What are you? Each time it was uttered by the lips of my peers, I wondered if they genuinely wanted to know what kind of person I was. Maybe it was an attempt at intimacy or depth. Maybe they were asking to be brought closer into my world. This optimism quickly faded. This question was soaked in a desire to categorize. It was never about knowing me or my qualities. They only sought to make sense of me. I did not realize that I am what people consider ethnically ambiguous. Until these moments, I just was. It was normal to be around people who did not look like me. My brother and I are the halfway point between my darker-skinned mother and my lighter-skinned father. At home, we were all one unit. Outside, we became representations of a different world that we did not choose to inhabit. A space similar to the norm but just outside of it. A space where I sat until I was categorized. I am mislabeled as soon as I verbalize one aspect of my identity. Now others pretend to know what I am. Now they can rest viewing me as one race rather than a messy mixture that cannot be easily understood. This has brought positive reactions as well as exposed harmful stereotypes. Regardless of the response, I am classified by only a piece of me leaving my remaining qualities behind as they do not serve a purpose in this interaction.
What are you? Repeated by strangers and friends alike. Somehow everyone’s perceived expertise regarding my racial identity grew. It seemed as if everyone wanted to ease their own distress caused by my ambiguity by transforming the situation into a guessing game where no one wins. Despite the inaccurate nature of their proposed answers, I was still influenced by the power of their words. I was flooded with questions and probes. They contemplated if I was misguided. Are you sure you aren’t Hispanic? I was sure. Yet I found myself becoming less sure. Who was I really?? Why don’t I look like any of the things I am. I have tried to research my origin with a desire to understand and to prove. The deeper I explored, the more I realized that I simply needed to allow myself to be once again. I could choose how to identify, and I did not need to be tossed around by the assumptions and beliefs of others.
Who am I? I am a woman whose genealogy consists of mixture and migration. My family cannot be neatly described. Many of them live on in discolored images. Some of them romanticized passing as White while others embodied beauty in the darkest of skin. Now I find myself in a place where we can reside together and I can be. I am not one race or another. I am all that my family is.