Why I joined MRN…. And why I stay
By Heather Lou, MRN Current Chair
I thought it would only be appropriate to share the reason why I joined MRN on Loving Day. The Supreme Court overturned the Loving v. Virginia case on this day in 1967, which legalized interracial marriage in the United States. Coincidentally, this day also happens to be my birthday. So every year as I celebrate the gray hairs accumulating on my head, I am also proudly re-affirming the salience of my Multiracial identity journey.
Conversations about race didn’t happen too often in the household of Linda and Alvin Lou (a.k.a. my parents). When we did talk about identity, it was often about choosing one racial identity over another: White versus Asian, which easily translated to Mom versus Dad. The tension between picking between my racial identities often felt like taking sides and strategically assessing the benefits between White privilege and being an “exotic” Asian womyn. Either side of the coin is problematic, considering I phenotypically am (and always have been) a person of color. Until I discovered that being White and Asian isn’t mutually exclusive, I lived my life compartmentalized, segregated, and in fragmented, jagged pieces, often dancing around concepts of identity politics.
There were other families that looked like mine in our suburban hometown, but I never quite understood the multiple ways that my peers navigated the dichotomized world full of binaries. Asian or White. Right or Wrong. Mom or Dad. In a world of black and white, my world was gray, ambiguous, and full of opportunity, but nowhere to learn more or talk about my Multiracial identity. Once I got to college and discovered the world of student affairs, critical race theory, and power and privilege… I realized the importance of advocacy, social justice, and my own EMPOWERMENT in exploring my narratives.
From exploring my narratives and research on Multiracial identity with my mentors, I was able to connect with many scholars and student affairs professionals who encouraged me apply to graduate school. I knew that I wanted to continue exploring my womyn of color identity, but also wanted to be in a physical and psychological place where I could help make higher education and academia more inclusive for people who identify as Multiracial. To my surprise, I was accepted to University of Vermont and was encouraged to get involved with ACPA.
After speaking with Marc Johnston, Past MRN Chair, I knew that MRN would not only be a vital space that would affirm my identities and aspirations, but would provide the opportunity for me to help advocate for people with non-dominant identities in higher education. I eagerly (and humbly) joined the team as Incoming Chair in 2011.
I can tell you that I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I joined MRN. As a first year graduate student, I knew there would be a time commitment, maybe some collaboration, and lots of tasks to be done.
A year later, as Current Chair (and a brand new professional), I can tell you that sometimes I still don’t know exactly what I’ve gotten myself into. But I can tell you this: I joined MRN because it felt like “home…” a “fit,” if you will. I stay involved with MRN because of the family of professionals I have connected with that make that “home” full of “love.”
And today, on Loving Day, I encourage you to find your passion, get involved (hopefully with MRN), and find ways to impact your communities. You never know what wonderful things might be on your way!
About the Author
Heather C. Lou, MRN’s Current Chair, is a recent graduate of the University of Vermont Higher Education and Student Affairs Administration program. Heather is passionate about incorporating social justice into postsecondary education and finding ways to increase inclusion for student and staff populations with non-dominant identities.