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Forum explores interracial dating, multi-racial families

University students of all backgrounds met in Newcomb Hall last night to share their views on interracial dating and growing up with a multi-racial identity in America.

The forum, entitled "Beyond Jungle Fever: A Fish Bowl Conversation on Interracial Relationships," was sponsored by Kaleidoscope, a University organization of students and faculty that promotes discourse on multi-racial and multi-ethnic relationships.

Meghan Waters, a second-year African-American Studies major, served as facilitator for the group of about 50 students. Participants discussed everything from checking ethnicity boxes on forms to finding University prejudice toward interracial relationships.

"Back home, interracial relationships are not a big deal," said Melinda Coffer, a second-year anthropology and foreign affairs major from Hampton. "But it's different here. You get some negative feedback."

Other students shared the difficulties they experienced being raised in multi-racial families, facing questions of identity both at home and with friends.

"Most often, it ends up with a label being put on me rather than me labeling myself," said first-year Engineering student Ryan Dickey, whose mother is Chinese and father is Scots-Irish. "If I'm with Asians, then I'm 'the white kid.' If I'm with white kids, then I'm 'the Asian kid.'"

The group also focused on the negative portrayal of interracial relationships in the media, especially in television and movies.

"In the media, they don't portray it as natural," said Cia Barber, a second-year Nursing student from Woodbridge, Va. "It always has to be an issue and somebody always has to deal with it. But I don't think people always have those problems."

Although the discussion involved delicate issues, the atmosphere was light-hearted. A few laughs were even heard.

"One time, I was walking around the dorms with a black friend when a girl passing by said, 'He's just dating her because Puerto Ricans are in this year,'" Coffer said. "I'm not Puerto Rican, so I wasn't really offended. But it was still a pretty ignorant thing to say."

Kaleidoscope is not restricted to multi-racial students. The first meeting of the year is Feb. 21 in Cabell 245 at 7:30 p.m.

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