What are you?

Posted by James, 01 Apr

Whenever we fill out forms … even on dating sites, we sometimes tend to be categorized under identity. And most of us (especially the mixed race) end up feeling like we are being forced to choose a single identity… something like Multi-ethnic or mixed race. Does mixed race say much about someone’s identity? It’s no wonder when people see a mixed race person, they tend to ask this question: What are you?

Now some people may take this personal especially when they feel that they have to justify themselves against the perceptions of being outside the normal … basically as "other."

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When someone asks about your ethnic background, do you take it to mean that what they are asking -"You don't seem to fit or belong so I'm going to disregard your strengths as a person and concentrate on your appearance, which many times I'm only interested in because of my perception of you as strange and weird and my fascination by such oddities." – or do you take it to mean they are asking for the sake of information?

Is there an element of racism especially if the person being asked is of mixed race … you know, a beautiful, 'exotic' non-white person whose beauty can only be explained by them being mixed (not fully non-white)?

That being said I don't think asking about someone's background is wrong in and of itself, so long as the question is tactfully and considerately asked, and the feelings of the person being asked, not just those of the person asking, are taken into account.

But question is: Is there anything wrong with asking about someone’s ethnic background? Do you get offended when out of the blues someone asks what you are? Is it prejudicial?

2 responses to "What are you?"

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  1. Posted: 29 Jan 10

    It IS a tiresome question to answer and depending on the tone and demeanor in which it is asked it can take a turn for the worse. Generally speaking, if you don't even know the person's last name, you should NOT have the audacity to ask this. But if you are genuinely intrigued maybe try saying it this way; "I've noticed your unique yet familiar features...would it be far-fetched to say we might share a relative or two...on the ancestral-level??"...(you can add an awkward giggle there because this crap IS awkward). This opens up the door for that person to share if they so choose. But if they are touchy about it or feel it is it virtually insignificant in the grand scheme of things (this is my stance..BIG SURPRISE...LOL) they will probably let you know this also....AND this generally turns into a win-win situation.

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  2.   Daria22 says:
    Posted: 02 Apr 08

    A close friend of mine always responds with "ethnically ambiguous." It's so odd to see that people treat her differently based on their perception of her ethnicity. Men who think she's a Latina are incredibly aggressive and forward with her. When they find out her true ethnicity, they suddenly become very courteous.

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