What are you? The ubiquitous question.

Laura Mariko Cheifetz
Atlanta, GA

I call myself hapa yonsei. I’m biracial white Jewish and Japanese American, fourth generation on both sides. However, there are two assumptions that I run into all the time. First, “what are you?” People want to know my ethnic background (not racial… that doesn’t satisfy their intrusive curiosity), but they don’t know how to ask without offending me. Probably not asking and just treating me like a person would be better. Then, “where are you from? Where are you really from?” as though my answer of “Washington State” just doesn’t seem believable. Race is very real, as is racism, and I as a multiracial person seem to trip up people’s paradigms. In the end, I know history, culture and law would have me sit in the back of the bus, so I purposefully align myself to work for racial/gender/class justice whenever possible.

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