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50 Experiences of Racially Mixed People50 Experiences of Racially Mixed People
By Maria P. P. Root
1. You have been told, “You have to choose; you can’t be both.”
2. Your ethnicity was mistakenly identified.
3. People assumed your race to be different by phone than in person.
4. You are accused of not acting or wanting to be Latino, Asian, Black…
5. You have been told, “Mixed race people are so beautiful or handsome.”
6. Strangers looked between you and your parent(s) to figure out if you were related.
7. You have been told, “You don’t look Native, Black, Latino…”
8. You have been asked, “What are you?”
9. People say things they might not otherwise say if they knew how you identified racially.
10. You have been asked, “Where are you from?”
11. You have repeatedly been the recipient of stares or longer than passing glances from strangers.
12. You have been told, “You look exotic.”
13. Your choice of friends has been interpreted as your “selling out” or not being authentic.
14. You have been accused of “acting or wanting to be white.”
15. Judgments of your racial authenticity have been based upon your boyfriend/s or girlfriend’s (partner’s) race.
16. Comments are made about your hair or hairstyle, skin color, eye shape etc.
17. You have been subjected to jokes about mixed race people.
18. You have been told, “You think you’re too good for your own kind.”
19. Grandparent(s) or relatives don’t accept you because of your parents’ interracial relationship.
20. Your parents or relatives compete to “claim” you for their own racial or ethnic group.
21. You have been told, “You have the best of both worlds.”
22. You have been asked about your racial or ethnic heritage as an object of curiosity.
23. Upon meeting you, people seem confused by your last name. They do not think it “matches” you.
24. People assume you are confused about your racial identity or have had a hard time figuring it out.
25. People speak to you in foreign languages because of how they interpret your physical appearance.
26. You have been told, “Society doesn’t recognize mixed race.”
27. You have been told, “You aren’t really Black, Latino, Asian…”
28. You have been mistaken for another person of mixed heritage who does not resemble you.
29. You have been told you must be full of self-loathing or hatred because of how you racially identify yourself.
30. You have been told, “You are a mistake.”
31. Different people perceive your race differently based upon the company you keep.
32. The race people assign you varies in different parts of the U.S.A.
33. You have difficulty filling out forms asking for a single race.
34. You identify your race differently than others identify you.
35. You are told, “You aren’t like other Indians, Asians, Latinos…”
36. Your siblings identify their race differently than you do yours.
37. You have been called racial slurs of groups with which you do not share heritage.
38. Friends suggest that you date someone based upon the race or ethnicity with which they think you should identify.
39. Your parents identify your race differently than you identify.
40. You are told, “You aren’t Black, Latino, Asian…enough”
41. Your mother was assumed to be your nanny or babysitter.
42. A stranger assumes that your father is your “older boyfriend” or your mother is the “older woman.”
43. You were treated differently by relatives or your parents than a sibling on the basis of racial features.
44. You were well liked by peers but were not asked for dates.
45. You wish you were darker and try to get as much sun as possible.
46. People assume your father was in the military.
47. You have enrolled in Spanish language classes in order to develop the ability to say “Yes” to the question, “Do you speak the language?” and remove one of the blocks to authenticity.
48. Your otherwise friends become more distant when they think associating with you will make their racial authenticity or popularity questionable.
49. You have been knowingly approached and asked, “Your mother’s white (black, Asian), huh?”
50. You have tried to hide one or both parents from view of people who know you but are not your closest friends because you anticipate they will treat you differently.
Discourse of Blonde Hair
I’m interested in this.
Blond hair has been glorified, vilified, you name it. Currently, when we reference white people, we use “blond” as a shorthand for “white.” However, when you look at certain populations on the border of what we consider to be Asia and Europe, along with “mixed” individuals in general, we find that this actually isn’t always the case.
However, the prevailing cultural knowing in America is that people who aren’t under the umbrella of “white” can’t possibly be blonde - and even some individuals under that white umbrella can’t possibly be blonde. (Italians are the easiest example to point to, but I’ve even heard this about white Jewish individuals, as well.) With the popularity of hair dye, this becomes more complicated. Tumblr is littered with horrific stories of WoC getting penalized at school for “breaking dress code” by dyeing their hair blonde or lighter, while white girls commit the same action unpunished.
The same misconception of “whites only” hair color is also held regarding red hair. Because the genetics of red hair aren’t moderated by the same mechanism as black-brown-blonde, this is even more baffling. It is completely, 100% possible to have a “full Asian” individual with red hair — they simply produce more eumelanin (brown/black pigment) than phaeomelanin (yellow/red pigment). Because two mutated M1CR receptor genes are required for obviously red hair, and because having one results in no visible red hair, it’s also possible for the mutated receptors to remain dormant in PoC populations and form in a “100%” PoC child.
The erasure of blond PoC is interesting. They do indeed exist. (Notable populations exist in the Pashtun and Vanuatu, specifically.) The discussion also inevitably breaks down into the concepts of genetic/racial purity of bloodline, which becomes even more problematic.
I understand the reasoning behind rejecting blond hair as attractive. Blond hair has been maintained as the pinnacle of white beauty standards for a few decades now. (That’s another thing I’d like to research - I know that the “average American woman” wasn’t always considered blonde. When the shift occurred and why would be interesting to discover.) However, because blond hair is something that many - more than we’re led to believe, anyway - PoC naturally have, it’s interesting that blond hair has, in the West, become so whitewashed.
I think it would be interesting to see a reclamation of sorts regarding this, though. There are mixed individuals, myself included, who are routinely denied their identities and heritages in part because of their natural blond hair. This also brings in the delicate and complicated balance of being a white-coding* PoC, but I’d like to see it done well.
I dunno. This would be an interesting thesis project. I’d be astounded if someone hadn’t already done something along these lines.
*Note: I don’t use “white-passing” because, as someone made a really awesome point on this site before, passing is an action the self undertakes. When the concept was created, it was in reference to Black individuals in the United States who were light enough to decide to actively pass as white, usually for specific functions, like going to the movies, using a “whites only” area, etc. Many “white-passing” PoC don’t actively choose to pass as white; they’re coded white by those around them. The act of passing is highly variable, as is the coding of whiteness by other people onto one’s self. “Coding,” to me, places the responsibility of the creation of whiteness where it belongs: on those designating the individual. The individual can benefit from that coding, but the individual, unless choosing to attempt to pass, is not actively inciting this. (However, they should still own up to white-coding privilege full-stop. The post I referenced [and can’t find damn it] just made a really good point regarding the warping of the original meaning of the concept.)
“the rationale behind neoliberal multiculturalism is less about changing racial hierarchies than it is about creating self-governing indigenous subjects that will not challenge the political-economic goals of the state.”—
Patricia Richards [“Of Indians and Terrorists: How the State and Local Elites Construct the Mapuche in Neoliberal Multicultural Chile;” 2010]
best one-sentence critique of multiculturalism I’ve seen in a long time. (for context: Richards is referring to Charles Hale’s concept of neoliberal multiculturalism, which is his term for the recent focus on multiculturalism on behalf of state-corporate entities, centered on multiculturalism as a promise of racial equality and “cultural appreciation” while simultaneously wiping the metaphoric slate clean (this is the logic that gives way to ideas of reverse racism—because we’re all already equal, right?)).