By Jonas Manuel
Tiffany Erickson, left, and her mother, Joan, enjoy the end-of-year journalism department banquet.
Tiffany Erickson entered the closet-like room and sat down in the metal chair.
She situated her black backpack on the carpeted floor, rested her right elbow on the back of the chair and started twirling her long, curly hair around and around her fingers.
Her hair is the color of milk chocolate with sun-bleached highlights. She wore no perfume, just blue jeans, a white long sleeve dress shirt with a navy blue sleeveless V-neck sweater on top. Under the white fluorescent lights, her citrine-brown eyes sparkled like crystal and her glossy white teeth glisten like pearls. And Erickson's complexion -- well her wheat-brown skin was the reason for the interview.
As she waited patiently for the first question, she smiled, happy for the opportunity to appease the mind of so many who have asked, or have wanted to ask, the all-too-familiar question "Where are you from?" Which really means, "What's your ethnic background?"
Given the display of self-confidence, a visitor felt comfortable asking the question.
"What's your ethnic background?"
"I'm African-American, Samoan, and white," Erickson said.
"What are your parents' ethnic backgrounds?"
"They're both white," she said.
"What do you mean?"
Erickson smiled and proceeded with an explanation.
"I'm adopted," she said.
Erickson graduated in May in journalism at Utah State University. Since coming to Logan four years ago, she has learned there are many people who are eager to embrace diversity, but don't always go about it the right way.
"There are many people with good intensions," she said. "But people ask where I'm from when what they really want to know is what race am I."
Erickson laughed when she thought about people's responses if she were to tell them only half of her ethnicity, white or Norwegian.
"It's ludicrous, but genetically it's not," she said.
Erickson said that most students who ask where she's from are shocked when she tells them Idaho.
A talented student from Burley, Erickson comes from a family of seven. She was adopted at 6 months old, making her the first of two multiracial children adopted by Carl and Joan Erickson. Her brother Trevor was second.
In moments when Erickson has needed the most support to deal with these issues, all she has to do is pick up the phone and call a loving family member.
"I love my mom," she said. "Even though she doesn't quiet understand what it's like, she tries. But Trevor understands the most because he goes through the same thing."
With strong family support, Erickson has managed to deal with the ignorance of some. But more than anything, these experiences have taught her to educate those eager to learn. Furthermore, she has established friendships with a growing number of multiracial students at USU and in Cache Valley.
In fact, two of her roommates are also multiracial.
Since the 2000 census, more data is being collected on the growing number of multiracial persons in the United States. In Cache Valley, the number of multiracial persons (though quite small) is on the rise.
According to CensusScope.org, in 2000 Cache Valley had more than1,100 people whose ethnic background consists of two different races, about 50 with three different races, and three whose ethic background consists of four different races.
The figures are larger in the Provo area. In Utah County, there's more than triple the number of multiracial persons. There are about 6,300 individuals whose ethic background consists of two different races, over 400 who have three different races, about 35 that have four different races, and about 10 have five different races. These numbers indicates that more couples are dating and marring interracially.
"Today, as the face of love is changing and the numbers of interracial relationships continues to rise, more and more interracial couples are finding less opposition to their relationships" said Kimberly Hohman, a reporter for racerelation.about.com.
Hohman adds that 1.5 million marriages in the United States are interracial and in 2010 that number is expected to double. And with this growth comes a growth in multiracial births.
"I'm grateful for who I am," said Erickson, referring to her heritage. "I wouldn't have it any other way."
In the world of celebrities, there's a handful that are multiracial. For example, during the 2002 Academy Award, Halle Barry became the first multiracial female to win an Oscar for her role in the controversial movie Monsters' Ball. Barry was born to a white mother and a African-American father. Other examples are singers/songwriters Mariah Carey and Lenny Kravitz, world famous golfer Tiger Woods, and actor Benjamin Bratt. These celebrities along with Erickson aren't ashamed of their ethic background.
And with the growth of multiracial adoptions, Erickson feels that it is important to be sensitive and opened minded.
For celebrities their names are known internationally, but for Erickson she's manage to establish a pleasant presence among students, faculty and those who have had the privilege of meeting her.
An increase in interracial relationships means more mixed children like Erickson. Whether people view this as being bad or good, Erickson feels that it is a huge step and an indication that more people are becoming more open minded about.
"Obviously, I don't have any issues with interracial relationships," said Erickson. "I've dated all types of guys."
Erickson said that the race of a person is the last item of importance in any situation.
"It's important for people to realize that race is not the most important thing," said Erickson. "Because some of us don't come from just one race."
Erickson also stressed the importance of helping children of mixed races.
"Multiracial children need to know that there's nothing wrong with them," said Erickson with a compassionate look on her face. "They need to be proud of who they are."