Melanie Cowart, Fair Oaks Ranch, TX. My parents were married in 1934 when miscegenation was illegal in most states. Until I was older, I didn’t realize how much courage it took for them to be together. My mother, who was white, raised her two daughters, now 80 and 62, to be proud African-American women. I’m […]
Marika Oakland, CA People often ask me “What are you?” or “Where are you from?” which is par for the course for people like me who are ambiguously brown looking, which is how I’ve come to refer to myself. Over time I’ve noticed my attitude toward other people who ask these questions changing. I used […]
Kristine Ratanaphruks Durham, NC I look ethnically ambiguous and, at times, I pass for white. I grew up watching white men call my father “boy” — I’ve heard countless racist remarks made by people who don’t realize my heritage — I’ve heard the question ” What are you? ” too many times to count and […]
Myriah, Arlington, VA. All my life I’ve gotten the “what are you?” question. It seems to be human nature to try and categorize people in order to identify them better somehow. Being French Creole and Sicilian, I have always loved being racially ambiguous, because my identity goes way beyond man made categories. I am physically […]
Cristina Gonzales, Denver, CO. All throughout my life I’ve worked hard to succeed only to wonder if any success, any award, any accomplishment was truly earned, or if I am just helping someone make a quota, create a statistic, or justify an extra dollar or two. The worst is having a seed of doubt planted […]
Katherine McDowell Portland, OR
Marissa Rejali, Salt Lake City, UT. I’m racially ambiguous. Even though most people consider me white, I have felt my fair share of racism. After the 9/11 attacks most of my school friends were not allowed to walk to school with me. My laser hair removal bill is competing with my car payment, and I […]
Leslie Lannan, Cincinnati, OH. It’s amazing how desperate we are in America to racially categorize our citizens based on how they look. My six words are a reference to a recent doctor’s visit. After discussing my ailments and general health, the doctor had one more question for me. “What is your race?” she asked. I […]
Jessica Winfrey Portland, OR I am biracial and bicultural and was educated for the first 6 years in a very diverse school on an air force base in North Dakota. After my parents divorced, my mom and I moved into the neighboring town, which was predominately white. I recall being warned ahead of time that […]
Caty Salas Oakland, CA Being a guessing game gets old. PC-ness has cut down on questions like “What are you?”, “What color are you?”, and “Is that really your hair?”, all of which used to sincerely baffle me when I was a kid. Now they just ask me where I’m from. Endlessly. I am from […]
Rachel Crooks Tallahassee, FL As a woman with a Mexican mother (“Mexican” to signify “mixed race,” although my mother has been identified by some as being Native American or Filipino or ‘Asian’) and a Jamaican father (his ethnicity is never questioned, though his nationality is reduced to ‘African American’), I grew up in a strange […]
Mintii Ann Arbor, MI You ask me my race just to comfort your mind because it’s hard for me to fit in a box. I can say anything to you and it would please your curiosity.
Ana Byers Ashland, OR It is tiresome, rude and de-humanizing to be stopped by strangers so they can guess “where I am from.” It is even more tiresome to be told that my answer is unacceptable and must be a lie when I reply I am from Washington state.
Melissa Bowie, MD It wasn’t until I moved to the DMV (the Washington DC metro area, for the uninitiated), that I began to chafe under assumed ethnic identities. I have great examples: waiting for the metro and a metro employee sings the “Mexican Hat Dance” behind me; taking my (blonde) kids to the park and […]
Swapnil Deopurkar Seattle, WA I moved from India to Ann Arbor, Michigan; age 26, male, long hair, parted down the middle and with a pony tail. My first day at the bus stop, started a conversation with an African American undergrad. The conversation abruptly halted with me saying “I am Indian..” and he interrupting “..you […]
Jess Washington DC My mom is Chinese. My dad is white. I am half-Chinese, but my appearance is ambiguous. I feel like I have to “come out” as half-Chinese in certain contexts. For instance, being part of a group of people who acknowledge lack of diversity or a group of people SEEKING diversity. Race is […]
Katherine McDowell Portland, OR
Em Canada This is a constant and terrible icebreaker. It’s not that I’m ashamed or shy about my mixed background or ambiguous looks, but I’m constantly disappointed that that’s all that people want to know, that’s all they see me as, or they believe they can’t know me without knowing my race.