Growing up multi-racial is amazing (in my most honest of opinions). However, there is a question that many of us experience over and over again that makes me cringe:
“What are you?”
Even now I can see the question and imagine it dissipating into the air like cigarette smoke. I watch as it floats into the void of questions I am too tired to answer or too tired of answering.
If I answer, “I am human,” would you laugh because you think I am joking? Maybe if I said, “I hate that question,” we could stop pretending like it’s a good question. It’s a shit question. Now, don’t misunderstand, I don’t hate the intent, just the wording. It is an arbitrary question.
Do not get offended or think it a joke when I answer:
“I am fire and ice. I am star dust and ocean breeze. I am the descendant of Adam and Eve. I am a mix of my mother and father. I am a human who feels deeply and loves fully.”
But, perhaps, it is merely a safe question. A question you ask to make small talk. After all, why would we want to know who someone is – their hopes & dreams & fears – before we know what color of skin they represent?
Too many times I have checked the box marked “other.” Too many times my identity has been stripped away. Too many questions asking me what I am but none of them really caring. So when you ask me, “What are you?,” forgive me if I pause to double check the next words out of my mouth.
You would think I have made a home in the world of “other” by now. But I am more than just a check mark in the box of “other.” I am not a box to be placed neatly on your shelf once your curiosity has been met.
Next time you think to ask “what are you” – don’t. Say, “Would it be alright to ask what your ethnicity is?” Say, ” I was just wondering how do you identify, ethnically speaking?”
Then I will tell you. I will tell you that my father is black and my mother is half white and half Hawaiian. I will tell you that I fully embrace the beauty in the mix of colors that swirl perfectly together to form me.
I am a mixed girl writing.