On the last day of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we are spotlighting Alex Makoid, a college sailor at Tulane University competing in the ICSA Open Fleet Race Championship, happening this week.
Makoid was adopted from China into a white family in Sag Harbor, NY. Growing up in a white family in a predominantly white town, Makoid has had a different experience than other Asian Americans.
“I felt out of place at times as I didn’t feel like I was in the minority, but I didn’t feel like I was in the majority either,” she said.
Makoid wasn’t alone in feeling this way, though – she was “adopted” by a local group of Asian Americans, many of whom were also raised in white families. Through her “Chinese sisters,” Makoid felt connected to others with similar experiences to her, including the conflict between being Asian, but not as connected to Chinese culture as someone raised in a Chinese American household.
“Whether it is giving advice on dealing with the normalization of Asian racism or simply supporting each other during our various accomplishments, my Chinese sisters have each other’s backs and I know that they will always be there for me,” she said.
When it comes to sailing, Makoid first discovered her love of the sport at sleepaway camp in Vermont, sailing Sunfishes on a lake, after which her parents enrolled her in a local sailing program close to home.
Throughout high school, Makoid honed her racing skills, participating in high school sailing and Wednesday night racing on larger boats such as J70s, J109s, and J22s. But it was during the COVID pandemic, when most other in-person activities were temporarily suspended, that she turned her full attention to sailing.
With her sights set on the sport, Makoid began looking into college sailing. She was able to join the nationally ranked team at Tulane University as a crew. While the team, like the sport, is predominantly white, that didn’t dissuade Makoid or make her feel uncomfortable. She used her differences as a motivator for her sailing success.
“I wanted to stick out in a good way, like being the best crew I could be, instead of being known solely as an Asian sailor,” she noted.
Besides being a competitive athlete, Makoid is doing her part to change the homogeny of college sailing. As a regional representative on the TIDE (College Sailing’s diversity, equty and inclusion initiative) committee, she works to make college sailing a more inclusive and welcoming place. While there is still much work to be done to implement TIDE’s policies, the committee has made progress by managing to pass an anti-discrimination clause and remove gendered verbiage from the bylaws.