In my blog the other day, I wrote about how I, as a mixed race person and probably some others, had problems with forms that had you fill out your race. So today I thought I would share just a few of my experiences that involve people who were ‘curious’ about my races. I put ‘curious’ like this because I really think most of them were just nosy or bored.One of the questions I get a lot is “what are you?” Seriously. I get that from my own family. So I think that I will use that as the theme for this particular post.
“What are you?”
One of the times that I had to answer that question was shortly after Big Daddy’s funeral, when we gathered for the meal. Big Daddy was my mother’s father and her family was all from the south. It’s a bit more common to use Big Daddy/Big Mama for grandparents. I was in middle school and sitting with my cousins. One of the girls was coloring, when she suddenly looked up at me and asked, “If your mom’s black and your dad’s white, what are you?”
Now I will remind people who have read my last post that my mom is Black/Native American but most of her family doesn’t know that. I got into genealogy early and often interviewed my parents about family history. That’s why it was a black and white question, she asked me. Yes, I also realized the pun.
My immediate answer was, “Grey.” My cousin looked at me strangely. My skin wasn’t grey but a light light brown. It must have confused her, but I took her black and white crayons and showed her how they made grey. I didn’t think much of it until after I had returned home. Of course I had been asked the question before, but this time it was someone from my own family. She was little, but it eventually made me wonder how many relatives didn’t know what to make of me. Strangers, confusion was to be expected.
More recently I had to actually stop going to a particular train station in my town. Why? Because every time I went there I felt like I was being harassed. Now, I know may people consider harassment to be committed by one person, but a feeling of harassment can also come from being repeatedly subjected to the same sort of behavior, regardless of if it was by the same person or different people.
I take the train a lot. Mainly because both my school and my internship is in the city, while my home and my job is about an hour away by train for now. I don’t like dealing with strangers, especially when I’m almost always constantly on the go and stressed out. I have seizures that are brought on by stress with sensitivity to light and sound. So while I’m waiting for the train at most stations, I have my purple headphones on. Usually I don’t have them plugged in. I just use them as a device to discourage people from brothering me. However, at this one train station, the headphones were not working. People I do not know, for some reason I was never told, have taken to coming up to me. They stand and look at me. I’m not talking about glancing at me out the side of their eye but literally staring directly in my face and for such a long time, that reaching out and punching them in the nose seems like a good idea. Nobody likes to be studied that closely by strangers unless they are posing for an art class.I am somewhat use to being looked at. Most people who come from racially mixed families are generally subjected to being looked at, when they are together. It comes with the territory, but the people staring at me in the train station was just downright too up close and personal. The first time one of them actually said something to me it was:
Rando person: “Hey, I know you’re black and Indian, but what are you?”Me: (Removes earphones pretending not to hear) Huh?
Rando person (louder): You black and Indian..what else?
And it gradually increased from there. People have come up and told me that they made bets on if I was Hawaiian, or if I was randomly related to this person or that because I they knew I had blood from Mexico.One time I had pick up a call from overseas and the conversation went like this :
Me: Had a brief conversation in 汉语 (Mandarin) 再见 (Goodbye) (hangs up phone)
Another Rando Person: What were you speaking?
A.R.P: You can speak that because you’re part Chinese. I can see it. You look it. You black too something? You awfully light-skinned.
This was happening EVERYTIME I went to that station, which was about 3 times a week. 3 times a week on its own doesn’t sound too bad, but multiply that by 4 weeks. That’s 18 times in a month. That’s being harassed. I am NOT a walking, talking, breathing guessing game. I eventually had to start going to a train station further from my house just so I can have some peace and quiet and not be bothered about my race.
It’s happened to me at one of my schools. I’m reading outside on a hill reading Harry Potter, minding my own business and some rando person just kneels in front of me, squinting and says: “I know you’re part black and Chinese, but what else are you?”
I seriously doubt that incidents like this will stop. People are nosy. Lately, I’ve been countering this sort of thing by asking, “Why do you care?” So far I have not received an answer but if I do I will let you know.
If anybody wants to share their stories, feel free to share.