CAMD Scholars Take On Variety of Complex Racial Issues in MLK Jr. Day Presentations

CAMD Scholars Take On Variety of Complex Racial Issues in MLK Jr. Day Presentations

Phillips Academy
Andover, Massachusetts

Sally Holm

January 28, 2008 — Simone Hill ’08 had good reason to be excited last Monday. Chosen as a featured speaker for one of Phillips Academy’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day special events, the CAMD scholar presented her research on diversity, whose trail led her back more than 150 years into the dust of family history. And in the audience were not just her peers and teachers: her parents, Everett Hill ’77 and Dr. Yasmin Tyler-Hill from Atlanta, and her grandparents, from tiny Ridgeland, S.C., where the trail ended, were right there as well.

…The CAMD Scholars program was created last spring by the Office of Community and Multicultural Development (CAMD) to allow students to apply for research grants to pursue topics in multiculturalism during their summer vacations from school. Funded by the Abbot Academy Foundation, the scholarship provides a small stipend and a faculty advisor to each student selected. Three scholars presented during the fall term and three others spoke on MLK Jr. Day….

CAMD Scholar Britney Achin ’08 began her session with an exercise meant to educate her audience on the difficulties biracial teenagers face with identity in today’s social milieu. She asked everyone to answer the question “What am I?” in a brief phrase, then share it with a small group in the audience. Most seemed to find it difficult to capture complex selves—especially the offspring of interracial parents, as Achin is herself. Her research project was titled “I Am: A Study of Self Identification among Biracial Teenagers.” Mundra served as her advisor.

Achin surveyed hundreds of biracial adolescents through MySpace and Facebook, personal connections, and random interviews, asking probing personal questions of how they viewed themselves. She found that their responses clustered into five categories of identity: “Monoracials,” who defined themselves predominantly by a primary peer group; “Bidentifiers,” who identify confidently with more than one racial identity; “Sliders,” who were able to identify with whatever group in which they found themselves; “Raceless,” who refused to identify with any race, but prefer race-neutral descriptors such as “American”; and “Partial People,” who identify themselves as half a person, mostly as half-white, rarely as half-black.

Achin compared relative levels of turmoil and self-doubt, as well as confidence and self-knowledge, reflected by each group. She said she found that, without fail, PA students offered the most insightful responses. “I believe that speaks very highly of the work done by the school to make us aware of ourselves and others—our differences and similarities, racial and otherwise,” Achin said…

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