Your hair’s pretty. What are you?

FamilyRenee Bracey Sherman.
Oakland, CA.

“Can I touch your hair?” they ask, hand already extended, a mere inch from my thick brown curls. I feel invaded. Living as a biracial woman isn’t the easiest thing in the world. People come up to me with an inquisitively tilted head and say “What are you?” If I simply say “human” or “American” they reply, “No, you know what I mean.”

What they mean is what is my ethnic make up. Why does my tan skin look the way it does. Who are my parents and where are they from. Why does my hair look like that – how is it different from theirs. They’d like to categorize me – which is a natural thing for people to do, except these are people I don’t know. They’re strangers in a coffee shop who stare at me on and off for thirty minutes then come ask for the answer to the question they’ve been pondering. No one ever asks what my name is or how I’m doing that day. It makes me feel like an outsider in my own community. As if my skin color doesn’t belong.

People of all races and ethnicities ask me some of these deeply personal questions. And get frustrated with me whenever I don’t give them the answer they were looking for. I usually don’t mind sharing my family’s story, but I just wish people would ask my name first.

Keep the conversation going - comment and discuss with your thoughts

5 Responses to "Your hair’s pretty. What are you?"
  1. Jessie V. says:

    I got asked the same thing. When i was younger i didn’t know what to think but as i got older i felt uncomfortable

    • christa cobb says:

      exactly, the same hear. as i got older, i started to see it as weird and it made me feel like i had to identify with something else besides “just black” to be “cool” i am mixed, however that made me feel like i had to favor one side more, becuase my hair was diffrent and ect..I think the younger generation of mix children will have it a bit easier just becuase it is so much mixing of races. Yet still, its not easy being a multiracial women. Im glade you spoke on this.

  2. Anon says:

    With your light skin you could be mistaken for an Arab or an Indian. You are also reasonably attractive, were you an Arab or Indian Whites might be inclined to you. Though they fear you could be a mulatto and they want to make sure.

  3. Egypt Bracey says:

    Well since your light skinned and have curly hair people are just going to ask you stupid things. Just tell them that your biracial and don’t worry about it.

  4. Johnny Yip says:

    I’m bi-racial but look mostly black, so I have the opposite problem- people talk trash about Asian people to my face not knowing I’m half, and Chinese people are shocked when they find out I’m Chinese. My brother like you, looks more ambiguous, so I understand what you go through. Growing up, I still had some people squint and drop the “what are you?” bomb. For me, I just say “I’m mixed” and leave it at that. Unfortunately, this is a byproduct of you being beautiful. Mixed women are gods gift to mankind!(my wife black/white mixed too). FYI, it’s different around the world. In some places like London, there are many mixed race girls its basically the norm. In Russia, I personally saw a mixed woman coworker get proposed to by a russian military officer who was obsessed with her georgous flowing wavy hair. Hey, it’s a blessing and a curse to be mixed and beautiful. Keep ya head up, you’ll have guys kicking down your door to marry you very soon! PS. I’m from the O, born and raised!

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