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 down the road after me shouting pidgin English, because he assumed I didn’t speak the language. Even so, I’m baffled by the offense taken by those of mixed race when they are questioned about their heritage. Curiosity defines us; we are visual creatures, we wonder, we wrestle with new data and, yes, we do classify, but we also reorganize our beliefs based on new information. (Well, those of us who aren’t climate-deniers do.) Is there an area in our lives where we DON’T do this? And why should race be different? There was a recent National Geographic with numerous gorgeous portraits of mixed-race individuals. Was there a single reader who DIDN’T examine each picture and then read the accompanying captions (denoting each person’s racial mix) with pleasure? The more we know about our world, the larger it becomes. Rather than take offense at the question, understand the opportunity to create a new understanding. That individual who chased after me shouting pidgin English? He was a WWII veteran, pleased to share with me his experience in Japan as a young soldier, pleased to find this pathway back to a memory that defined him and the world he knew–pleased, in other words, to find an experience that created in his mind a connection with another person–even one based on imperfect understanding (I’ve never been to Japan). In a world where we know so little about others and have so few opportunities to begin the kind of discussion that leads to greater connection, is that so wrong?


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