June 20, 2019 | 75° F

Rutgers Fusion Club acts as meeting point for multiracial students

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Photo Illustration | The Rutgers Fusion Club aims to celebrate diversity and to create discussion surrounding the identities of multiracial and multiethnic students on campus. The underlying goal of the club is a community of solidarity and mutual support.

At Rutgers, the Fusion Club rises to the occasion of blending cultures and races and discusses the nuances of a multiracial life while also celebrating diversity.

The Fusion Club was established in 2005 to provide a unified space for multicultural and multiracial students. Various cultural groups exist across campus, but they are largely homogeneous and only cater to one facet of a mixed-race student’s identity, said club president and School of Arts and Sciences senior Sumayya Mateen.

“Mixed people sometimes feel they must choose one side or the other, but with Fusion, you can be both,” Mateen said.

In 2013, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that about 9 million individuals checked off as being two or more races. 

“The multiracial population ... can find solidarity in existing in between spaces in society,” said club vice president and School of Arts and Sciences junior Wen-Chiao O’Boyle. 

This sense of all-inclusion welcomes students to participate in group discussions and share personal experiences, Mateen said.

Although many members are mixed, the club is not only geared toward multiracial students, Mateen said. 

Some members are trans-ethnic, having been adopted into an ethnically different family or simply express a feeling of displacement, O’Boyle said.

The background of the student holds no weight in club participation, as long as they enter with an open mind and curiosity about the mixed-person experience, Mateen said.

This year, the club is hosting a “Chopped” fusion event, playing off the Food Network competition show.

“We asked the dining hall to cater foods from different cultures. It’s kind of like an end of the semester gathering,” Mateen said.

Club members also travel to The Museum of Natural History in New York City every spring, focusing on the cultural exhibits, Mateen said. 

It is important to comprehend how culture is stored, as it is essentially how future generations will perceive the world today, O'Boyle said.

“We, for the past eight years have had a president who is of a mixed-race background … (there have been) questions about his origin of birth, questions about his actual background,” O’Boyle said. 

There is a dividing power of looks that can make forming an identity even more trying than it actually is, Mateen said. 

Even within families, Mateen said there is often an assumption that a mixed-race person is more of one race than another if their features are more dominant on that side. 

Microaggressions against multiracial families and people still exist in popular culture, O'Boyle said. A Cheerios commercial from 2014 featured a biracial family and received backlash from internet comments. 

Comments called the video "disgusting," according to the Huffington Post, while other users expressed similar feelings toward the commercial. 

"The only thing is, it's a family whose got a little girl who's very confused about how heart health works, and it's comedic for that purpose. But when it came out, there was a large internet backlash," O'Boyle said.

Overt aggressions also exist, and have impacted some of the group's members' lives, Mateen said. 

"Our vice president, Wen-Chiao, he's half Taiwanese and half Irish-American ... he grew up in a mostly white area, and he was 'The Asian Kid' ... but when he started talking about white-washing, they were saying, 'Well, you can't say that because you're white,'" she said.

In efforts to debunk misconceptions about being mixed race or multicultural, Fusion hopes to host a colloquium involving numerous cultural clubs on campus, Mateen said. 

Fusion would act as the mediator and direct discussion into the realms of race and ethnicity, she said.

“To find your niche, I would say do your research ... especially if you’re in a community like Rutgers that is so diverse, there’s something for everyone," Mateen said.

Kelly Kim is a School of Engineering first-year student. She is a contributing writer for The Daily Targum.

Kelly Kim

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