On Multiculturalism

I promised myself that I would be productive tonight, considering that my personal life has been dominating the past two weeks or so, as well as my awesome, awesome, awesome community college internship. My “productivity” turned into me doing some sit-ups after sipping on my favorite Kona Brewing Co. beer–Wailua Wheat–while watching Jersey Shore. I’m going to try and reverse that by writing a blog which directly addresses a CSSA competency. However, I just took two Benadryl to compensate for my cat allergies, so I apologize if I eventually trail off into shapes and colors.

At my mid-program review, I discovered that I had an astonishingly small amount of multicultural experience while in grad school, as compared to my experiences while an undergraduate. (Or at least, that’s how it seems to me.) While I was at Western Washington University, I was an active member of the Filipino-American Student Association (FASA), and I was fairly engaged my last year in the general Ethnic Student Center (ESC) due to my role as FASA’s steering representative. I met weekly with all the steering reps from the ESC, as well as our ESC advisor and VP of Diversity, to report and hear about what was going on with other clubs and vote on decisions that would impact the greater ESC and WWU communities. It was great, and I attended several Northwest FASA conferences, even participating on the conference planning board my junior year when we hosted the event.

My experiences at WWU, to put it lightly, changed me. Combined with my communication major, I found myself exploring issues of identity for the first time. When I really started to consider what it meant to go through life as a mixed-race person, I reached what felt like a higher level of consciousness. You know how some people say their partner is a missing puzzle piece? My missing puzzle piece had to do with my ethnic identity. To be honest, I’m still working through that, and as such, I haven’t quite explored all the pieces of my identity. When I look in the mirror, I see brown first, before considering what it means to be a female, and a straight female at that.

I love exploring how identity develops. Things clicked for me as I started to combine worldly experience with textbook knowledge. I’m hoping that I can facilitate that for others. My current problem is that I feel a bit limited in my ability to do so right now. For one, I can’t seem to figure out what’s going on with the Filipino club on my campus right now. Additionally, NWFASA conference was on hiatus this year. I found it hard to make it to the Asian-Pacific Cultural Center unless I was meeting my friend there. And my interactions with students of color and international students were constrained by time and even which floor I lived on.

And then there’s the whole issue of “multiculturalism” pertaining to cultures beyond race and ethnicity. Since that’s my biggest personal piece right now, I seem to get caught-up in those types of experiences. I did attend a workshop on the US Census and how race factors into numbers and implications. I also went to the PeaceJam talk, but that had a cultural tone to it. And my internship at UWI was definitely eye-opening, but at the same time, it was hard to dig into issues like spirituality and LGBTQ concerns.

It was suggested that I find a way to participate in the LGBTQ community at OSU. I don’t see why not, considering I am already friends with quite a few LGBTQ(and so forth)-identified persons. It sounds trivial, but when I’m out with my friends at the Seattle gay bars, I feel incredibly comfortable–and not in a “Oh thank God, no one’s hitting on me,” fashion. I would love to participate in events, but I would also like to be present as an ally and/or a friend. I’m not sure what else I can say right here, so I suppose if someone knows who I need to talk to, let me know.

Exploring issues of spirituality is also another key interest. I have a few CSSA buddies that are working closely on projects tied to spirituality, so that’s been a good outlet for discussion and exploration. (I’m not truly wrestling with my own issues of spirituality, as I seem to be creating my own personal doctrine which borrows from Catholic tradition and Eastern philosophies and what have you.)

I guess, in general, I would like some guidance for where to go to get these “beyond ethnicity” multicultural experiences. I also would love a hand in connecting with the Filipino-American community in Corvallis, though–I haven’t really said it this past year, but I feel a bit isolated. Even at the general Asian-American organization meetings, I’m one of like… two… Filipinos.

In closing, while I work through my own identity issues, I would like to find opportunities to help others work through their identity exploration process. I want to be able to encourage students to look beyond their own circles, as I do so myself. (This also translates into international experiences–yay!)

Okay, the Benadryl is kicking in. One last thought: how much cultural coaching and prep were the cast of Jersey Shore given before going to Italy? None? Oh, it breaks my little heart to see so many people travel somewhere with zero prep (except Vinny. How adorable is he, actually wanting to learn the language?!).

Yup. I’ve lost it for tonight. Congrats for getting this far.

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