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.

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3 thoughts on “Space to Tell Our Stories

  1. Thank you for sharing. I didn’t tell my story until this year at a retreat with student leaders. This is my first year as a full time SA professional and I have managed to get by, by only telling parts of “my story” or “my narrative” and at a moment of vulnerability I really shared. Like the author mentioned above, It was quite the emotional release. I came to terms with experiences that truly shaped my true and authentic self.

    From one SA pro to the next, I challenge you to create a space or environment in which the students you work with,advise, supervise, or mentor feel comfortable sharing their story or narrative and understanding the experiences that have shaped their being. I didn’t realize the power of hearing my owns words as a means of articulating my experience. Furthermore, I understand the value of role modeling vulnerability and authenticity.

  2. Adam-

    I really enjoy this blog post. I feel like there is rarely a space available to folks to talk about the complexity of fluid identities- in this case Multiracial/ethnic identity. It wasn’t until my last year of undergraduate education that I was able to articulate the experiences with internalized oppression, microaggressions, and exclusion from my community. From there, the dialogues with mentors, colleagues, and students allowed me to celebrate the beauty of an authentic personal narrative as a person living within and the peripheral of the Borderlands. I appreciate your dedication to creating an inclusive space for our community to explore the power of our narratives, words, and connections with others.

    =]

    H

  3. Pingback: A Plea for Greater Multiracial Discourse | Multiracial Network Blog

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