When People Can't Really Tell What Race You Are
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Politics and Activism

When People Can't Really Tell What Race You Are

"What are you?"

When People Can't Really Tell What Race You Are
Discover Magazine

"What are you?" Is a question that I've been asked from pre-k to present. As those of you who have heard it before, you know they're asking about your race not your house in Harry Potter (it's Gryffindor by the way. More people should ask me that, because I love saying it.)

What am I?

My reaction to the question, over the years, has developed from confused to offended to indifferent. But unless I get to the subject first it's usually a matter of time before it comes up.

When I was younger, my race didn't feel any different from anyone else's. It wasn't something I assumed needed clarification. Duh, I'm Iranain? Can't you tell? But of course, they couldn't. I am from a small town in east Texas. Who is just going to guess that I'm Iranian? More often than I've heard "What are you?" I've heard "Oh, I thought you were Mexican."

But for the people who have an ambiguous race or lack the qualifying characteristics of your race, we have all heard, "What are you?"

What are you?

In my angsty "I hate the world" years the question would inspire anger. "I'm a person! What do you care?"

But how else will they ask? "What ethnicity are you?" "Where are you from?" (Which is Texas) "No, I mean where are your ancestors from?" (I don't know, get a ouija board and ask) "What race are you?" "What background are you?" These can be decent ways to ask. When some people ask, they have a hint of embarrassment. It's a not a taboo subject as long as I can see you're being polite and that's how most people feel. In fact, the question can end in an interesting discussion.

Unfortunately,I've had bad ways that I've been asked. Like really bad. Yelled across a classroom bad. "Are you a towel head?" "Are you related to Osama Bin Ladin?" "Are you the same race as those suicide bomber people?" "Does your family put those red dots on their foreheads?" What???

That is definitely not that way to ask. In fact, if you don't think you're going to like the answer, then don't bother asking.

But at t the end of the day, and probably till the end of our lives, someone is going to ask the question, "What are you?" And "Pretty hungry." isn't the answer they're looking for. So be fair and be polite, because you're more than your race, but that's a cool thing too.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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