Identifying Yourself for Complete Strangers

When confronted with a situation where you feel attacked or questioned in regards to your race/mix, most of us give the benefit of the doubt. “Oh, they are just curious”, “they didn’t mean it that way”, “they were actually giving a compliment”. But do we do this too much? Were we trained that way by our parents and if so, are we now training our kids to do the same?

What gives anyone the right to ask another about their race? Why? Because biracial/multiracial people don’t “look like one thing” and so those around them are inherently curious? If you think you could identify someone’s race do you just not ask them but assume instead? What is it about not being able to label someone (of mixed race usually) that bothers people so much to the point of actually verbalizing the question of “what are you”? Yes, they might be curious, but their curiosity does not have to result in you being awkwardly approached in the supermarket. 

Many times, mixed race individuals answer the questions and take the stares in stride. Not because they like the attention but because this is nothing new for them. Chances are, this is how their whole life has been. But that does not mean they enjoy it or condone it. It simply means they just want to live their life without having to be labeled by someone- especially a stranger. 

If we react unfavorably in these situations, we are at fault. We are being sensitive, rude, pompous. We should be flattered that someone wants to know our mix or where we got our hair or our tan or (insert other normal body features that are suddenly abnormal on us here). We should be happy that we are being singled out for just existing. It’s a compliment, after all!

But is it? Is it really a compliment or is it a judgement? Are they asking about who you are or are they asking how two diametrically opposed individuals have gotten together to produce you and how maybe they believe that, in and of itself, is wrong? 

You won’t know. You can’t know. So you half-smile, nod and just try to get through this annoying encounter with a stranger at the super art check-out line. 

1 comment

  • Thom

    This, right here, made/allowed me to pause…the words seeped in, took hold, and challenged me to turn up my empathtic nature so many notches to wrap beautiful humans in the love and respect we ALL deserve! Passing this on in two ways; to embrace and comfort marginalized individuals, and to evoke and challenge awareness in the closeminded people…

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