“No offense BUT, what are you?” That’s usually how the conversation about my race begins.
When I arrived in the U.S. in the 80’s I was really surprised by the emphasis on race. The first time someone asked what “race” I was, it took me a minute to understand exactly what they were referring to. Race? A potato sack race? A sprinter? A distance runner? OH! My ethnicity. Wow! I had never been asked that before. I was born in Holland, raised in Suriname (Dutch Guyana). In simplistic American terms my mom is White and my dad, Black. In cultural and historical terms, my mom is the product of a French father and Dominican mother-my father is the product of a Creole mother and Black and Chinese father. I grew up knowing my culture, my ethnic background…never a color. You were either Dutch or Surinamese, not black or white. So, when people say: “No offense but, what are you?!” I give them a history lesson, not a color. I don’t consider myself Black or White. I’m a mixture of so many things that the best answer I can give people is that I’m an “other.” I am all the other things that are not on the list of races. I feel that if I chose one ethnicity, I would be denying another. I embrace everything that I am and suffer the injustices of all minorities.
From my perspective, it would be a lot easier to identify with one group of people because the reality is that I’m never truly accepted by ANY. In Junior High I wasn’t Black enough…in high school I wasn’t White enough and by the time I went to college, people had become more politically correct and just called me “exotic” (like a bird or something?!). Racially I’ve never belonged anywhere and culturally I’m scattered everywhere– from China to Suriname to Holland to America. I’m proud of my heritage, but I think that the focus society has placed on “categorizing” people has resulted in many of us who are multi-cultural to choose one or the other. So, I choose “Other.” It’s time for people to start thinking outside the (race) “box.”