Reading Maria Guido’s post 10 Things You Should Never Say To The Parent Of A Mixed Race Child brought back a flood of memories from my childhood and the never ending question of my race, my identity and stereotypes.
Growing up I often felt pressured to identify with one group or another because what I consider myself is apparently really really important to people that don’t know me. And for those that want to get to know me, figuring out how I identify is the most important way to do that.
Listen, I get it. I've seen plenty of people with exotic or unique or just plain different features and wondered what background they were from as well. The first thing we notice on a person is their face and the color of their skin so it is natural to wonder or even ask “hey, where you from?" or "what are you?” but here are some that cross the line:
1. Do you know your Dad?
The sad thing is, no I don’t speak to my biological father who happens to be Black and it really isn't a conversation I’d like to have with someone I've just met. There are a lot of great dads out there whether they are with women of their race or not and I think its unfair to assume that I wouldn't know him by asking me that question.
2. Do you consider yourself Black? Oh- you do?
Which leads to…(drum roll please)
3. You know you’re really not Black, right?
Who the hell do people think they are to tell someone that they are not black? Is it like comparing skin tones on a paint chart?
4. You know, I think its insulting to Black to people to say you’re mixed with something. If you’re Black, you’re Black.
You see, the thing is, you didn't ask me “what are you” because you thought I was just black even if you suspected I was mixed so why so defensive? Also, I don’t think by acknowledging you have roots elsewhere is in any way showing your disdain for being Black. Nothing wrong with acknowledging the variety of cultures that make you YOU.
5. I bet you don’t date dark skinned guys because you don’t want black babies.
6.Too bad you didn't come out with hair like your mother
Since this isn't a natural hair post I won’t get all into this but making little girls feel bad about their hair is so wrong, especially by other Black people.
7. What kind of Black?
Yea, you know. African American.
Oh, you should just say you’re Puerto Rican
8. I bet you have a complex.
You know what? I bet YOU have a complex because my race and my identity mean so much to you.
As I got older I decided to steer away from these race/identity traps I simply say I’m from Brooklyn. I think that describes a lot more about who I am as a person than anything else.