In Response to Roy G Biv: My Color Story


In response to:

Here’s a story of a way race affected me. 

I’m one of those “racially ambiguous” types. There are several categories people have tried to place me in based solely on the way I look, since most of them don’t know my DNA. From a very young age I was bombarded regularly with the question: “What are you?”

I was asked this by people of any group, because no one was sure where to “place” me. I grew up in rural South Central Louisiana, where whites & blacks may have been in the same schools & played on the same sports teams, BUT the DIVIDE between the 2 was glaringly obvious. There was little to no socialization between groups outside of school-sponsored functions.

So when it came to socializing, I was haltingly accepted by both, but never fully admitted into either. I was quite honestly… RACIALLY UNCOMFORTABLE.

It’s because of this that for a few years from about 12 to 14 that I desperately wished I could either get much darker or get much lighter and stop being somewhere in the “middle.” I didn’t care which of the extremes I moved toward, I just wanted there to be no doubt about my “race.”  I wanted to make this happen so I could CONNECT the way I saw the others connect with each other.

It wasn’t until college that I truly realized the beauty of my “in between” looks. I was among a growing number of people who existed in the middle & were a bridge between the 2. Now the “color lines” were blurring, more and more rapidly as I entered into adulthood. And now in 2015, people are predicting that by 2050 more than 50% of the nation will be mixed between 2 or more of these previously divided groups. What will “race” mean then? We can only guess at this point…

But back to the question: What are you?

People who ask this question don’t have any idea how it makes the recipient feel, so let me explain.

This questions makes us feel like an animal or a thing, as if “whatever we are” is foreign & strange enough to you that you feel you need to ask for clarification. In short, we don’t like it. Perhaps it’s wording of it, because other variations of it are not nearly as offensive, and sometimes are actually perfectly acceptable. If you ask, “what’s your cultural roots?” or “where did your family roots come from?” or even asking “what’s your ethnicity?” in a positive and genuinely interested tone are usually okay.

BUT HERE’S WHAT I WANT TO ASK: Why do you really want to know?

Do you want to know because it helps you make judgments of me in a quick, concise manner? How will knowing this change how you relate to me?

and THAT’S the million dollar question.

Why are we in the United States (and some other places) so obsessed with “race?” It is because we are told there are certain things to expect from certain groups. We’ve been taught to lump people who don’t look like us into stereotypes because these neat little boxes of interpreting people save us time and energy of

… getting to know people.

The very thing that we should be doing is the thing we avoid by asking “what are you?” If you want to understand a person, knowing their race or ethnicity is a VERY SMALL part of their story. There is such a diverse whirlwind of stories & paths out there that to base your judgment on these superficial surface level measures is a disservice to YOU & the person you are judging, AND it’s the very reason we continue to have such division between the bigots in the white population & the rest of the nation.

It’s this that also creates distrust among the white population that isn’t bigoted & the rest of the nation, because some of the “non bigoted” white population are still unknowledgeable about other groups. So to YOU  I say, follow my advice & see how much clearer you are able to SEE the world around you.

Pre-judgments are NOT necessary. When you meet a new person that looks like you, do you assume they are just like you? That would be wrong right? You were raised by different people. They might have a different religion. They obviously have different INTERESTS than you, and surely went to school in a different place. Their life experiences are not the same as yours. What if one of you was abused as a kid, but the other not? What if one of you has an anxiety disorder, while the other is a ball of bubbly energy?

My point is… we are all so drastically different. When we judge by the outward appearance, we overlook the core similarities we may have with someone. The person who looked like you might be totally different from you, believe and stand for things you do not, meanwhile, someone who looks drastically different might be the best ally & friend you could ask for.

DROP THE RACE BASED EXPECTATIONS and ASK questions like… What do you wanna get for lunch today? My treat. Or just talk with them, be normal, & allow yourself the LUXURY of getting to know them on their terms, while they do the same for you.


One thought on “In Response to Roy G Biv: My Color Story

  1. Thanks for sharing and engaging in the conversation. Refreshing. I’d like to add…
    I think it’s in our nature, especially as children, to be inquisitive. Although, I’m clearly identified as Black or African American, I’ve found myself in the middle of “what are you?” flurry of questions from my peers. I, too, wonder about my family genealogy, heritage and ethnicity when I look into the mirror and see high cheekbones and slanted eyes. We’re all unique and we should embrace it. I agree that we shouldn’t judge one another based on appearance. However, in our youth, “what are you?” I believe means “are you like me?” Anything more than that is merely learned racism, colorism or some form of hatred.

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