I’m who I say I am!

Christina Martinez-Williams. Seat Pleasant, MD. My mother is German and English, at least third generation American born, and my father is Cuban, first generation born. Much of my life I tried to identify with my Cuban side, because that is the side that people cannot usually physically see, especially according to stereotypes of what Latina’s […]

No English. Standardized assessment. No chance.

Katrina Des Moines, IA As an ELL teacher, this came from when I had to give a student who was new to the country from Vietnam an annual standardized assessment. She hardly new English, had been in the country for less than two weeks yet she was still required to take a standardized assessment in […]


Hope my children will speak Spanish

Sandra Aguilar-Rodríguez, Bethlehem, PA. I am Mexican, I speak English, French and Spanish. I have a PhD in History, but still I find it difficult to understand why in the United States being bilingual or trilingual is not appreciated. I want my children to speak, read and write at least in another language, and if […]

I’m speaking in Spanish. please reciprocate.

Jose Pimienta, Tujunga, CA. Very often, when I speak Spanish to someone who also speaks spanish, they reply to me in English. I take no offense to it, but it does remind me to continue reflecting on such a big topic in my life, which is: race, ethnicity, nationality and culture and how they play […]

I’m not black, I’m dark brown.

Kelly M., Indonesia. My six words were spoken by my daughter when she was seven years old. I am From Texas, my family tree consists of Irish and English immigrants and Cherokee Native Americans. We generally look Caucasian, but all five siblings have slightly different skintones. I now live in Indonesia, I’m a single Mom […]


No, I’m not Italian or Spanish.

Michele Warch, Georgetown, DE. My mom is English and Native American. My dad is Scotch-Irish and German. I speak Cherokee and read some Gaelic. I have dark hair and green eyes. Its a gift of my mixed ancestry. I have tattoos and ride a motorcycle. I also have a master’s degree and teach at the […]

I’m Jocelyn, I do speak English.

Jocelyn Rueda, Napa, CA. I am a Mexican female. I once went to a store and went up to the register to ask a question and the women was looking for someone to talk to me. She was a white women and she thought I didn’t speak English.


“No eres gringa, no actúes así.”

Valerie Guerrero, Mission, TX. All my life I’ve grown up around my Hispanic family. It’s unusual for me to ever say something in English in front of them out of respect because they don’t really understand the language. The few times that I accidentally say something in English I get the old “no eres gringa, […]

It’s easier to say I’m White

Laura Pierson, Los Angeles, CA. I am Native American, Mexican, Spanish, English, Germany, and Irish. I was raised by a single mom that is Native American, English, German, and Irish. I didn’t know what being a Mexican meant or was like and I’m still trying to figure it out. As a child, I told people […]

I’m American – where’s my checkbox?

Blair White Haddad, Los Angeles, CA. Being the child of an adopted mother, for a long time I only knew half of my genetic make up. After being reunited with my bio grandmother we discovered our Native American/ French background. My whole life I’ve been asked the question- what are you? Instead of identifying myself […]

Somewhere between Salsa and Country!

Stephanie Connors Eureka, CA Music is one of my biggest reminders of the cultures that I grew up with. It fills me with nostalgia and pride, longing and love of the people who came before me. The people from: everywhere! I love all of it now. From day to day I swirl around in a […]

Kindergarten without English. I’m still fine.

Vishwa Dhuleshia, Shrewsberry, MA. I started Kindergarten knowing how to say only two things in Enlgish: “my name is Vishwa” and “I have to go to the bathroom.” I spent the first 3 years of Elementary school going to ESL classes while my classmates took spelling classes. Those few years I had to face the […]


Actually, I speak English very well.

Guadalupe Mitchell, Damascus, OR. Growing up, most people just saw a little brown Mexican girl. I remember when entered the second grade and my family had a moved to a predominantly white neighborhood, I was placed in an ESL classroom. My classmates made fun of me because my Spanish was not very good. After struggling […]

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I speak better English than you.

Nicole Huber, Colorado Springs, CO. I am Asian American. Being an Asian American, no one clutches their purse tighter when I walk by, and no one finds it surprising that I teach at a university. But despite Asian Americans being perceived as the “model minority,” we are not seen as “real” Americans. I was adopted […]


Your accent… Are you from here?

Ivan Vazquez, Sacramento, CA. Although I was born and raised in San Diego, CA ; I grew up in a household that comprised of both the English and Spanish language, about 60% English and 40% Spanish. I am a child of second-generation immigrants and even though I received my entire education in English, I came […]

My kids are “beige”, not white…

Linda Levittown, NY My three children are a mix of English/Irish and Puerto Rican and when you line them up in a row, you can see one mirrors me, the second mirors my husband and our third is a pretty even split down the middle and can “fit” either side of our mixed family. A […]

You speak Spanish? But you’re white!

Adriana Pedroza Both of my parents were born and raised in Mexico. Looking at my family pictures, I’m the odd one out. As a child, I was blonde, and my eyes have always been on the lighter side. My skin is not dark. I don’t have my mom’s dark hair or my dad’s dark eyes […]

What am I? Dirty but clean

R. E. Longdon Clarksville, PA My family complexion has always been called dirty or ruddy. My ancestors came from Europe through England but family folklore has much more than English in our history. Our family always classified as white but we stood out in our hometown to the point our “dirtyness” was speculated by some […]


Caucasian, trying not to be white

Anonymous Mobile, AL I was born and raised Caucasian, though of course, like most Caucasians, I was referred to and referred to myself as “white.” But like so many, I found myself attracted to African American culture, and, generally, more accepted by African Americans. As I’ve grown, becoming an instructor of English and therefore, an […]

But you speak English so well!

Lisa Lee San Francisco, CA Asian Americans are constantly reminded that they don’t “belong” in America, despite their contributions of building up this great nation. We are reminded in ways big and small, such as the seemingly harmless remark of “but you speak English so well!” The Civil Rights Movement paved the way for all […]

No, I do not speak Spanish.

Delia Moreno Valley, CA I am so tired of others expecting me to know every bit of Spanish, simply because I am Mexican. It is assumed that just because one is of the Mexican heritage they should know the Spanish language fluently. I do know a little bit of Spanish to kind of get me […]

“You probably don’t speak English”

Michelle Liv New York City, NY Brooklyn As a person of color, it still angers me that mainstream society still regards what is “white” as “normal” or the status quo. I hate being judged on my racial appearance and assumed that I do not speak English because I am not white. These words were uttered […]

Speak English We Are In America

Amanda Denise Ballantyne New York City, NY The Bronx I was at a dinner when a group ,mid 60s/early70s (age), of Caucasians were eating their sunday breakfast discussing an event. I specifically heard a section of the conversation, “I can’t stand moments like that. We are in America, speak English we are in America.” It […]

We assume you don’t speak English

Sabrina Leira Denver, CO Sometimes when people are trying to do the right thing, they end up being wrong. For instance, every year at school, we have to check a box that says what our ethnicity/race is. I, being half Hispanic, sometimes check the Hispanic box. A few weeks later, I get called into the […]

No, really — I’m from Iowa.

Thi Thumasathit Palo Alto, CA I’m Asian-American. I was born in Thailand, but immigrated here when I was 3 months old so I speak perfect accent-free English. Since the age of 4, I grew up in Hull, Iowa, population 1,500. Invariably, I am asked (even in the Bay Area), “Where are you from?” After I […]

I’m not Mexican because I’m brown!

Tammie Cordova Eugene, OR People think because I have olive colored skin, brown eyes, and brown hair that I’m Mexican. Not that there is anything wrong with being Mexican but that is not my ethnicity. I am Navajo, Portuguese, and some Scottish, Irish, and Cherokee and probably some other but I look more Navajo and […]

Curiosity about race is only natural.

Keiko McCracken Anacortes, WA I am half white, half Japanese. I can’t count the times someone has asked about my race, commented on my looks or name, or altered their response to me based on how I appear. As a child, I was teased because of my background; as an adult, I’ve had someone run […]

Why is your English so good?

Basundhara Mukherjee South Burlington, VT I was born in India, lived in Saudi Arabia, and grew up mostly in a small town in Vermont. English is in my blood, just like Bengali. When someone asks me why my English is so good, it reminds me of the ignorance that still, unfortunately, exists in this country. […]

Assimilation; there is no such thing.

Abel TX Speak English only they say. America is a melting pot; think American, be American. If you assimilate you will fit in and be treated equally! But when you assimilate, all that you gain is the loss of your cultural roots and your ethnic identity. Because, there is always someone around the corner to […]

I’m not white in my family

Lisa Craig Washington, DC It’s a bit complicated. My father’s family consists of Scottish, Swedish, French, German, English, Mexican, and two different Native American tribes. My mother’s family consists of French-Canadian, English, Inquit (Alaskan Native Americans), and some other ethnicities that I am not aware of (I am not close to them). All of my […]

My dialect of English isn’t ignorant.

Erica Parker Southland, MI “Ebonics is retarded and anyone who speaks it is just showing their lack of a working knowledge of the English language.” These are the words that sparked an hour-long argument in the Student Life Center at my high school. These are the words from a White, wealthy, suburban boy who honestly […]


No, I don’t understand your English.

Nidia Rivera, Hyattsville, MD. “NO I don’t understand English”, is a common phrase that I am used to hear almost everyday when I moved to this country, U.S. It hurt when people who know English say to you that your English is terrible. However, as they said that, they encourage me to learn English, they […]

You have a cute English accent.

Angel Liu Los Angeles, CA I’m an international student studying in America. Since I was born and raised in China, I have an obvious accent when I speak English. People can easily guess where I come from and my ethical background is very simple. I identify who I am very clearly, but when living such […]


We thought you didn’t speak English.

Gabriela Denise Frank, Seattle, WA. Despite being a Detroit native who grew up in Arizona, I was mostly surrounded by white kids like me during my childhood. Though my family is Jewish, I never experienced discrimination while living in predominately Christian communities. Even as an adult in Seattle, which is more ethnically diverse, I live […]

Not what I thought I was

Nancy Jane Grimes Smith Pittsfield, IL After being asked most of my life if I was any Indian (Native American) and saying no, mostly Irish, some Scot, And English my mom recently found that she is part Cherokee. I’m thrilled and would welcome DNA testing to find out what else may be part of me.

I’m Hispanic and I speak English

Yvonne Ramirez Dodge City, KS There are times where I have walked up to the register and and the cashier assumes I don’t speak English and they speak to me in Spanish. I don’t take offensive because the city I’m from is very diverse so I took it as them being helpful. It does make […]

Well educated Asian-Americans asked, speak English?

Christine Thai-Pappa Fairfax, VA I was at a National Convention for my sorority, which is an Asian- American Interest sorority. A number of us had gotten onto the elevator at our hotel. There were girls from the University of Virginia, Berkeley, Standford, Cornell, and Carnegie Melon. At the next floor a group of older Caucasian […]

Where did you learn your English?

Sameer Belgaumi Ann Arbor, MI Understanding Race Project- University of Michigan I’m a Pakistani-American who grew up in Saudi Arabia. I hear this question so often that I wish I had a better reason than “I was born speaking it.” The truth that English was one of the first languages I learned, seems like such […]

Wow, you speak real good English.

Karin Kross Levenstein Austin, TX Korean adoptee, adopted as an infant by white parents. “Are you Chinese? Japanese? What are you then?” Always weighing out exactly what is meant when someone asks “where are you from?”, and then that sinking feeling (after you say “I’m from Austin” or “I grew up in DC”) when they […]


James P. Ayers Ft. Wayne, IN Dear Michele, We enjoyed your Fort Wayne Presentation. My 6 and 5 words in two versions: THE RACE IS IS OUR CENTER or RACE IS AT OUR CENTER (in 5 words) I was tempted to ask a question as a follow up to your including the reference to diction […]

Didn’t sound Chinese on phone

Jenny Braintree, MA I used to work at my dad’s Chinese restaurant answering the phone and taking orders. One time a man came in to pick up his order and was shocked that I was Chinese. He out right told me I did not sound Chinese when I was on the phone with him taking […]

I speak English better than you.

Janette Santos North Quincy, MA I was at the local grocery store mulling over which yogurt to get, when a middle-aged woman came up to me. The first words out of her mouth were, “Do you speak English?” I was so shocked at the time that before I could even get a chance to respond, […]

Muslim. Assumption I don’t speak English.

Elizabeth Liechti Chicago, IL Because I also speak German and Arabic I am sometimes VERY tempted to have a bit of fun with the person or persons making the assumption. Usually I say nothing and simply walk out of earshot, but once in a while I find it necessary to say, in English, “I can […]