The first time I felt represented by a piece of media was when I read “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” by Jenny Han in my early years of high school. My mother recommended it to me; she didn’t know much about the story, but she had read that the main character was mixed, so she shared and read it with me.
I absolutely loved this book. OK, yes, partly because of the sappily sweet love story at the center of it but mostly because I saw myself in its protagonist, Lara Jean Covey: a girl between two ethnicities who learned how to make peace with them and become her own person.
The book made the mixed identity something completely normal, something that didn’t need to be politicized. It showed that I was normal. Even better, this story was told by a strong, impassioned, empowered girl who was just trying to navigate high school as I was. Seeing myself fully reflected in a piece of media for the first time felt absolutely incredible.
Being mixed brings me an unbelievable amount of joy, and it is a part of every aspect of my daily life: my music choices, my books, my hobbies and so many other things that make me who I am. Even my name is mixed: I was named after the Pilipinx heroine Gabriela Silang, and my last name, Mackie, is from the Mackay Clan in Scotland.
After my first year at UC Berkeley, I’ve finally learned to become proud of my mixed identity, but it wasn’t always this way. For a long time, I never really felt as though there was a seat for mixed people at the metaphorical table of representation.
When I was younger, being mixed came with the inescapable feeling that I didn’t belong, that I would never be Filipino enough, that I would never be Scottish enough. I was too Filipino for Scottish spaces or too Scottish for Filipino spaces. It felt as though I was trapped in a horribly ambiguous gray zone, caught in the middle of being too much yet not enough.
Eventually, I came to realize that these different spaces were teaching me the same lesson: that I am mixed, that I will always be mixed and that I should be proud.
How one might come to realize and accept this pride is an absolutely individual experience. I joined an organization at UC Berkeley that celebrated people who had experiences similar to mine. We shared this feeling of not belonging in ethno-specific spaces, and we came together with love and support for each other. Mixed @ Berkeley Recruitment and Retention Center makes me feel like I have truly found my place as a mixed person at UC Berkeley, especially as a mixed woman. I am surrounded by mixed women who help me feel more comfortable in my skin, and for them, I will be forever grateful.
Thanks to this experience, I became proud of my brown hair that is a combination of my father’s soft, light hair and my mother’s thick, dark hair. I am proud of my skin that is a combination of both of my parents’. I am proud that I tan in the sun but also that I thrive in the cold. I am proud that I feel at home in the foggy hills of the Scottish Highlands, as well as among the sandy beaches of the Philippines.
Not only did joining Mixed @ Berkeley make me feel comfortable in my own skin, it’s helping others feel the same way. As its name suggests, Mixed @ Berkeley is a recruitment and retention center under the bridges Multicultural Resource Center, and its mission is to recruit and retain low-income mixed students of color. We recruit from both high schools and community colleges, and if a student chooses to join us at UC Berkeley, we work to make sure that they have the resources and community they need to succeed, both academically and personally.
I love being part of this organization because it helps lost mixed students, like I was in high school, feel as if they can go to and succeed at an institution, such as UC Berkeley. In a way, I feel as though I’m paying homage to both of my cultures by helping these students create their own seats at the table of representation. Hospitality is extremely important in Pilipinx and Scottish culture; I have been taught by both of my parents that there is always a way for the food to be stretched, advice to be offered and a home to be welcomed into. I have taken this message of hospitality to my first year at UC Berkeley, as it is also part of my mixed identity.
I am incredibly honored to be a woman starting her first year at UC Berkeley and fighting to extend our powerful female legacy. But, just as it was 150 years ago when women were initially admitted to UC Berkeley, the fight is not yet won. There are more people to fight for, more equitable spaces to be made and more seats to be added around the table.
So, at the end of Women’s History Month, I urge you all to think of a time when you made space for members of a marginalized group to share their voices, and I urge you to continue that practice in the future. Manu forti and Isang Bagsak, my friends. Here’s to 150 years of women at UC Berkeley and a lifetime of making and cultivating space for those whose voices need to be heard.
Gabriela Macaraeg Mackie is a freshman at UC Berkeley studying political science and minoring in ethnic studies.