Revisiting Dr. Maria Root’s Bill of Rights for People of Mixed Heritage
By Adam Ortiz, MRN Incoming Chair
I am a big fan of proverbs. The amount of wisdom and experience that can be conveyed in the space of a single sentence can provide an overwhelming amount to contemplate. Proverbs are so powerful that many cultures use them to articulate their fundamental values. The problem with proverbs, however, is that their brevity can lead to their being forgotten or underestimated.
Though it is not a proverb, I often feel as though Dr. Maria Root’s Bill of Rights for People of Mixed Heritage has similar qualities. This document, comprised of only twelve sentences, addresses struggles that multiracial people consistently face. It does so in such a small amount of space that I imagine most people have to read it multiple times to understand its gravity.
The first time I ever read Root’s Bill of Rights for People of Mixed Heritage I felt powerful and affirmed in my racial identity in a way that I never had before. Reading it felt like someone was telling me that it was okay to be the person I was, and that I had the right to exist in the world in a way that was conducive to my happiness, regardless of what other people thought.
The bold claim that we as multiracial individuals have “rights” that others cannot take away is a statement that many of us never hear from our parents, our friends, and our broad culture. In authoring this document, Dr. Root fundamentally asserted that we are people who do not need to bend and conform to other peoples’ racial expectations of us. Revolutionary.
Last week I decided to print this document and hang it next to my desk so that I could revisit it every day. I also did this to remind myself to use it in my interactions with multiracial students when talking about our identities. Though brief, it is a powerhouse of wisdom and experience that, used as a tool, can assist in how we make meaning of who we are and how we navigate the world.
If you haven’t read it before, please do and leave your thoughts in the comments below!