We pass for everything but ourselves.

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.

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4 Responses to "We pass for everything but ourselves."
  1. Kate Candy says:

    Okay. Did you ever ask someone why they reacted with disgust? I can understand surprise. There appears to be only one acceptable black face, but if you didn’t feel that it was a problem, wouldn’t you be more apt to ask, “What’s wrong?” For example, if someone asked you what you did for a living and you said nurse and you saw the same disgusted look, wouldn’t you ask, “Do you have a bad experience with a nurse?” Or if they were surprised, wouldn’t you say, “Wow, you look surprised,” and let them explain.

    • Katherine Fulton says:

      Thanks for the comment! Actually, it’s sort of odd – my father is of Northern European descent, but his complexion is very dark, to the point that he is frequently mistaken for Italian or Middle Eastern. One person he knew got upset because he was sure that my father’s family was Italian but had their name changed when they came to the US. I always thought it odd that the person questioning my father was angry with him – my Dad was being truthful.

      As for me, there’s a reason why I don’t ask why people get upset. My maternal grandmother is Mexican-American; I have dark hair and eyes, but am generally of a lighter complexion until I go out in the sun for a bit. So far, I’ve had people ask if I was Italian, Greek, Jewish, Hungarian, Romanian, Lebanese, Egyptian or Moroccan – it seems I’m pretty ambiguous! Though it doesn’t happen often, I have had more than one person look disgusted or horrified when I tell the truth – that my father is Caucasian, and my mother is half-Caucasian, half-Mexican. After their initial reaction, the people who react negatively catch themselves and will usually say things like, “Oh, that’s…interesting!” I’ve gotten used to it, but it can still be hard to handle, especially when requesting that people not tell racist jokes or say racist things in front of me. It’s especially difficult when their response to that is, “What’s the big deal? You’re mostly white anyway.”

      • Katherine Fulton says:

        Sorry – forgot to add that in today’s socio-political climate, I’ve gotten used to people of Mexican and Latino descent being seen as an “other” who is competing with them for resources. As such, I know why people may be reacting to me in the way that they do, or I can at least guess. One particularly strong memory for me is the time that a substitute teacher in middle school asked if my mother’s family had come to the U.S. legally because I challenged her assertion that everyone’s ancestors came to the country through Ellis Island.

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