Mixed Race Conference reflects on identity

When Rudy Guevarra Jr. filled out identification forms in elementary school, he remembers never checking the provided boxes for race. Instead, he drew his own box, and wrote “Mexican-Filipino,” unable to choose one parent’s culture over the other.

Guevarra delivered the keynote address for the Critical Mixed Race Studies Conference on Sunday, a speech titled “Borderlands of Multiplicity: Reflections on Intimacies and Fluidity in Critical Mixed Race Studies”. The three-day conference held at USC featured a series of workshops, lectures, panels, movie-screenings and concerts on the topic of “Trans,” coinciding with the Hapa Japan Festival. It was hosted by USC Shinso Ito Center for Japanese Religions and Culture.

An associate professor of Asian Pacific American studies at Arizona State University, Guevarra spoke about his mixed race heritage as a “Mexipino,” or Mexican-Filipino, growing up in the borderland city of San Diego and how that influenced his doctoral research in borderlands, labor history and multiethnic identities.

He noted that the multiplicity of ethnicities he grew up around — Samoan, Hawaiian, black, etc. and the border he shared with Tijuana, Mexico — helped shape the complex stories he wrote about that traverse race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, faith, citizenship and settler-indigenous statuses.

His research on the borderlands theory, or trans-borderland experience, specifically explores the border between Mexico and America, which he said is land in which “the               third-world borders the first world.”

“It is a state of transformation and transition that we embody in an era now that reeks of fear and animosity towards difference and change,” Guevarra said.

Guevarra attributed this animosity to the era of President Donald Trump, whom he referred to as “45.” He said that Trump has created a literal and figurative “barrier intimidation and violence” within borderland inhabitants, Muslims, African Americans and Native Americans, and with the promise of constructing a larger wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

“As scholars, educators, writers, artists, activists and students, it is our responsibility to use the skills and knowledge we’ve acquired to collectively educate and transform the social consciousness of our society so that these bodily and geographical borders are erased,” Guevarra said.

Dana Stone, assistant professor of marriage and family therapy at Cal State Northridge, attended the speech and conference and connected it with her personal experience as a biracial person and her research in black-white  biracial identity development.

“A lot of mixed-race people seek community,” Stone said. “This is a great place to find community, but also to know that my research is important — that there is a group of people that it represents. It’s really important for their voices to be heard.”

The conference fell on the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Loving v. Virginia decision that declared anti-interracial marriage laws unconstitutional.

“It’s not just celebrating who we are are, but also reflecting on how our multiplicity can enhance the greater good of the communities we work in,” said Chandra Crudup, co-coordinator of the Critical Mixed Race Studies Conference.

Each day of the conference featured several panels and roundtable discussions that included professors from across the country.  The final day of the conference concluded with a screening of  Mixed Match, a film that explores the difficulties multiracial blood cancer patients have finding genetic matches. The screening was followed by a bone marrow drive and a closing program.

Jasmine Chu, the school and public programs coordinator at the San Diego Museum of Man, said that through the conference, she hopes to attain the tools to best bring issues of race to students to allow them to speak about the issues in the museum workshops through “Race: Are We So Different?”, their new exhibit. Beyond the museum, she believes that more communication can also help students learn about race.

“The best way I can think of to stop hate would be interacting with people that aren’t like yourself,” Chu said. “The more that you’re able to hear their stories, the more you realize that you’re more similar than you are different.”