The University Record, January 25, 1999

In celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.

Mixed-race students are ‘Martin Luther’s dream come true’

By Joanne Nesbit
News and Information Services

“We are Martin Luther King’s dream come true,” says Monique Plaza, a member of U-M’s Mixed Initiative, a student group with members of bi- and/or multi-racial background. “We are peacefully racially mixed.”

The question these students are most familiar with is not “Where are you from?” or “What classes are you taking?” but “What are you?”

While some struggle to find an identity, perhaps a classification they can fit into to satisfy society’s seeming need to place each in a specific category, other members take pride in their multiculturalism, exhibiting bilingual expertise and familiarity with ethnic foods and customs.

“Family plays a big part in how we feel about ourselves,” Plaza says.

Wholly aware and sometimes critical of how media and entertainment venues tend to minimalize interracial couples and relationships, most participants in the discussion shared a positive image of who and/or what they are.

Being of mixed race was once synonymous with being “mixed-up,” said one student, “but being mixed gives me a mixed perspective and more opportunity to explore a variety of cultures.”

Another student found that her multiracial background gives her an open-mindedness that influences all aspects of her life, giving her an attitude of acceptance.

A couple of the participants find satisfaction and some degree of pleasure in surprising or shocking others at social functions with the truth of their multiracial background, thereby breaking stereotypical concepts and dispelling the idea that when you look at a person, you think you know them.

“You get the best of as many worlds as you are a part of,” another participant explained. “It’s a lot of fun. I visit Web sites of my clan Douglas and those of my Bahamian background, and find information about both sides of my family.”

The Mixed Initiative has been available to students since Martin Luther King Day in 1996 and meets each Wednesday at 9 p.m. For more information on the organization and specific meeting locations, contact Mixed Initiative at mixed@umich.edu.