Synthesis Paper:

Synthesis Paper:
As I am at the end of my masters degree in the College Student Services and
Administration Program, I will use this synthesis paper to provide some reflection on my
journey of racial identity throughout these past two years. Upon entering the program, I
knew that I had wanted to expand my knowledge on race, ethnicity, and working to make
change in systems of oppression. This online class has been a good way to reflect on my
learning and think about how my ideas and perceptions have grown and expanded
throughout my graduate career. I thrive on the opportunity to engage in real dialogue
about issues of race and ethnicity, because I think about things in new ways and I want to
learn even more.
I grew up in Santa Rosa, a medium sized city in the California wine country. I
spent my 13 years of pre-college educational life in Catholic School. Social justice,
community work, and caring about the world around me were a large part of especially
my education in elementary and high school. Yet, I lived and went to a school with a
fairly homogenous population ethnically – very white, upper-middle class. I never really
had an opportunity to think about or discuss issues of race. Thinking back at my racial
identity at that time, I definitely spent most of my life in the “I’m OK, you’re OK” stage.
I cared about all people and their well beings, and I had not had any specific experiences
to move beyond this stage.
Upon leaving for college, I knew that I wanted a change from what I had always
known. I began my undergraduate career 8 years ago at UC San Diego, a large urban
public institution with an ethnic demographic much more diverse than what I had grown
up with. As a first year in the residence halls, I lived in a suite of eight women. It just so
happened that I was the only white person in my suite. This first year away from my
family has had a lot to do with the shaping of my racial identity. My suitemates were all
from first generation Asian families – Korean, Taiwanese, Chinese, and Japanese.
Experiencing their cultures, and being of the minority race living with all of them, my
eyes were opened to the complexities of racial identity in America. My curiosity and
quest for understanding of issues of race began. I spent most of my undergraduate career
in the “Something is not OK” stage. The realities that I had been raised with started to
become misconceptions, and it was often very confusing for me.
After I received my B.S. in Biology, I still did not know what I wanted to do as a
career. I spent two years in soul seeking mode. I spent a year in service to Americorps,
out of Charleston, South Carolina. After that, I worked in the wine industry for a year
during the grape harvest – six months in California, and five months in New Zealand.
The experiences that I had out of my comfort zone during these two years were numerous
and varied. I worked with migrants in California, I was immersed in subcultures in the
rural south, and I spent endless hours talking to Kiwis about American influence on
global politics. I learned about myself and my identity, and continued to walk in worlds
different than what I was raised in. In my work and education now, I try to continue to
do this. I don’t always succeed, and I sometimes say and think things that counter the
place that I would like to be at in my cultural competency. Yet, I think that the most
important thing for me to keep in mind is that I will never be an expert, and I can never
know and fully understand what it’s like to be a person of color in America.
In terms of my racial identity today, I think that depending on the day, situation,
and my point along my own journey, I circulate the three last stages: “Something is not
OK,” “I’m OK, I’m not so sure about you,” and “I’m OK, you’re OK, we’re all OK.”
Since I really believe that this journey will continue the rest of my life, I don’t think I will
ever be OK in one stage.