Do you know what the toughest, the hardest, the most impossible question is? For people who have always known who they are, for people who are of only one race, that question is as easy to answer as their favorite color or the color of their eyes. But for biracial or multiracial people, this question is the most gut-wrenching and confusing question.
From the time I was little, I was forced to ask myself “What Am I?” I was forced because of the expectations of society that say that you have to be only one race. I was forced because of kids asking me “where are you from” and “what are you.” When you are biracial or multiracial, these are things that you have to consider. You have to consider them not because you want to, but because society makes you.
Being biracial or multiracial is great because you get to grow up with more than one culture, one language, and more than one way of viewing the world. But this is both a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing for the obvious reasons — being more tolerant and open-minded with other people’s differences. It allows you to see the world as something that is more real and honest. Biracial and multiracial people can often see other people for who they truly are rather than the color of their skin.
People often do not know how they should react to us because sometimes they do not always know what we are. And unfamiliarity breeds discomfort. This discomfort can cause you to question everything about yourself. You end up even hating one part of yourself because society may not fully be accepting of you. How can someone completely love all of their parts when there are people who are threatening to send your immigrant parent “back where they came from?” How can someone love all of their parts when there are people who will single you out just for being different?
This difference is even felt among kids as young as five or six. Kids, while honest, can be hurtful. While it is true that they don’t understand the concept of race, they will still see your skin color, hair texture — all those facets that determine who we are on the outside. Kids are born with no inclination of race or ethnicity or any of these societal differences. It is a society that deems fit to segregate different races. It is a society that trains and teaches these kids that it’s okay to put people into different boxes. Society tells these kids that they need to put themselves into a box to belong. But the thing is, for biracial or multiracial individuals, that is not always easy. Because we do not fit into one box. We are not even in that dreadful “other box.” We are not others. We are people.
It’s 2018, and we are still having problems with race that was founded to allow people to believe in whatever they wanted. And in a country that believed in accepting anyone, no matter their race, ethnicity, or religion.
Because of this, I fear for the future. I fear for the future of my two-year-old daughter. I fear that moment when she starts school and kids ask her — what are you? I fear for the moment when she is in middle school, and she starts questioning her identity. I fear for the moment when she is in high school and sitting for the SATs or applying for college, and she is forced to answer this seemingly impossible question: What is your race?
When that time comes, I wish I could tell her what to answer. But I can’t. Just like I can’t tell her what to answer when she gets her first “What are you?” question. This is an answer she will have to figure out on her own. The answer to this question is a personal one that comes after years of self-discovery and self-reflection.
I wish that people did not ask someone “What are you?” or “Where are you from?” It should be enough that we are human beings. Why the need to continue to divide us by color, race, or ethnicity? We live in a country that is supposed to dedicate itself to inviting all types of people to live here and give them the same opportunities.
But, as we all know, this is not always the case. Not everyone is given the same opportunities. People are still divided because of race, ethnicity, and religion. Perhaps one day, this may change. For my daughter’s sake, I do hope that changes. But if it doesn’t, if this country and the people who live here are still so adamant at dividing rather than uniting, then I want my daughter to remember that she is her. She is not defined by the color of her skin or hair or her beliefs. She will one day grow up to be an amazing person, who will see past appearances and look at what is on the inside. Because it is what is on the inside that matters, ultimately.
So next time, you come across someone who looks different please don’t ask them “What are you?” Because you will only succeed at alienating them. That should not be our goal. We should be aiming to be united, to stand together, as part of one race and nationality.
[Disclaimer: The information presented in this article reflects the writer’s own opinions formed from personal experience. The writer does not intend to offend anyone.]