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Mixed-race teens talk about how they identify themselves. MASH PHOTO ILLUSTRATION

Mixed-race teens share their personal perspectives on how they view themselves—and how others view their mixed-race heritage. These essays were part of the cover story, “Outside the box,” about how mixed-race teens identify themselves on college applications in the Nov. 15, 2012 issue of The Mash.

Kaylah Sosa
Homewood-Flossmoor

I get two common questions in my life. One: “Are you related to Sammy Sosa?” And two: “You’re mixed, right?” The former is annoying, and I would like to make a public plea for people to stop asking.  The latter is a bit more complicated. Yes, I’m –mixed. I know I don’t look it. You don’t need to point it out.

My dad’s Mexican and my mom is black. The color of my skin could fool you, but the defined curls of my shiny, long hair might give it away. My dad calls me a chameleon. I went to a mostly Hispanic elementary school, and when I was around his side of the family, I looked Mexican. But when I was over with my mom’s family, or in a mostly black school like I am now, I look black. It’s kind of fun being able to play both fields.

When someone asks the oddly worded question, “What are you?” I reply with “Black and Mexican.” That ruffles a few people’s feathers. “You look black,” people sometimes tell me. “If you look black, you are. None of that mixed garbage.”

But by embracing my Latina heritage, I’m not shirking my African American heritage. I grew up with a Mexican father in a Mexican neighborhood. As far as I know, that qualifies me to be on the Latina team. Apart from the ignorance of everyday encounters, I’ve found my ethnicities coming heavily into play while filling out college apps. Race? Black/African American. Hispanic or not? Hispanic. I could put “mixed” and go through the whole song and dance, but I’d rather not. If they ask about Hispanic heritage, I just say I have it.

By Chris Pieper
Whitney Young

Whenever I fill out an official form and I have to fill out my personal information, I always pause when I get to the “race” section. Normally, this would be as easy to fill out as any other section on the form. Unless, of course, it says, “please select one.”

My mom is Japanese, and my dad is German. Therefore, when I come across a form which asks me to “select one,” I have to think which side I more closely identify with. Because both my parents were raised in America, I usually simply select, “white.” But it feels odd disregarding a half of me that, although distant or small, I know is there.

I’m not too concerned about my college or job prospects being affected by my multicultural life or race. After all, I’m not alone—the 2010 census found that multiracial youth is the fastest growing youth group in the nation, up 50 percent since 2000. This indicates that the future of America will look even more diverse than it does today. That’s a welcoming and beautiful thing. It means that there will be more equality in the future, and that we are finally starting to look past race to define people and starting to define people as individuals.

While my race has little to do with who I am as an individual, it is nevertheless a part of me. And until more official forms start saying, “select all that apply,” I will continue to pause, think and choose between two halves of myself.

By Megan Fu
Buffalo Grove

The number of times I have been asked to mark down what race, ethnicity or nationality I am is immeasurable. Between standardized testing, job applications and college applications I think that I successfully have marked myself as white, Asian, other, non-Latino, both Asian and white and sometimes even as specific as to say Chinese and Irish.

It’s probably fairly obvious that I don’t take such things quite so seriously; I just think that in many ways it is ridiculous when a form asks me to mark what race I am while limiting me to only one option with no option of other. So, depending on the day, I mark whichever I please.

When it comes to applying to colleges, jobs and such I never have really thought that my race would have much, if anything, to do with my admissions process. It bothers me when people say, “you’re Asian, you’re obviously going to get into whatever school you want,” because what I really want to do is call them ignorant, ask if ignorance is bliss and explain to them why that could not be farther from the truth.

If anything it’s more difficult to get into college if you are an Asian-American, I find it humorous that my peers find it so simple to jump to the conclusion that my college application process is all of a sudden simpler than theirs only because I am part Chinese. According to Princeton sociologist Thomas J. Espenshade, Asian-Americans need SAT scores about 140 points higher than white students—all other things being equal—to get into elite colleges.

So, no, just because I’m half Chinese does not ensure that I’ll get into any college any easier than you will. At least not based on racial reasoning.

Being multiracial has yet to have a serious effect on my life besides the occasional good-natured joke tossed my way often in regards to my last name, Fu, to which I usually reply, “Fu you too!”

By Rosemary Anguiano
Whitney Young

When I was younger, my mother told me that whenever I was asked my race, to put down Hispanic or Latino. She said that she was told it’s proper to put down whatever your father’s race is as your own. Since then, I’ve primarily identified myself as Hispanic (unless, of course, I had the ability to check two boxes).

Although there have been times I had wished I was just Mexican, or just German, over the years I’ve come to the conclusion that being of mixed ethnicities is a very rewarding experience. There are countless scholarships and opportunities for Hispanics. And although scholarships are lacking for Germans, there are other benefits I’ve experienced culturally.

Being two completely different races has exposed me to two cultures along with their foods and traditions. I think it’s definitely made me more curious a person to learn more about other cultures, and that curiosity will follow me throughout my whole life no matter what I do.

I don’t believe being mixed will cause any sort of hurdles in my life at all. Being Mexican and German has opened—and will continue to open—many doors for me in many aspects of my life.

>> Are you a mixed-race or mixed-ethnicity teen? How do you feel about it and how do you think it will affect your chances in life when it comes to things like college or getting a job? We want to hear from you! Leave us a message in the comments below or email your personal perspective to themash@tribune.com and we may publish your essay here.

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About The Mash

Maura Wall Hernandez is digital editor of The Mash.

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