"So what are you?" is a question I've gotten for as long as I can remember. My dad was born and raised in Trinidad, which is an island that usually requires an explanation of its location almost every time. My mom, born in America, comes from a big family of Scottish immigrants who settled in Canada. A perfect mix of my parents, I have dark, almost black hair, tan skin, and almond shaped eyes…a lethal combination that makes me susceptible to a barrage of annoying comments and interactions such as these personal favorite struggles of being racially ambiguous.
1. Constant guessing game of what country you're from.
Although it sometimes is a good ice-breaker at parties, if your dominant exotic features originate from a weird, little known island like mine do, it's unlikely the other person will ever guess, which makes it a little less fun.
2. You never know if “ethnic” is an insult or a compliment.
When people describe you to those who don't know you, it falls somewhere in between "she looks sorta Asian-ish but not full-on Asian" and "she's the not-white one," until they finally settle on just using "ethnic."
3. People will assume you're adopted.
Although this hopefully doesn't happen to everyone, having a dad who has darker skin and a mom who is white has led to different reactions depending on which parent I go out with. My dad and I have been mistaken for immigrants, when people hear my dad’s faint island accent. I have gone out with my mom to stores and even the doctor’s office, where my mom has been asked more than once from where I was adopted. I have no further words on that.
4. Constant "what are you?" question.
What are you/where are you from/ what is your mix/etc. There's never a good way to answer this question, especially when you were in fact born in America. I usually start by explaining that my mom is from America, which leads to a blank unsatisfied stare until I quickly follow that up by explaining that my dad is Trinidadian.
5. Racist old people.
Even though the constant "what are you?" question gets excessive and annoying, at times that is preferred over people assuming. I've heard everything from "happy Indian Independence Day" (I am not Indian) to "welcome to America" (never left). It never gets less awkward or uncomfortable or rude.
6. The racial identity category on forms.
Ah, the dreaded question. You want to say white just to make it easy on yourself, but white doesn’t fully encompass a good chunk of your background. After a lot of anxiety and a lot of debate, you’re forced to settle for “Other,” which is the form’s nice way of giving you an out from an existential crisis.
7. Your name confuses people.
Looking the way that I do, people assume that my name is something unique or foreign. My parents decided to confuse everyone by giving me a very classic white name, which leads to a lot of new suggestions from strangers on what my name should be. I am just as confused as you all.
8. You don’t fit anywhere.
Although at first this sounds like a negative, it's actually one of the best parts about being racially ambiguous. Because you don’t technically fit in one set racial group, you can’t be confined to stereotypes. No one can pre-judge you, because no one really knows what you are. We are free to be our ethnically mysterious selves free of expectations.