This past week, Check One, Penn’s mixed heritage club, hosted a week of events to raise awareness about multicultural identity at Penn. The club tried to create events that are engaging but also add an element of fun to relate to participants.
Having a diverse social circle is believed to be somewhat uncommon in college. On Monday, Check One, Natives at Penn, Pan Asian American Community House, Japan Student Association and Penn First addressed this problem with a panel discussion.
The panel concluded that there are opportunities at Penn to meet people from all different racial identities at Penn. However, it is up to individuals to seek out these friendships most of the time.
Finding a place to fit in is a challenge that most students fact to some extent. The search for a safe space as a multiracial person can be more dynamic, because that person may feel that they fit into many cultural groups, or that no cultural groups represent them.
On Tuesday, Check One and Penn Sangam hosted an ice cream and speed dating social. This quirky event theme provided a platform to talk about the complexities of interracial dating. At the event, students were able to make connections with people who they may not have met in their day-to-day life at Penn.
On Wednesday, Check One board members had white boards outside Houston Hall and asked people walking by to answer the question, “What are you?” Participants were encouraged to write down whatever came to mind and get their picture taken with their response.
Multiracial students are often faced with questions about their racial identity. Co-Programming Chair of Check One and College sophomore Kellie Ramdeen has had this experience several times.
"I was talking about my Jamaican dad to my friend from French class and he was like 'Wow I thought you were white and really tan,'" Ramdeen said.
Ramdeen is used to people being surprised about her race. Her father is Indian-Jamaican and her mother is of German, Dutch and Croatian descent. In her hometown of Tuscaloosa, Ala., not a lot of people share her experience, she said.
“The only mixed person I knew in my hometown was my brother."
At Penn, Ramdeen and other multiracial students have found a community in Check One and other various cultural groups on campus, many of whom also held events during Mixed Heritage Week.
In society at large, many public figures who come from multicultural backgrounds are identified as one race. Barack Obama is known for being America’s “first black president”, despite coming from multiracial heritage, Ramdeen said.
“It’s about your background and what you feel comfortable with,” Ramdeen said. With all the options that Penn has to offer, it can sometimes take time to find where you fit.
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