Over the last 23 years, I have evaluated and re-evaluated how I see myself as a multiracial person. I can remember being 4 or 5 years old and feeling no different than my white grandmother. 

However, I felt white when my mom brought my sister and me to the Philippines to visit her family. I remember feeling so different from my cousins and aunts. I remember being told not to speak English in cabs or airports, so strangers wouldn't try to kidnap us when they realized we weren't fully Filipino.

But my identity formation changed when I started school. I felt vastly different from my peers.

I did not feel white, especially when compared to the predominantly-white middle-class background that most of my friends and classmates came from. I remember hearing "You're smart because you're Asian" whenever I got into gifted and talented classes and took exams to possibly skip a grade.

Samantha Grasso multiracial family

My very multiracial family in 2013. (L-R: My sister, me, my mom, and my dad.)

photo: Courtesy Samantha Grasso

I wasn't quite sure where I sat on the white/Asian spectrum, and I didn't feel like I could talk to my parents about it.

Theoretically, someone who's multiracial should be a strong proxy for talking about race. They should have the ability to talk to their white family about deconstructing white privilege while also speaking from the perspective of a person of color.


But I struggle, even though I identify myself as both white and Filipino. 

And I'm not alone. Seven women, who all identify as multiracial, can also explain what it's like to talk to their white families about race.

Patricia May, 22, Latina and white

My parents got divorced when I was 2, and I didn't have contact with [my father] until this year. Growing up, I only knew my Hispanic family and their cultural norms, but I recently started communicating with my dad, who comes from a very privileged, white family. It has been a very unpleasant situation.

My mom's family is very vocal about the mistreatment of minorities in America. And even though [my dad has] steered away from directly bringing up Latino culture, he's unashamed about his view that minorities "deserve" bad treatment. 

It's probably a pretty extreme case, but he makes me afraid to admit I'm white. I've even tried to claim Hispanic anytime someone asks, "So what are you?" But most people see right through that. I would never want anyone to assume that I share similar views to someone like him because of the way I look. 

Allison Kroll, 24, white and Black

My dad is white. I don't really remember ever talking to anyone on my dad's side of the family about race. The only time it came up was when I was trying to decide what race I was going to check on my college and scholarship applications.

My mom was very open about it, but my dad never said anything at all. It seemed like an uncomfortable topic for him. For most of my life, I thought race just wasn't an important topic to him.

Now I'm not really sure if that is true, but we have yet to have a discussion about it. I guess I feel a little uncomfortable talking to him about race, because we never have before. I haven't tried talking to him about it, but I'm sure his opinion is different from someone who has not married into a Black family. 

Aly Noel, 22, Korean and white

Honestly, I've only had a few conversations about race with my dad. We talked about his and my mom's childhoods, but we hardly discussed race as it applies to my brother and me.

I always felt so fortunate that I never felt uncomfortable with my race at home or with my family — until high school. We always talked about our day during family dinner, so one evening, Ian and I opened up about the dissociation we felt with our peers at school. I was a senior at Westwood High School and Ian was a sophomore, but going to school with an incredibly diverse population ignited the internal struggle of self-identity. 

I look more Asian than white, so I started to resent my Asian heritage because I knew I'd be compared to the other Asian students. People — adults and students alike — made assumptions about my intelligence and how hard my parents were on me. However, my dad was receptive and inspired to talk about our mom, which was a rare topic. 

My mom grew up in South Korea, where she endured a lot of physical and emotional abuse. Her stepdad beat her. He once broke her hands so badly she couldn't play the piano or draw anymore. And my dad said she was still the strongest and most beautiful person he ever met, no matter how shitty her childhood was. My mom passed away from Lupus in 2003, when I was 9 and my brother was 7. 

My dad reiterated that our Korean-ness was something to be incredibly proud of, because our mother was a survivor. That really put my heritage into perspective for me. 

Whitney McClain, 23, Black and white

Growing up, I was taught to embrace my biracial background. 

I have a fairly unique situation because I have two "white parents." Both my mother and my stepmom are white, and I have a strong bond with both of them. To be honest, the subject of race has seldom come up. 

Race truly wasn't an issue in my family simply because we are so blended. When we do talk about the issue of race, the conversation is about how we can make things better. I'm very fortunate to have a family that talks about anything.

They've influenced and taught me to embrace my heritage and yes, that probably carries over when I talk to others, because I'm so willing to have an open conversation about it. I think if all of us can work on being better people and do more for each other, maybe we can make this world a better place.

Nicole Cappabianca, 22, African-American and white

Growing up, race was never a thing we talked about. We grew up in a predominately-white neighborhood. There were only two other Black kids in my grade level through elementary school, so I didn't really have anyone to identify with. 

I remember being so frustrated that my hair didn't lay down flat like everyone else's. I would pull it down toward the ground in the hopes that my repetition would somehow straighten it out. People made fun of me because all the broken hairs that framed my face stuck out from my head in sort of a halo. 

In sixth grade, someone finally asked me "what are you?" That's when I realized race is much more than I thought it was. I don't remember talking to my parents much about race, but one thing my mom said to me is that "[Black women] have to work twice as hard to get half of what they have."

Since I've gotten older, I have talked about race with my parents. We've discussed the Black Lives Matter movement and other issues. My mother just sits back and listens. I think she's proud of how informed I have become on my own. In a way I feel like it was important to her that I discovered these harsh truths for myself.

My dad also stays quiet and listens, though there have been times where he talks about being called "greaseball" and other names as an Italian-American. It really bothers me when he tries to get in on the conversation because he will never truly be able to relate, even though I know he means well.

Emily Nash, 21, white and Honduran

My dad is white and my mom is from Honduras. My mom was sort of adopted into a white American family, so I also consider them family. I'm not super close to my Honduran family, but my parents always made sure I felt connected to Honduran culture, spoke Spanish, and was aware of my ethnicities. But we never really had conversations about racial issues.

I had a pretty weird awakening recently when my dad and I were talking about the Black Lives Matter Movement and the struggles my mom has faced as a brown woman who's an immigrant. He wasn't really on board with a lot of what I had to say. 

And that just came as a huge surprise to me, not just because he's very educated, but also because he married a Latina and his daughter is Latina. Yet, he acts like brown and Black people's struggles are an illusion. That just kinda sucked.

Since then, we haven't really talked about it. I guess the biggest thing is how frustrating it is to not be able to talk about racial issues with my dad and my white family, and also the way they talk about brown and Black people and pretend that I'm not also a person of color because I'm half white. It sucks.

Katie McMurray, 24, white and Chinese

My mom was raised in Hong Kong and immigrated to the United States when she was in her early 20s. My dad was raised in the small town of Denison, Texas. Race was not seriously talked about while growing up, but we did discuss racist comments that have been made toward my mom because she has a Chinese accent. 

One time, a server at a restaurant in Dallas said loudly and slowly, "I'M SORRY WE DON'T HAVE THAT KIND OF TEA" when she asked for clarification about a specific tea. People have also yelled racist comments at her and my brother because of our race.

I've now made it my lifelong mission to work toward equalizing opportunities for those who are structurally disadvantaged. My mom and I have somewhat similar views about race. She fully supports the work that I do.

On the other hand, some folks on the white side of my family are very conservative. Some folks in my family do not understand my beliefs, white privilege, the Black Lives Matter movement, or the role that systemic racism continues to play for people of color. 

The conversations make me angry at times, but mostly I feel disbelief that people can have such varying beliefs and experiences. Being multiracial, although challenging at times, is absolutely incredible! I'd like to think that I see the world through a unique lens that I attempt everyday to use for the benefit of other humans.