YR Media’s teen contributors brought their personal experiences to bear to highlight conversations about race and identity in a revealing collaboration between YR and The Washington Post that launched Nov. 4 and will be featured here and on “Post Reports.”
Miranda Zanca, of Chicago, interviewed relatives to explore what it means to be mixed race; Obse Abebe, an Ethiopian American of greater Washington, D.C., dove into how her immigrant culture impacts the way she engages with Black culture in America; Zoë Jenkins, of Kentucky, reported on how race is and isn’t taught to kids in classrooms; Ichtaca Lira (he/they), of California, tackled the concepts of colorism, whiteness and “white passing,” drawing from their friends' and families' experiences; and Iris Santalucia, of New York, explored white privilege and how it affects her parent’s relationship.
The project signaled an important coming of age period for Zanca and others who found themselves in a moment characterized by racial reckoning and dialogue about social justice.
“This is sort of the point in a lot of people’s lives when they start to realize the important things going on in the world around them and when they start to solidify their values and realize that it goes past just having a value and it goes into what you actively do about it and how you talk about it,” said Zanca, a first-year student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
“We definitely face a whole set of challenges within America as we and our families become familiar with the country, coming to terms with our reality while simultaneously trying to keep up with our culture,” said Abebe, a high school junior, who brought a perspective to the conversation of race that hadn’t been frequently discussed, illustrating the diversity within the Black community. She hopes her story will inspire more discussion centered around “immigrant children that are part of the African diaspora, who are both Black and from whatever African country they come from.”
Lira, a high school senior, aimed to bring nuance to a conversation that is often presented as having clear sides.
In that conversation, “White people are often (seen in) one way and people of color (in) another,” he said, noting the nuance comes as more White people aim to emulate Black culture.
They also think the term “‘white passing’ is creating more division and we should be focused on unifying rather than dividing ourselves over who looks more white and who doesn’t,” they said.
Jenkins, a first-year student at the University of Virginia, wants young adults to come away from the project understanding the importance of examining what they’ve been taught about race in school, especially as it relates to history.
“A lot of my friends feel like we’ve truly been done a disservice by not learning the histories of so many groups of people in the U.S.,” she said. “And when we do learn about them, it’s like they are in a side character position to the people who colonized the land. Like ‘oh they helped these people figure out how to plant’ then they just disappeared from history, never to be talked about again.”
Santalucia, a high school senior and daughter of a White mother and Brazilian father, hopes her background “offers a more in-depth look at how White privilege plays out even in a healthy, happy relationship like that of my parents, and I hope that it will help spearhead the changes I want to see in the future.”