Check Other affinity group gives voice to multiracial students


Mimi Geller

Non-inclusive race options such as these on standardized tests provoke frustration for many multiracial students. "When you are a person of two or more heritages it can feel a lot like you’re supposed to choose which one or people expect you to choose one.," senior Aaron Datta said.

Mimi Geller, Director of RubicOnline

In 2013, the United States Census Bureau found that approximately 9 million Americans chose two or more racial categories when asked about their race. With national prominence, multiracial citizens–particularly students–continually feel misunderstood with regard to their multiplicities in culture, race, and appearance. The Check Other Club, an affinity group for multiracial students at St. Paul Academy and Summit School, addresses this issue head-on.

The co-presidents of the club are juniors Olivia McCauley and Koji Gutzmann. With an emphasis on peer conversation and friendly support, Check Other Club serves as a safe and open space.

The name “Check Other” originates from the boxes students must fill out about their race on standardized tests. The boxes are non-inclusive and daunting: seldom do they have options for multiracial students.

“Recently, they have a biracial box which is better, but a lot of multiracial people aren’t actually biracial or from two races. I’m Japanese, German, Indian and Norwegian, so that’s a lot of different things and that isn’t what biracial is. I usually check Asian or biracial even though that’s technically not right. This all has to do with Check Other. The world isn’t quite sure what to do with us yet. We’re trying to figure out how we play into race relations and all those complexities,” senior Aaron Datta said.

When you are a person of two or more heritages it can feel a lot like you’re supposed to choose which one or people expect you to choose one”

— senior Aaron Datta

With a central focus on giving multiracial students a voice in the community, Check Other fosters inclusivity . For Datta, Check Other is a club they feel that they can be their authentic self, along with other students and teachers who understand similar scenarios.

“For me, I think it’s [Check Other club] a really nice thing to have and to feel support. I think it’s a huge group of students at SPA. We’ve had to move rooms twice because we’ve had so many people. It’s a great opportunity for students to discuss those doubts and insecurities for when to speak up and your place in all of that. It’s a really good support system for people to go and know where there are other people like you, especially teachers,” Datta said.

At the meetings, students engage in serious conversations concerning what it means to be passed and mistaken for an identity that is not correct. Other times, the group comes together just to share candy from their cultures, or laugh at particularly comical encounters with people who have mistaken their background. Datta emphasizes thematic challenges they have faced with others who do not understand the reality of multiculturalism:

“When you are a person of two or more heritages it can feel a lot like you’re supposed to choose which one or people expect you to choose one. It can be really hard because you can feel like you’re being torn in two directions. Some people will say to me that I don’t look Asian enough to speak about Asian experiences. I’ll have people say I’m not really Norwegian because it’s only a quarter, but for me I know I’m not nothing,” Datta said.

For all students at SPA, Datta believes, it is vital to comprehend the authenticity of being multicultural and what advantages and struggles that can bring. Permitting student conversation, especially at SPA, about race relations and identity helps students prepare before venturing into the real and politicized world.