Penny Shaff Altman, Portland, ME. My father told me stories drawn from his childhood in the Ukraine. My mother told me stories about her life growing up as a Jewish immigrant. I told stories to my children. I tell them to my grandchildren. My youngest grandson’s great grandmother is famous for her stories of Gullah […]
Hannah, St. Louis, MO. My mother is from Africa. She has dark skin. My father is Swedish. My mother used to get asked if she was my Mexican nanny. I was bullied as a kid because I look like no one in my family. No one understands I identify more as a minority but I […]
Christina Mayes, Richmond, CA. The constant revolving question in my life is, “What are you?” Let’s take care of this question now. My father is Peruvian and my mother is Irish-Italian. My father left when I was three, so for most of my life I felt like he left me with no culture or language. […]
Merrill Mason, Philadelphia, PA. Being descended from early WASP settlers made my mother feel important and entitled. But I believe that suffering and endurance are human experiences, not racial ones. Stories of grit and survival should bring people together rather than create hierarchies.
Karen Gephart Altschul, Vernon Hills, IL. I was five, the first time I can remember somebody asking me that question. “What are you? Chinese or something?” Huh? Um, what are you talking about? I’ve been asked this question, “what are you”, on the first day at a job. A girl from China asked me if […]
Yasmin Gill Baltimore, MD My mother is white, American, and my father is Pakistani. Where ever I go, and whomever I am with, I rarely find someone who is at home with *all* of me. I am American, undeniably so, but there are peices of me that are also uniquely Pakistani. Americans see or experience […]
Yamuna Manju, Mountain View, CA.
Sean Robertson, Kensington, MD. People impressed with how my wife handles our children have stopped her on the street to ask what agency she was hired through. I suppose it’s an improvement from the Dominican Republic where hotel security tried to prevent me from “bringing in a local prostitute.”
Michelle Mead San Diego, CA
Linda Morris, Shawnee, KS. Growing up, I got teased a lot for being a fair-skinned black girl by kids who would assume and make sure I knew that one of my parents surely must be white or another nationality besides “black” (ah, kids). When I became a teen and young adult, I would get asked […]
Anonymous, Des Moiones, IA. Drake University This is what my mom was told in 1954 when social services came into her home and removed her and all of her siblings from her mom. At that time they were truly poor and were having a hard time finding enough food to eat. Her mother had a […]
WilmaS, Seattle, WA. If I had a dollar for every time I was asked if my sons were adopted…It’s happened a lot. A complete stranger approaches my family, usually in a grocery store or some other public location, and compliments me on my family. “Your sons are so handsome,” the person will say, and by […]
Katherine Brooks, Marietta, GA.
Akira Uchimura, Outside USA. I was born in Costa Rica, raised in Paraguay, Ecuador, Bolivia, El Salvador, Suriname, Japan and Chile (3 to 4 years in each country). I didn’t notice any difference between my friends and I until the “So where are you from” “Do you have a foreign name too?” and “Where did […]
M.A. DiMarco, West Long Branch, NJ. Monmouth University
Mary Horton Richmond, VA I didn’t realize until shortly before her death how different the world my mother gave me was from the one she was raised in. My mother had Alzheimer’s, and in the last few years of her life, she reverted to some of the attitudes and behaviors she had learned while growing […]
Anonymous, Eden Praire, MN. Prejudice robbed me of my child. 15 years ago my only living child was stolen from me by her white daddy and took overseas when she was 6 because I didn’t live up to his standards of what he thought was a good mother. To keep her away from me he […]
Anjali, Melbourne, Victoria.
Sandra Oldfield, Canada. I’ve gotten used to answering this question about my daughter who is adopted from the US
Adrienne Kern, Keller, TX. My daughter was two weeks from turning one on September 11, 2001. She is one of them. An Arab (pronounced with a Texas drawl: A-Rab). A camel jockey. A rag head. She is Turkish and Saudi and Egyptian. She is not white like me, her mother, who is also mixed race. […]
Raquel Saunders, New York, NY. My dad is half black and my mom is white, when look at me you only really see the white. But I am a quarter black, and when I say that people look at me like I just gave them a lie. It pisses me off. Don’t judge me on […]
Maranda, Colorado Springs, CO. My mother says she isn’t prejudice, yet she has negative comments towards me dating a white male. I am Native and Alaskan Native and African American.
Margot Rideaux-Crenshaw, Minneapolis, MN. The most frequent question addressed to me as a young mother in 1977 with my infant son.
Cheryl Mercado Arnedt, West Orange, NJ. My grandmother and her sister — red-headed daughters of NYC cops — both married full Filipino men and were disowned. There was no race in our family – just rice AND potatoes at every meal. My grandfather “Pupa” intentionally didn’t pass down his Asian-ness or his language Tagalog so […]
Harleen Thind, American Canyon, CA. The reason why I chose these six words are because my mother and father are of different races, my father is European and my mother is Indian. Indians and Europeans were enemies in the past, they despised each other in the worst of ways. My father decided not to care […]
Heather Nath, Buffalo, NY. My father is from India. My mother is Irish/British. I’ve had the “privilege” of looking 100% white woman my entire life. Non white haters call me stupid white bi***. My brother looks Middle Eastern. He ignorantly gets called a terrorist Muslim because he has a beard. My sister goes to Puerto […]
Susan Boyer, Decatur, GA. These words were spoken to me by a young black waiter. I’m an old white woman. “We got a connection”, he said. And I felt it. I was so touched by his generosity of spirit. I walk around my diverse city, aware of my racist culture and upbringing and practice looking […]
Joe Stainback IV, New Tazewell, TN. A quote from my mother … My positive spin on ‘race’ interactions gleaned from mandated busing in the early ’70’s – Richmond, VA.
Daniela, Oklahoma City, OK. Are You My Mother by P.D Eastman was one of my favorite books growing up because I loved how graciously and lovingly the mama bird at the end confirmed her son’s pleading for a sense of belonging. I am aware that I am not the only multi-ethnic person out there who […]
Toya Dragseth, Saint Paul, MN. My youngest son is biracial. Has his Fathers genes, very light skinned, brownish blonde hair and when he is with just me, people look as if he is not my child but a child I may be babysitting. When he’s with his dad they look very natural together.
Catherine Kehl, Cleveland Heights. OH. When we divide ourselves into “us” and “other” we don’t only lose the other, we lose ourselves. I was twenty-seven before I realized that my mother sometimes spoke to me in Spanish not because she’d picked some up in college before travelling in South America in her twenties, but because […]
Lauren Qualters, West Chester, PA. For my race card project I chose the phrase “Too white for my own good” which is most certainly a true statement, in both humerous and negative ways. I am certainly very sterotypically “white” but not in an intentional or discriminatory way. My traits are my own and they embody […]
Alicia Barnes, Starkville, MS. Shared race is not a qualifier of being a mother to a child. Some of us birth kids who don’t look like us, and it’s hurtful for people to question our status. When I saw people trying to figure out if a white mother with brown daughters had adopted them, I […]
Nina Martin Phoenix, AZ I am quietly proud of my multiracial background: my mother is Chinese, and my father is half German, half American. I also look absolutely nothing like my mother, save for straight hair and slightly tanner skin. While never a negative issue, this has led to some interesting situations since the time […]
Amy Spencer, Kalona, IA. On Location: Drake University Sometimes when I look in the mirror, I think, ‘Dang, you’re pale.’ But inside, I’m mixed, because my husband and kids are a huge part of me.
Colin McKearnan, Missoula, MT. A question that my 8-year old son (Ephrem) asked me on the way to school. We are white and my wife and I adopted Ephrem and his brother from Ethiopia seven years ago. We also have two birth children.
Dolly Szymanski Fort Wayne, IN Both of these quotes are things my mother heard or said. The second quote – My mother said to me when I wanted to invite some college friends to our home. Some of the friends were persons of color Grosse Pointe, MI in 1959.
Tamara Engelking, Albuquerque, NM.
Sandra Hart, Brookeland, TX. This is an amazing thing to do. Growing up in the South in a white household with a black cleaning lady I felt there was more to the story. But no one would tell me anything or even answer me truthfully. I felt that Emma on orders from my mom would […]
Barry Watkins, Santa Rosa, CA. My mother took me back when she told me that. She was loving & guileless. She drove off the road when I told her I had Black roommates in SF, though I grew up in Beaumont, TX. I never thought of my roommates as “Black”, they were individuals – Ron […]
Erica Stone, Perrysburg, OH. The process I went through to get these words where things that I’m going through right now in my life or what people notice about me first. Some of the words I thought of came naturally while others I had to put more thought into them. The reason I decided to […]
Linnette Derry, New York City, NY. I often think about the inevitable discussion about race that I will have to have with my son one day. That day when he will begin to ask me why people think I’m his nanny/housekeeper instead of his mother; the day when he will ask me why people keep […]
Laura N. Weston, Baltimore, MD. About 80% of the time people assume (mostly men) I am Puerto Rican even though I am half Caucasian and half African American. I stress to everyone who thinks it is important enough to ask me what I am that I am Mixed or Biracial and I state with what. […]
Queenie, Virginia Beach, VA. I am an African American mother of a 23 year old son. We have seen lots of race issues on the news, on television shows, and on social media in the last year. The response that I see many white people say is that they are tired of hearing about these […]
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 […]
Jean Tokuda Irwin Salt Lake City Public Library “I’m Japanese-American with a Japanese mom and a father who was a GI.” The Japanese called children like me Konketsuji, or loosely translated, GI bastard child. I was one of the offspring of a a Japanese mother and an American GI during the post-war occupation years, in […]
Erica Watts, Arlington, TX. Growing up, I believed that I was all African American. My mother was African American and so was my brother and that is all I needed to know, to know that I was African American. However, as i got older, people began to question my ethnicity. Some claiming that I looked […]
Michael Vines, New York, NY. Just want to make sure that you understand “the girl” was how many people in the 50-60’s referred to their maid.
Wendy Wetzel Submitted via Twitter I’m white; she’s black. How do I help her through so much new to me?
Jasmin Marie Harpe, Burlington, NJ. It has been hard to fit in to both societies growing up as a biracial child, especially being in academia where there are few people who look like me. I had a lot of race issues growing up with my father who has very fair skin, and my mother who […]
Kimberly, Pittsfield, MA. My father, whom I don’t know, is black and my mother is white. I was raised in a White, Irish family. Growing up, no one in my family looked like me, but I never noticed until ‘Roots’ premiered on TV. I had my son with a white man, so he is one […]
Lisa VonTress Las, Sunrise, FL. As a child growing up in the DC suburbs, I had no idea about what was going on. I had Annie, who was with my family 6 years before I was born until I was 13 when my father moved us. I came back to her later as she worked […]
Vincent Yanez, Long Beach, CA. For as long as I remember my mother, and myself as I got older, was given a very hard time from people in our neighborhood and some family members about my little sister, little brother, and I not being able to speak Spanish. My mother and father both grew up […]
Christine Alexander, Spring Valley, CA.
La Shawn Hankton, St. Paul, MN. RACE HATE IS OBVIOUSLY WRONG, SO WHY DOES GOD ALLOW SUCH HATRED AND UNJUST TO BE?
Aimee Mallery, Rochester, NY. My daughter is Native American on her father’s side. When faced with a form for daycare, I had to choose whether to label her Native American or Caucasian. They insisted she couldn’t be both.
Julia Guerra, Austin, TX. My brothers are very important figures in my life. They were born to a white mom and a white dad. They are blonde and red-haired, with blue and green eyes. When they were little babies, my white mom married my Mexican dad and he adopted both of them as his own. […]
Ashley Diaz Mejias, Richmond, VA. I write this as 34 year seminarian and old mom of two girls; my husband is haitian and puerto rican, and I am cuban and white. I am part of a church that, over the past year, has walked through race dialogues in an effort to begin bearing witness to […]
REPOST FROM: The Weekly Wonk, http://weeklywonk.newamerica.net/ – DEC. 11, 2014 Ferguson Should Be More Than a Moment by: Anne-Marie Slaughter National Public Radio host Michele Norris has run The Race Card Project for the past four years. Participants are asked to distill their “experiences, questions, hopes, dreams, laments, or observations about race and identity” into a six […]
Alexander Calica, II, Carlsbar, CA. This phrase was often used by adults when I was growing up after hearing my answer to their question, “What nationality are you?” I would always respond by saying, “My father is Filipino and my mother is Dutch.” The initial inquiry would be posed after having heard me speak at […]
Jessica Danielle Jensen Tampa, FL I am the product of two people who only saw “who” there were, not “what” they were. Because of their bond, they produced four daughters (including me) who I believe are very beautiful. Mixed-race children represent the beauty that comes from open hearts and open minds. And, they have GREAT […]
Matt St. Louis, MO I take after my mother.
Joyce Jordan Fort Myers, FL This incident occurred when I was 7 years old. I never forgot it and remember watching her get back on the bus. It changed forever how I feel about race. To me Jessie was a friend. I never even noticed that her skin was different than mine.
Shoshi Shaw Denver, CO In middle school I saw nothing wrong with being honest about my past so anyone who asked I would tell, I’m adopted. One day in math, I was correcting a classmates work on the whiteboard and on my way back to my seat, I heard the boy say under his breath […]
Keira Dodd Lakewood, OH My Italian grandmother came here in 1956 on the Andrea Doria, and my mother only knew one sentence of English (“I have to pee”) when she first went to school. She got called names and ostracized for her “otherness.” I remember that when I think of how different immigrant cultures are […]
K. Louis East Brunswick, NJ Growing up, I had a lot of misconceptions about my race. My mother is black and was born in England, and firmly considered herself British even though her father had his roots in Jamaica. I could remember one time were watching a news story were two African American males were […]
John Matlock Long Beach, CA This is the answer when I’m asked what my background is. I used to just say “Mexican” but the question and subsequent answer has become increasingly complicated in today’s multicultural landscape.
Rita Radostitz Eugene, OR
Jane Dorick Midlothian, VA This was, I think, my mother’s way of letting others know that she didn’t consider herself a racist or as culpable for the horrible things done to blacks that we were all witnessing.
Caroline Hutton Raszewski Columbia, SC As boycotts and riots raged around the South in the early 60’s I was oblivious. It was the first day of school. Mother was braiding my hair as my brother, one year older than I, lay on her bed. She grew serious. “There might be little black children at your […]
Michelle Martinez Tempe, AZ As a mixed child of divorced parents, a White mom and Mexican dad, I overheard a lot of racist talk in my mother’s family. Even though I never heard her say anything, she never disagreed, either. She sat quietly through it, not promoting it, yet not speaking against it. I often […]
Mike Elliott Alexandria, VA My mother was brown. Her skin a shade so perfect until the day she died she was “Puddin” to her family and friends. My father a lighter shade of brown was “high yellow” and proud to be colored. He had a fraternal twin who was dark like an egg plant, blue-black. […]
Eileen Wasow Washington, DC
Jill Dziko Vashon, WA As the white mother of 4 children of color, I am constantly being asked if they are my kids. When they were very young I learned to say, “These are my children” and that no other explanation was necessary! My kids think it funny that I am the only white one […]
Mira Tanna Orlando, FL My father is from India, my mother from the Netherlands, and I am married to a man from Nigeria. I look white to most people, and my children look black to most people. When I pick my kids up from school or camp, I get curious stares and kids ask me […]
Christine Boston, MA I was shopping with a dear friend and her two children. She needed to use the restroom so I gladly took her precious chubby baby in my arms while I waited with the other boy in his stroller. It could not have been 5 minutes before some nasty woman came up to […]
Sabrina Price-Durling East Windsor, NJ I am proud to be more of just one race (black, white) and proud to have more than one nationality (American, German). After 36 years living, I still find it incredibly silly that other people feel the need to put me in a category…and more often than not its black […]
Lisa Forster Englewood, CO It doesn’t take much wood to build a child’s coffin, but it takes a lot of wood to build all the coffins of the children and teens who die every year from gun violence – nearly 3,000. According to the Children’s Defense Fund, black children and teens accounted for 45 percent […]
Terri Hunter-Davis San Francisco, CA My daughters are 11 and 14. I am middle-aged. Like many women of my generation, I had a career before I had a family. Countless times I’ve been asked if they’re my grandchildren. No, I did not get pregnant in high school. Funny, no one questions a white woman in […]
Wendy Allmendinger North Attleboro, MA I was asked this question far too many times to count when my children were little. I am white, my two beautiful boys are black. The question was often followed by, “Not that there is anything wrong with that.” Depending on my mood at the moment, my answers ranged from […]
Katherine Fulton Chippewa Lake, OH My mother, father, aunt, grandmother and I have been mistaken for everything from Italian to Egyptian. When we tell the truth, reactions range from surprise to disgust.
Kristen Hartke Washington, DC I have been a DC public school parent for 14 years, and my daughter is about to graduate from high school. She has always attended schools that were at least 80% African-American with about 30% of the students in the free lunch program. I have been a longtime volunteer, working particularly […]
Gracie Fleming Austin, TX My mother gave me an incredible prayer life, encouraged my intellectual development, and validated my intuition. But time and again I watched others respond to her dark skin and Spanish accent as if she were less than white people. I am mixed ethnicity and keenly aware that my father was not […]
Anonymous in Minnesota MN
Linda Basilicato Frederick, MD My mother’s comment on my new, polite, handsome, articulate, smart, college boyfriend in 1993. “I had black friends–in school.” (My mother’s compromise)
Francine Piggott Butler Delaware, OH Piggot Road is in the Scottish District in Barbados. The oldest synagogue in the Western Hemisphere is also found in Barbados. My mother recently told me, “Oh, my grandfather wore a yamulke (kippah).” There’s a lot about my family history I don’t know. I’ve always identified as an African-American, but […]
Katherine McDowell Portland, OR
Dolly Szymanski Fort Wayne, IN Both of these quotes are things my mother heard or said The first quote – my mother was a child playing at the home of a classmate who happened to be black. Detroit, MI 1920’s.
Dacia Mitchell Oakland, CA
Dina Stonberg Philadelphia, PA I have had the privilege to not have to think about race most of my life. Fell in love with a wonderful, kind, caring African American man – formed our family through adoption and now have the privilege of raising a beautiful, smart African American daughter. She is a joy every […]
Sezin Koehler Submitted via Twitter: @SezinKoehler How many times I’ve heard this in my life. As a child very often when visiting the US (my dad is Sri Lankan). Occasionally still even now. I never get used to it. Sezin’s 6 word essay sparked a unique conversation on Twitter…take a look. She’s not your […]
Krystal Scott Bayoone, NJ This is the answer to the question I am asked weekly. I was asked this question as a child often. However now that I am a mother of two girls one who has lighter skin then I and one who is darker we are asked all the time. In the grocery […]
Shannon McKenzie Ortonville, MI
Hazel Stream Roseville, CA
Carmen Davis Portland, OR I was a very young child from the Midwest traveling with my mother by train to Detroit in the 1940’s. There was an African American couple on the train with a wonderfully packed picnic basket. As a very gregarious child I was eager to explore the car. My mother told me […]
Mary Palmer Manahawkin, NJ I am a white woman married to a white man. We are the parents of two biological sons and one adopted bi-racial daughter, all of them grown.
Kimberly Phillips Carbondale, CO
Anonymous Submitted via: NPR’s Talk of the Nation