Space to Tell Our Stories
By Adam Ortiz, MRN Publications Coordinator
I did not tell my multiracial narrative until I was 25 years old. It happened at a retreat in graduate school in the context of a racial affinity group. Paired up with a peer, I was asked to discuss my experience as a Person of Color. I was profoundly nervous doing so because the complexity of my racial existence was not one I was used to articulating. Despite some awkwardness and tongue-tied moments, I managed to tell my new colleague about some of the most poignant experiences I have had. And no one – not even my closest friends – had ever learned about them before.
Each time I shared my multiracial narrative in graduate school I experienced a profound sense of emotional release. In the company of multiracial peers and professionals, especially, I felt a newfound sense that I was not alone. I was blessed with a graduate school program that encouraged social justice education and identity exploration, so the opportunities were bountiful. Unfortunately, many people are never given this opportunity to share and develop this important aspect of their lives.
Since I have started sharing my narrative with others, I have learned that multiracial people often feel misunderstood and alone in their racial identity. This is not surprising given the complexity and variety of our racial experiences. Yet I have also learned that giving multiracial people the opportunity to tell their narratives – those often silent powerful stories filled with poignant moments – provides catharsis and camaraderie. Doing so advanced my identity development to a psychological place that was more secure and at ease than I had ever been before.
Three years later, going into my second year of being a student affairs professional, I am committing myself to creating spaces where multiracial students can tell their own narratives. I want students to tell their stories at every opportunity possible, whether the spaces are racial affinity groups or in more casual settings like dinners. I want this because I never had this opportunity as an undergraduate, and suffered because of it. I want this because I have never met a multiracial person who did not benefit from articulating their experiences.
Giving people the opportunity to tell their stories helps to understand the meaning of their experiences. For multiracial people who often do not have the same racial identity of their peers or parents, the importance of creating space for narratives cannot be overstated.
About the Author
Adam Ortiz is a House Director at Hampshire College. He graduated from Wheaton College with a major in Creative Writing before earning his M.Ed. at the University of Vermont in Higher Education and Student Affairs. Adam’s focus areas of study are multiracial issues, men and masculinity, and socioeconomic class in the context of higher education.