, to name a few. For students who have these respective identities, many felt invalidated to not see themselves reflected within their environment.
Anna del Castillo, a Latina senior with Incan roots, recognized that spaces for multiracial students were essential and that “a space for Native and Indigenous students is [also] crucially needed. Tufts doesn’t provide community for Native and Indigenous students, which is probably why we have such an incredibly low number of Native students on campus.”
Furthermore, beyond visibility and accessible physical spaces, multiracial students face trouble because the list any resources for them on their website. Student Information Services also doesn’t offer any courses related to mixed-race studies. Respicio said, “Having access to academic resources and learning about the terms that you relate with is really important for forming multiracial identity. Studies about mixed-race identity would allow students to know that this is an identity that they have access to.”
Merrifield felt similarly. She said, “I felt invisibilized when I found out that there were no resources dedicated to multiracial people, especially because they pride themselves in diversity so much. Mixed race identity is multifaceted, and we deserve more space on this campus.”
Laughton elaborated that “mixed-race is not a sub-identity of monoracial categories.” With this understanding, we can view mixed-race as its own identity and treat it with the appropriate recognition it deserves. As the mixed-race population continues to grow, the University has an increasing obligation to support mixed-race students on campus.