Pre FaC e
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FroM Biracial To MulTiracial To Mixed- race
To criTical Mixed- race sTudies
In​the​autumn​of​1992,​I​arrived​at​the​oldest​dorm​on​Brown​
University’s​campus,​a​stately,​crumbling​edifice​complete​with​
ivy-​ covered​walls​and​cinder-​ block​lined​rooms​that​rebelled​
against​my​efforts​to​tack​up​my​leftie​political​posters​and​
batik-​ print​tapestry.​I​was​a​nervous​kid​outfitted​in​meticu-
lously​ripped​jeans,​tan​Birkenstocks,​and​a​lingering​fear​that​
an​admissions​officer​was​going​to​pop​out​at​any​moment​and​
announce​that​there​had​been​a​big​mistake:​I,​the​daughter​
of​a​secretary​and​a​mechanic,​really​was​not​allowed​into​this​
hallowed​Ivy​League​institution.​Class​and​race,​and​my​ex-
hausting​efforts​to​avoid​talking​about​both,​structured​my​life.​
While​class​remained​a​more-​ easily​submergible​entity​in​neo-
bohemian,​grunge-​ accented​Providence​of​the​early​1990s,​the​
changing​signs​and​signals​of​race​glowed​and​blinked​like​my​
own​personal​fluorescent​sign.​I​worried​that​my​racially​am-
biguous​but​clearly​nonwhite​looks​made​me​hypervisible,​and​
before​going​to​college​I​bobbed​and​weaved​the​ubiquitous​
“what​are​you?”​questions,​to​save​myself​from​having​to​reveal​
what​I​shrugged​off​as​my​race​story.
My​efforts​to​remain​race​neutral​were​supported​by​my​
utter​lack​of​language​to​begin​to​chip​away​at​the​race​ques-
tion.​Before​college​I​had​never​uttered​“multiracial.”​“Mixed”​
was​the​term​we​used​inside​my​suburban​Virginia​house​and​
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