When You’re Mixed-Race, Authenticity Is an Uphill Battle
Proving who you are, and having others accept you as such, can be frustrating
Sonia Smith-Kang wears a lot of hats. She calls herself a multicultural activist but an equally accurate description might be something like “master connector.” Across genres and platforms, live and online, she’s a collaborative entrepreneur who seems to be constantly strategizing new ways to expand and strengthen her support network for multiracial people and families.
Currently, she’s president of the Multiracial Americans of Southern California (MASC), one of the oldest and largest organizations of its kind, with 17,000 members. The group boasts a social media following of about 50,000 according to Kang, with activities ranging from educational and legislative campaigns to social and cultural events. There are picnics for transracial adoptees and their parents; “Culture and Friendship” holiday events; and “Multiculti Corner” walking tours of communities like Koreatown, where members visit temples and taste dim sum for the first time. Although many still think of mixed as “black-white,” says Kang, the MASC board includes members who are Japanese-Greek, Pakistani-Filipino, Sri Lankan and African American, to name just a few combinations. Part of the work involved is simply expanding our perception of what being “mixed” actually means.
Together with MASC board member Delia Douglas Haight, Kang founded Mixed Heritage Day, which received official recognition from the Los Angeles Dodgers and Mayor Eric Garcetti in August of 2016. More recently, she and Haight created Culturas.us, a media platform designed to be a one-stop hub for multicultural news and events. She is also the owner of Mixed Up Clothing, a hobby turned business venture, with fashions “inspired by mixed family life, diverse cultures, and global travel.”
Her plate is full, and yet Kang, a former critical care nurse, ends her days with the feeling that there is still much more to do.
“It’s gotta be ramped up even more,” she says. “These conversations are still so needed.” But sometimes it feels “like we’re in a vacuum,” she confesses. “Kind of preaching to the choir.”