An Optional Statement

It’s no secret around these parts that I’m a Hokie through and through. Somewhere it’s probably documented that I was accepted early in to the College of Engineering, had a bit of a stumble and came out with a degree in Business Information Technology a few years later. What may not be known about the whole Virginia Tech part of my life is the ‘optional statement’ portion of the online admissions application.

For some strange reason I decided to get on a soapbox about racial identity and detailed my frustration with the fact that I was instructed to “choose one” race or ethnicity. I marked African American on the application because I knew an minority candidate would have a better opportunity of getting into the College of Engineering than an equally qualified candidate that was white. Fair or not, that is the system we live in and I chose to use every natural advantage I could to secure my future. I bring all of this up because February is Black History Month. Apparently it’s also [source]

  • Age-Related Macular Degeneration Awareness Month
  • Body Awareness Month
  • Electrical Safety Awareness Month
  • Heart Disease Awareness Month
  • Heartworm Awareness Month
  • Low Vision Awareness Month
  • National Cancer Prevention Month
  • National Pet Dental Health Awareness Month
  • Safety Awareness Month
  • School-Based Health Center Awareness Month
  • Sinus Pain Awareness Month and
  • Termite Awareness Month

I’ve often thought about what it means to be both black and white in today’s society. Ultimately, nothing. There’s nothing special about me or my ethnicity. I feel like I’ve been pretty comfortable in my skin over the last decade or so. I don’t feel any pressure to conform or not conform to stereotypes, I just…am.

Of course I would be lying if I said I didn’t get the ‘head nod’ walking around Blacksburg, secretly acknowledging that we (black people) would get each other’s back when the revolution started. I definitely got those. But I don’t think this made me any more or less white. It just made me.

There is no conclusion to this post. February is a month specifically devoted to the accomplishments and achievements of black people around the world. Who knows where I would be if it weren’t for the path laid by their sweat and tears. But that’s only part of my story, and it would be foolish to dismiss whatever else makes up my character, look, outlook, demeanor, or any other adjective. I’m a sum of my parts – all of them. And happily so.

3 thoughts on “An Optional Statement

  1. I don’t know what provoked me to check your blog today of all days but I’m sure glad I did. I distinctly remember your admissions essay. I was going to write about that too but I went a different direction. Regardless, I think about our multiracial identity OFTEN (haven’t quit figured out why yet) and so instead of an optional statement, I wrote my Master’s “thesis” on multiracial/ multi-ethnic college student identity. It was therapeutic to research and write about the student experience from their (my) point of view. I also included snippets from my personal experience growing up. Maybe we can sit down and go over it someday.

    I love you a lot.

    Your sister.

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  2. Chris, I loved this post, and it seems you have a wonderful family and outlook (of which I’m still bummed about not getting to meet you at Christmastime). Your parents are adorable, and you sister seems fairly fantastic. So glad for you just being you!

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  3. I love this post. As I write this comment I have a GIANT textbook sitting behind me from my time in graduate school entitled “Racial and Ethnic Diversity in Higher Education”. It sounds like your sister and I need to chat.

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