“Excuse Me But What Are You?”

Sara Dawit,
Lake Mary, FL.

I am bombarded with questions on my racial and ethnic ambiguity almost everyday of my life. Thankfully, I’m able to simplify my ethnicity to East African and Turkish so I’m not stuck repeatedly listing all those East African countries (unless I’m asked to of course, but that, in my experience, is a rare occurrence from non-Africans). The intended question is almost always “what’s your ethnicity?” but people seem to not know how to properly formulate those words. Instead, people resort to ignorant questions like, “where are you from” which usually gets the answer “America” (because I’ve lived in America my entire life) and then the usual follow-up question is “no like where are you really from?” Then there’s the infamous “what are you?” which apparently I wasn’t informed that some people on this planet weren’t human. Of course, my response to people depends on how they approach me. I never really had an issue with people’s curiosity on my ethnic background; in fact, personally, I think it’s nice to be perceived as something out of the ordinary but it’s how the question is asked that makes all difference.


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