Exploring Multicultural Identity

It was a fortuitous coincidence that my chat today with Dr. Carlos E. Cortés on the subject of multicultural identity took place on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.  While our chat was not specifically designed to commemorate this event, it can be seen as related to the ongoing effort for social justice, inclusiveness, and understanding across races, ethnicities, religions, and other cultural differences within our society.

Three themes aligned our talk with the broader events of today: Political power, public awareness, and the promise of youth.

  • Some of our questions were related to power, such as when we explored who creates the categories of identity, and whose interest that serves.
  • Some of our discussions centered around progress, such as when we examined the ways in which popular and academic understanding of multicultural identity has failed to keep pace with the reality of diversity in society.
  • And some of our ideas focused on the question of how to provide support for young people who are navigating multiple identities in a still-siloed world.

Multicultural identity matters to me because my life is multicultural; with my Korean American husband, our future children will be multicultural as well.  Just like many of my friends and colleagues and their children, we are the living proof that love knows no cultural boundaries.

Every time I watch Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “I have a dream” speech, I cry.  I am not a crier, but I can’t help myself.  He stirs the soul and makes me believe that the future he describes is possible.  The combination of inspiration with the realization that we still have so far to go always gives me chills, because I want that future.  True, the main impetus for his speech was not to bring about awareness for multicultural individuals, and I do not mean to detract from the important work that remains to be done for many marginalized and excluded groups.  Yet, his dream is so appealing precisely because it provides a vision in which I can take part.  A vision for a world where there is space not only for children who are Black, White, Catholic, or Protestant, but children who are “both-and” rather than “either-or.”  I want to live in an American where freedom really does ring, where we can all be who we authentically are, and still have access to work, economic and social mobility, acceptance, safety, and a voice.

I am sure that others will have more profound words for today.  In fact, even my guest speaker went on to give a talk for the anniversary this afternoon.  This humble webinar slash virtual chat is my own attempt at promoting dialogue and fostering peace and understanding for people who do not neatly fit in society’s perceptions of them.  It’s not perfect, but I believe a start with some hiccups and technological glitches is better than no start at all.

Please enjoy the webinar here, and leave your comments below.

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