Mixed roots, common bonds

07/21/2014 4:28 PM

07/22/2014 6:48 PM

Her first year at KU, Jasmin Moore noticed the black students sat together. The Hispanic students sat together. And everyone else did the same. This was over a decade ago.

“For the first time, I was trying to figure out where I belonged,” she says. Her mom is white and her dad is black, and students pulled her in different directions, wanting her to declare herself. She found herself gravitating toward the Hispanic students. She looked like them. At the time, it was easier.

As she and her husband pursued graduate programs, they moved to Little Rock, Ark., where things are still very segregated and being mixed is an anomaly.

“People didn’t know what to make of me,” she says. “I got stares. I realized that for people in other places, being biracial is still a unique experience, and it’s important to support others.”

And that’s why, now that she’s back in town, she is helping rebuild the Multiracial Family Circle, now called Kansas City Mixed Roots.

In 1991, her parents helped found the support group for interracial couples, families who have adopted a child of a different race, foster families and mixed people. The mission was to provide a nurturing environment, a safe haven from prejudice, a place to grow in self-esteem and raise awareness.

“I remember going to meetings as a kid,” says Jasmin, 33, a Johnson County sustainability program manager. “Our circle of friends revolved heavily around who was involved in that circle. It really helped to normalize the experience. It wasn’t a big deal to be from a family that had parents from two different races or mixed-race adoptions. You saw people going through the same things. I didn’t realize how important that multicultural experience was until I was an adult.”

But almost two years ago, when Jasmin and her husband moved back to Kansas City to be closer to loved ones, the group was at a standstill. Its new name, Kansas City Mixed Roots, appeals to a broader range of people and issues.

Now that she’s a wife and a mother of two young sons, she faces a new set of identity questions.

“My husband is black. I am raising black males in the world’s eyes,” she says. “I am still figuring out that part, and that’s not something you can take lightly. People have valid questions. We really just hope to create a place where people can feel supported and know they are not going through those issues alone. There is value in talking about it with other people.”

As a kid, I was always told that by the time I grew up, we’d be past conversations on mixed race. But here we are, talking about the recent outrage over a mixed actress playing Aaliyah in an upcoming Lifetime biopic. (What, she’s not black enough?) Or the “Fantastic Four” reboot with Sue and Johnny Storm as interracial siblings. Or Cameron and Mitchell adopting a Vietnamese daughter on “Modern Family.” And let’s not forget the backlash over the mixed family in the Cheerios commercial.

If there’s one thing I have learned throughout the years, it’s conversations about race and identity are hard. People rage against them. Despite how far we’ve come as a society, we continue to let our differences tear us apart. The truth is, we all have mixed roots. Maybe through meaningful discussion, we can grow together.

To reach Jeneé Osterheldt, call 816-234-4380 or email josterheldt@kcstar.com. “Like” her page on Facebook and never miss a column. On Twitter: @jeneeinkc.

Mixed Roots happy hour

Mixed Roots will meet at 5 p.m. Thursday at the Drop Bar & Bistro, 409 E. 31st St. Join the conversation on Facebook or email kcmixedroots@gmail.com for more information.

Join the Discussion

The Kansas City Star is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Terms of Service