Live Through This

On Containing Multitudes

A conversation about growing up biracial.

Illustration by Marjainez

Marie: Throughout my life, people have assumed that I am Mexican or Latin American. One time, this lady came up to me in a store and immediately started speaking Spanish, then got pissed off and started yelling at me when I told her—in my extremely limited español—that I didn’t speak it. (I’ve also been mistaken for Japanese and, a few times, Chinese.) I am actually Filipino and Italian. Growing up, I often felt confused and alone because there weren’t many kids who looked like me, but I recently read that, among children, the multiracial population has increased 50 percent since 2000, which makes me wonder if those kids are experiencing the same frustrations that I did, or if people are less obsessed with checking just one box these days. (I hope so.) Either way, I wanted to talk to my fellow Rookie Leeann about what it means to be biracial and how it’s shaped the women we are today.

Leeann: I’m half Irish and half Puerto Rican. My mom is an Irish-American from western New York. My father, who passed away when I was very young, was born in San Juan and moved with his family to the South Bronx. But all my life people have thought I was Asian. There were a lot of Asian immigrants in my hometown of Rochester, New York, and I was close friends with a lot of the girls. Teachers were always calling me Anh or Thuy or other friends’ names. We spent a lot of time joking about our clueless white teachers, because to us it was SO OBVIOUS that my Cambodian friends didn’t look like my Vietnamese friends, and that I didn’t look like any of them! I used to chalk it up to overburdened teachers in crowded city schools, or the fact that I had the classic Asian girl haircut: long dark hair with blunt bangs! But as I got older and became more politically conscious, I realized this is a really common frustration for Asian people: being lumped into this one category when there are actually a ton of different ethnicities and identities that are invisible to a lot of non-Asian people.

Marie: My mother came here from the Philippines in the early ’70s and my dad is second-generation Italian by way of Massachusetts. I just found out today that I have English, Scottish, and Irish blood. I AM A HUMAN GLOBE. There weren’t many Filipinos at my elementary school. I felt a bit lost and alone, which sucked balls because I was already awkward as it was. I was one of the smart kids, which we all know was not cool, and I was chubby and cripplingly shy. Can a sista get a break?! In high school, I FINALLY met a couple of other cool half-breeds like me and we became BFFs. But at some point came the anger and frustration. There was this one instance in high school where I was trying to enroll in a class at a community college during the summer and had to fill out some paperwork asking for my ethnicity: Caucasian, Asian, African-American, and so on. I told the lady in charge that I wasn’t sure what to do and she responded, “You can only pick one!” My face got hot and my eyes got all watery! I think that specific incident, along with people assuming I was Mexican, fueled some sort of Where do I belong?? rage, which resulted in a few angry rants to unsuspecting people soon afterward.

Leeann: Yeah, it’s always been partially funny and partially frustrating to me. Having to constantly assert your actual identity is annoying. I think the point might be especially sore for me because my father passed away, and I’m not in touch with the Puerto Rican side of my family. It feels like my race is the only thing that connects me to this really important part of my past. I’m really proud to be Puerto Rican and really proud that everyone says I look eerily like my father, ’cause that’s all I have of him, you know? I don’t have to be proud of my Irish-American heritage in that same fierce way.

Marie: Do you find that some people will be like, “What are you?” You look “exotic” or whatever, but they can’t put their finger on it. When someone finds out I am Filipino they usually just ask me to cook them pancit or adobo. I can’t blame them, because dat shit is good.

Leeann: Oh my god, I’ve gotten some really interesting reactions. From white folks, there’s usually A LOT of surprise, because I “read” as white or Asian to them. The surprise itself doesn’t bother me if it’s just matter-of-fact, getting-to-know-you type stuff. But then there’s the offensive kind of surprise, where it’s clear that this person is just struggling to put me in an appropriate box. The most common examples are people going, “No! Really?!” Like, OK, you wouldn’t be this surprised if you weren’t carrying around very rigid ideas about race that I don’t conform to. What really bugs me is when people say, “But you’re not really Puerto Rican,” meaning that I don’t fit their stereotypes of a Latina. Or this question: “So do you put Hispanic on applications?” I’m always like, “Yeah, because otherwise I’d be lying.” I love (meaning hate) the implication that I’m only mentioning a fundamental part of my identity to gain some imaginary advantage. Only white people are under the impression that being Puerto Rican has ever gotten anyone anywhere in this country! I think it shows what a fucked-up relationship people have to race here. If your race is not immediately apparent, or doesn’t conform to certain stereotypes, people immediately start policing it. Petra sent me a link to this video piece by the performance artist Adrian Piper that explores this so eloquently. The first time I watched it I got goosebumps.

Marie: What’s the reaction been like among other Puerto Ricans?

Leeann: They’re so refreshingly no-big-deal about it! They seem happy to know another Puerto Rican, and this is true of everyone I’ve met from a Spanish-speaking country. There’s a real solidarity there, which is nice, because sometimes I do worry that I’m not “culturally Puerto Rican” enough.

Marie: Filipinos always seem happy to meet other Filipinos! It’s always cool to meet another Italian, too, but there’s not a bunch of them in one place on the West Coast. L.A. doesn’t even have a Little Italy, which has always BURNED MY BRUSCHETTA.

Leeann: Have you ever been a victim of racism?

Marie: One time I gave a dollar to a homeless dude, and his form of gratitude was yelling, “Gung ho, la choy!” Another time, I was at Magic Mountain, and a group of older kids started doing that racist hand gesture where you stretch the corners of your eyes with your fingers. They yelled “chink eyes” at me and my friends. I was 10 at that time, but not so naïve that I didn’t notice that these kids weren’t white. They looked like the latest incarnation of Menudo. (I loved Menudo.) So it was not only my first experience of racism, but also the first time I realized that people of any ethnicity can be racist. It was a very Do the Right Thing moment.

Leeann: This is complicated, because I have white skin, and I “pass” as white, and there’s a huge amount of privilege that goes along with that. So the racism I’ve experienced is very small compared with what other people go through. It’s shocking when that curtain pulls back—and even my shock is a privilege! The most blunt example of racism I’ve encountered was when a former boyfriend mentioned to his mother over dinner that I was half Puerto Rican. Now, I loved this woman so much, she was wonderful to me, but it was just so clear that this information, like, rocked her world. She put down her fork, looked at me in this weird, appraising way that she never had before, and said, “No way. But your features are so refined. You must be more Spanish than Puerto Rican.” She said it with this kindly tone, like how you would reassure a friend if they said they were ugly. It’s clear from her statement that she thought that being Puerto Rican was not beautiful or “refined,” and she wanted to reassure me that I looked…white, basically! This was her idea of a compliment. I remember trying to explain to my boyfriend how that felt.

Marie: Did you have any celebrity role models that you looked up to?

Leeann: Man, I really didn’t have too many! I always felt a little bit (OK, a lot) of connection with J. Lo, and I thought it was awesome when I found out Joaquin Phoenix was “sorta Rican” like me (pretty sure I coined that term, by the way!). But for the most part, it was reading people like Malcolm X, bell hooks, and Angela Y. Davis that just resonated so much with my experiences and beliefs and gave me a framework for how I think about race. Reading about the history of the Young Lords, the United Farm Workers movement—all these things that made me really proud of the history of resistance among Hispanic people and determined to embrace it.

Marie: You know, I wish there was a Cool Mestiza Chicks newsletter back when I was growing up, but I wasn’t aware of one. (Though some internet research just showed me that there was! There was a zine called Bamboo Girl, and probably more like it. Listen, we didn’t have the internet back then.) And half-Filipino celebrities were almost nonexistent, though I was REALLY excited to find out that Lou Diamond Philips (from the movie La Bamba) had Filipino blood! Outside of school, I hung out with kids who were like me, daughters of my mom’s friends, so I did get to experience that kind of common bond, even if it wasn’t in school. How do you feel about being mixed now versus when you were growing up?

Leeann: I’m just sort of over denying a part of myself for other people’s comfort. If people think I’m mentioning my race to get a pass, it no longer makes me question my right to identify as a Latina. I am who I am, I’m proud of it, and if somebody has a weird or racist reaction to it, that says a lot more about them than it does about me. Also, I’m a helluva lot more mouthy than I used to be, and I am not afraid to call someone out for a racist comment. It’s led to some uncomfortable moments between friends, but if I don’t say anything, I’m just internalizing all that discomfort. I’m a big believer in handing it back to them.

Marie: I definitely am proud of being Filipino and Italian. I’ve embraced growing up in two cultures because that’s what makes me ME! Also, I have learned that my surroundings were just as much as an influence as my actual ethnicity. I constantly joke that I am the Number One Fake Mexican because, growing up in Southern California, I was so immersed in Latino culture. I probably understand more Spanish than I do Tagalog or Italian. I wish I could go back in time to tell Young Rie not to get pissed off about being mistaken for Mexican. Do you think things have changed since we were kids?

Leeann: I honestly don’t feel that things have changed much! I’ve gotten the “you’re not really Puerto Rican” as recently as this year. The best-case scenario is when someone seems to know that they SHOULDN’T make a big deal out of it, but even that seems awkward. For me, the matter-of-fact response has just never been the norm, from white folks anyway. It’s usually either awkwardness or prurient, exoticizing interest—did I mention the former boyfriend who used to ask me to do a “Rosie Perez voice”? Ugh. I did it a few times and then I realized, um, I don’t even think Rosie Perez really talks like this! There’s still an incredibly backwards attitude towards race in this country, and attitudes toward multiracial people are so telling, because they get at the heart of how people really feel about racial boundaries. What do you think, M?

Marie: I think there’s two sides to the coin. On one hand, the statistic regarding the increase in America’s mixed-race population gives me hope that the little half-Filipina girl sitting in class right now doesn’t experience those feelings of strange isolation and prejudice that I did. On the other hand, I agree with you that racism is still very much alive and thriving. Anyone following the news lately can’t really argue otherwise. Also, I don’t understand how the entertainment business is still extremely lacking in racial diversity. Like, where my Pinoys at? Yes, there are more famous Filipinos on the big screen nowadays, but it’s a travesty that my people are still so underrepresented. Lemme get a shout out to my fellow mestizas Hailee Steinfeld, Cheryl Burke, Shannyn Sossamon, and Nicole Sherzinger! Vanessa Hudgens, you will probably have to play me in the Lifetime Original Movie. ♦


  • MissKnowItAll April 20th, 2012 7:21 PM

    I’ve been waiting for something like this for a while now. Great Job guys!

  • thefawnboy April 20th, 2012 7:26 PM

    refreshing read
    i myself also have difficulty with ‘identification’ and this marginalizing of race. ‘identification’ because it feels like sometimes being identified as a race, or especially a mestizo or ‘other’ even ‘exotic’ person by some, is so debasing that i render myself raceless many a time. it’s probably this way because i have just as much conflict with the people imposing this on me, than with my own mestizo identity and the racial tensions/racist ideologies existing within it. I mean as a mestizo person, even in my own household I have felt this way and in the same way Leann mentioned when meeting her boyfriends mother, that messed up, half complimenting, but more insulting and debasing than anything tone. I have felt like this many a time, but really do feel some people are able to transcend exterior/cultural difference, because the entire thing is so complicated and perverse mostly because human beings can be so complicated and perverse. So maybe you guys can relate to me alot more than some people of my own racial ‘identity’, which I feel is so separate from my own personal identity

    thank you for the article : )

  • KinuKinu April 20th, 2012 7:30 PM

    OMIGOODNESS!!!!!!! I’m BIRACIAL AND I SERIOUSLY LOVE THIS SO MUCH!!! My dad is black,my mom is white.I’ve been mistaken for Hispanic before.Kids used to call me ‘mixed’ which I guess is true but it kinda hurt my feelings.I was singled out.People were so stereotypical.I got asked by classmates ‘do you identify as black or white’
    The funniest thing is when old white ladies walk up to me and my extensive family(4 children) and ask ‘are they all yours?’ Because of the typical stereotype of black male : ’10 children,12 mothers’<—– not possible but you get it…..Me and my family were at Sam's Club the other day.At the door they check receipts.It was a white lady and as we were walking out,she gave us the most awkward look,checked off our receipt and then went through the entire contents of our cart.She didn't do that with all the other people.But because my dad is black and she needed to make sure we hadn't stole anything.Ah,we laughed so hard right in front of her face too.Not nice,but it's not nice to be stereotypical either
    Super long comment(SORRY) and I seriously LOVE/adore this article.THANKS

    • Leeann April 20th, 2012 10:51 PM

      Aw, I love this comment, thank you! We seriously need to make t-shirts that say “I AM BOTH” in gigantic letters. The thought of that is so beautiful to me, I’m getting all verklempt over here!

      • Violet April 21st, 2012 4:18 AM

        OMG I love that idea.
        (I am BOTH Chinese and French)

      • KinuKinu April 21st, 2012 3:27 PM

        Yes! That is such a good idea.Since my dad is a graphic designer,I can pitch that as a side project.He would love the idea,I gonna ask him :D

  • Sugar April 20th, 2012 7:46 PM

    I get asked “Where are you from?” (meaning country, not, like, what town) almost every day. I can’t imagine being bothered by it. You guys seems to really defend your backgrounds, which I don’t really get. Why does it matter?

    • lorobird April 20th, 2012 8:14 PM

      Because many people will oppress you for your race/ethnicity/background. They will be hateful, or hurtful, or insensitive, or they will discriminate against you.

      They will objectify you, they will treat you as ‘not the norm’, they will trust you less than they would trust someone who looks like them.

      And sometimes, too often, they will commit hateful attacks against you.

      Don’t be fooled: racism is less than dead. Ask Trayvon Martin.

      Being proud of your origin and the way you look is part of reclaiming that identity that is threatened and abused by other people around you. It’s about reclaiming your personal dignity, and demanding not only respect, but equal amounts of respect than people with privilege (like white people) get.

      • Sugar April 20th, 2012 8:54 PM

        I guess. But it reads as being anti-white. Which is ridiculous, because there are a thousand different ethnicities within “white”…

        But people are going to find something to discriminate against no matter what. Being white doesn’t equal respect.

      • Anaheed April 20th, 2012 9:04 PM

        Being white gives you a lot of privilege, though, which Marie & Leeann talk about in this piece.

      • Sugar April 20th, 2012 9:07 PM

        Uh… I guess… I don’t think white people have anything just handed to them. To think that is to grossly oversimplify … pretty much everything that makes us human.

      • kaylafay April 20th, 2012 11:17 PM

        I understand where you’re coming from, Sugar, because I used to be in the same place. Being white, I have always had the privilege of not knowing my privilege and trust me, I know there is still a lot for me to learn.
        It is not anti-white, only real people relaying real experiences. As white people, we need to understand our part in systematic racism. We need to hear the stories about racism against people of color and believe them, instead of categorizing them as isolated incidents that happen to everyone. It is not to say that white people do not have problems. I’m not saying that all white people are just living the good life. However, it needs to be understood that purely by being white, one gets treated differently and receives benefits in society. The most basic example being that we are almost never followed in stores whereas many people of color are. Safeway even has a special code over the loudspeaker to signify to its employees that a black person has entered the store. That is not a “human problem” but purely a race problem.
        It is so internalized by society to view people of color as criminals. The majority of people in prison are people of color, but did you know that 70% of drug users are white? THAT is institutional racism.
        I’m probably rambling a bit, but the point is that being bi/multiracial wasn’t even recognized until this decade. That meant that thousands of people were being expected to choose between 2+ core parts of their identity, especially when they blatantly appeared racially mixed.

      • kaylafay April 20th, 2012 11:19 PM

        As white people, no matter how many ethnicites we contain, we will never have to choose between them because we will always be part of the giant melting pot that is “white”

      • kaylafay April 20th, 2012 11:22 PM

        It is difficult for me to summarize this, because it is a complicated, and multi-faceted issue. If you want to learn more about the issues of racism in our society, I would suggest reading Beverly Tatum.

      • Anaheed April 21st, 2012 1:03 AM

        “As white people, we need to understand our part in systematic racism. We need to hear the stories about racism against people of color and believe them, instead of categorizing them as isolated incidents that happen to everyone. It is not to say that white people do not have problems. I’m not saying that all white people are just living the good life. However, it needs to be understood that purely by being white, one gets treated differently and receives benefits in society.”

        THANK YOU for saying this so eloquently, kaylafay.

      • Sugar April 21st, 2012 4:48 PM

        I guess.
        I never said I was white, though. Although it’s funny that you assumed that.
        But yeah, I get followed in stores, I just start talking to the workers, make some jokes and be polite, and then they calm down and go back to their work. It’s not a big deal. I mean, I do look sketchy, but that has nothing to do with my ethnicity, and everything to do with the fact that I dress like I may be a drug addict/homeless person.

  • lorobird April 20th, 2012 8:11 PM

    This is not about biracial identity but just about commonly accepted racism in everyday conversation:

    My friend from Singapore was born there, but his parents are both from India. So many people, when they see him, put him in the category ‘South Asian’ immediately.

    And he’s told me he gets the “originally” question so many times! By this I mean:

    Someone: Where are you from?

    Him: Singapore.

    Someone: No, where are you ORIGINALLY from?

    Freaking Singapore, man! WHAT MORE “ORIGIN” THAN BEING BORN IS THERE.

    And people don’t tend to realize this is racist, but it is. My friend says he is not hurt by it (although other people might, and it would be more than understandable) but he is mildly annoyed because it’s basically people refusing to treat him like they would treat a white person, or a person who at least ‘fits’ with the categories they have inside their heads.

    Anyway. Thanks for the article, very enlightening to read! x

    • Leeann April 20th, 2012 10:14 PM

      Yes, I get “where are you from” all the time! Sometimes I mess with the person by answering “Rochester”, my hometown. That way if they want to satisfy their curiosity, they have to at least admit that what they REALLY want to know is what seems “other” or “exotic” about me.

      Again, no problem with normal curiosity, but people who march right up to me and ask “where I’m from” before they even know my name? Yeah, I’m definitely not gonna make it easy on you!

      • Sugar April 21st, 2012 4:49 PM

        haha! I always pick some place different, and they ALWAYS say “OH YEAH, I can totally tell”, even if it’s a complete lie.

  • brickfrog April 20th, 2012 8:18 PM

    Thank you for this! As a half-Filipino young lady I have had to look far and wide for people like me to look up to and I’m glad I’ve now found one in you, Marie!

    • Marie April 21st, 2012 12:37 AM

      Thank you so much boo. I’m really humbled by your words. <3

  • loanna April 20th, 2012 8:21 PM

    Mexican, Comanche, Spanish, Irish, English girl here! Really appreciate this article, thank you sooooo much!

    I’ve gotten a variety of reactions about my appearance, from “What ARE you?” to “Are you MEXICAN??” and I never really know how to react because people’s responses vary so much. That video of Adrian Piper was extremely informative though, and really helped because I think more often than not I “pass for white.” Living in the southwest United States, it’s not exactly fashionable to be Mexican. Sometimes I’ve found myself in a sitch where people will be badmouthing Mexicans or making some racist joke, and I could either say nothing and get away with it, or retaliate.

    Anyway, thanks, this video made feel not so bad about sticking up for myself even when it makes other people feel uncomfortable.

    • Leeann April 20th, 2012 10:40 PM

      Yeah, I’ve totally been there with people not realizing I’m half Latina making racist comments in front of me! It sucks because it puts you in the impossible position of either:

      a) being a SuperMinority and sticking up for your people (which makes you vulnerable to attack, often starts a fight, rarely changes anyone’s mind, and, let’s be honest, is just sort of exhausting), or

      b) letting it slide and worrying that you’re a DISGRACE TO THE RACE.

      That’s the essence of racism, it forces you to make the impossible choice between degradation or being on the defensive. I wish people understood that that’s what is meant by “white privilege”. It doesn’t mean white people are handed the world on a platter. But they don’t have to go around defending their humanity either. People of color do, every day.

      • Violet April 21st, 2012 4:27 AM

        I was thinking exactly the same thing at work the other day.

        My colleagues had been repeatedly saying aloud that they didn’t want to have long working hours because ” They were not Little Chinese People”.

        It’s been three times now, and so far I felt a blow everytime I heard it – it’s so offensive, implying that it’s ok for ‘Little Chinese People’ to be exploited at work, but that French people are in some way above it. The first time I said :”hey, could we as a team stop using such expressions about the Little Chinese People?” but it went largely unheard. Then the other two times I didn’t have time to react, but felt so bad for having let this pass. At the same time I didn’t want to be this super defensive ‘race-activist’ at work.

        But next time I think I’ll try to say something kind, but firm about how it bothers me.

        Thank you so much for the article and the conversation, Rookie.

  • Jamie April 20th, 2012 8:51 PM

    A+++ would read again!!!

  • chantal April 20th, 2012 9:28 PM

    Lovely! My parents are both from Mexico but my mom’s dad was Egyptian, making me 1/4th Egyptian. People always assume I’m white or half Asian which admittedly has its upsides because I don’t get discriminated against but I kind of wish I looked a little more Hispanic. When I tell people that I’m Mexican they are shocked and tell me that I’m really pretty… as if being Mexican means being ugly. Always makes me want to punch them but that would probably be affirming one of their stereotypes.

  • Rarity April 20th, 2012 9:36 PM

    I always feel so awkward and out of place when people talk about race, because I’m half Taiwanese/half white.

    English is my only language and I’ve lived in California all my life, but white people always see me as Asian. And my Asian friends joke about how white I am (I really don’t relate to them at all, because I’ve absorbed like, no culture from that side of my family).

    It’s a struggle to find my place when both cultures think I’m ~part of the other side~. I really wish I could understand what my Taiwanese grandparents are saying without them having to translate to English. It hurts to not be as Asian as they want me to be, yet not be as white as people expect from a CALIFORNIA GURL.

  • SarahBell April 20th, 2012 10:34 PM

    I got so excited when I read this, because I’m Puerto Rican and Irish, too! I felt pretty alone in the world until I found out that the super awesome and hilarious Aubrey Plaza (who apparently is my doppelganger) is as well! People can never guess my ethnicity and usually seem pretty shocked/surprised when I tell them. Thanks for this, it was great read.

    • Leeann April 20th, 2012 10:47 PM

      I’ve actually known a lot of people who are Irish and P.R., I think it’s the Catholic Connection. And it’s funny you mention Aubrey because the first time I saw her I DOUBLE-TAKED because I literally thought that I had been cast on a television show without my knowledge it (I also did this with Shannen Doherty once but that’s another article). So stoked to hear she’s one of us — Irish/P.R. pride forever!

  • rainymouse April 20th, 2012 10:45 PM

    I love this so much! Whenever I explain to someone that I’m German, Scotch-Irish, Mexican, and native Mexican they either don’t understand why I even care or go nuts after I mention Mexican.

  • ICantThinkOfAUsername April 20th, 2012 11:20 PM

    Thank you so much for this article!
    I’m equal parts Chinese, Portuguese, English and Dutch, and I can’t even count how many times I’ve had complete strangers approach me to ask what my background is without even introducing themselves first. Nobody’s ever been rude about asking and when I tell them (because I’m usually too shocked to think up a wise answer) they always make positive-sounding comments along the lines of: “wow!” or “how interesting!” Even though people only seem to be asking out of genuine curiosity, I still get really mad about it because it’s such a huge invasion of my privacy! I’m proud of my background, but I feel like people want me to walk around wearing some kind of explanatory sandwich board or something just so it’s easier for them to categorize me.

  • yopotato April 20th, 2012 11:23 PM

    Hawaiian, Japanese, Chinese, Irish, Italian, Portuguese AND Iranian. My blood spans the world. Seriously guys. SERIOUSLY.

  • TheAwesomePossum April 20th, 2012 11:38 PM

    I have a slightly different experience. People often tell me that I couldn’t have this “good hair” or lighter skin without having some white in my family (I’m black-at least in appearance). Which is true, part of my family is French and German. But when they tell me this, they also seem to be implying “You have a privilege because of this, why don’t you use it? You’re prettier than me because of this.” And it confuses them when I refuse to abuse this “privilege” and feel superior, because I know that I am still discriminated against (being ignored in stores, racist jokes, etc). I just really hate that I’m expected to act like I’m better than people with darker skin than me and encourage their insecurities.

  • Moxx April 20th, 2012 11:51 PM

    One of the things I think is cool about Brazil is that pretty much everyone is mixed race…
    So this specific sort of thing tends not to happen. (that doesn’t mean there is no racist, but there is very little of this specific brand of racism… which is, well, good)

    • marimba_girl April 23rd, 2012 7:37 PM

      Do you live in Brazil? Not to pry or anything but I would love to visit and was wondering if you like living there.

  • bellalane April 21st, 2012 12:07 AM

    African-American, Chinese, German, Polish, Swedish hybrid here. I love that word “exotic” – my mom used it to describe my look growing up (and still does). It makes me feel special, unique.

    I’ve lived all over (I’ve moved over 30 times), and every new place people assume I’m whatever ethnicity is common in the area – Japanese, Italian, Hawaiian, Spanish, Mexican, etc. I’ve never minded much. Perhaps I’ve lived a charmed life, but my racial background has always opened the world to me; it has always meant more acceptance, not less. I wouldn’t want to change a thing.

  • ali April 21st, 2012 12:35 AM

    I feel really privileged to live in Australia, where, even in the right wing, backwards, racist part of the middle of no where, there is still a lot of different people, and races.

    At my school (of 350 kids from 13-18), most kids are white, but there’s is a lot of part Filipino (like a kid from my town) and other Asian countries, like Japan, and also Indigenous Australian kids. Some people are really racist, but most people will have a go at them for that. I think red haired people get more ‘ranga-ism’ (ahh summer heights high!) than the Asian or indigenous kids do.

    I think, in Australian, we’ve sort of started to get over the whole ‘people who have dark skin are different’ thing. This could be because of the terrible treatment of Indigenous people – a good friend of ours, when she had her (illegitimate) girl in the 60s was bullied for 3 days, and didn’t get to see Rach for those three days, because she had a child with a black man (at that, a black-power activist). There’s someone with multi races – her mother is Dutch and moved out here, and then got pregnant to a Torres-Strait Islander-Indigenous guy.

  • Killjoy April 21st, 2012 12:57 AM

    Wow, I love this article so much! I’m not bi-racial but I’m Chinese American and there’s people who ask me “what’s your nationality” or “are you chinese” or “where are your parents from.” It’s really awkward because I was born in America so I’m technically “from” America and I’m of Chinese descent so when people ask me about my background, I say I’m Chinese ’cause that’s what they expect to hear. I wish I didn’t have to be categorized…sigh.

  • anonymouse April 21st, 2012 1:07 AM

    I’m so sorry you guys have to deal with horrible people. Bigots are the worst!
    All I have to deal with is ageism and some sexism.

    I find it really weird when people are all, like fascinated with other people’s race or whatever. Really, I don’t care. If you are a nice and accepting person, I will like you no matter your age, race, orientation, religion (just don’t push it down my throat, or bad mouth other people’s)… If you’re an ignorant idiot who refuses to treat people with respect, get out of my way, and keep your mouth shut (or I will end you).
    I wish they would all just go away (never to be heard from again).

    • Violet April 21st, 2012 4:38 AM

      Hi anonymous,
      Actually I am starting to think like you.
      Very often while growing up I asked myself what annoyed me most: that people would ask about my ethnicity, or that they would just ignore it.

      When they totally ignore it, you might feel that they disregard the part where they cannot fundamentally understand you, because of your multicultural upbringing. Like, they are not even going to try.

      However, now I tend to think that yeah, maybe race/ethnicity should be a transparent, non-existent subject. Meet the person first. Talking about race (actually like talking about what kind of job you do, etc) instantly puts people in boxes and stains your judgement with misconceptions. BUT at the same time, you want to also learn about the specifics of the other person too, no?

      Argh, can’t make up my mind.

      • anonymouse April 23rd, 2012 6:27 PM

        Well, if they lived in a different place or they mention something interesting about that place, or environment, society, etc., I may ask, them to elaborate, but I would probably not even notice, after the initial physical reading, ya know.

        If someone’s culture is a significant part of them, and they want to share that with me, I’ll be open to it. I won’t actively ignore someones background.

        I’m all about Peace, Love, Unity, and Respect. Wooo! lol :]

  • Adrienne April 21st, 2012 1:41 AM

    Thanks Leeann about the lumping Asian part. Asian people are not just Chinese/Japanese/Korean. Sigh. Even other Asian people, mostly men actually, directly ask me what ethnicity I am. In fact, I’m so fed up with the lumping part that I sarcastically named my blog “The Average Asian Girl” and made a post about my racial issues here:

    My dad is from Taiwan and my mom is from Singapore but their both Chinese. However, my dad DOES NOT LOOK CHINESE AT ALL. He has dark dark tan skin and a very prominent bulgy nose. Many people assume he’s black or mexican… which is SO awkward since he’s full on Chinese!

    Although I’m not bi-racial, I detest the ethnicity bubble you have to fill in in those applications and tests. What’s it to them what race I am?

    Oh and plus my older sister married a white British man and so their babies will be bi-racial, which my very Chinese grandma is not that ecstatic about. And now my grandma only wants me and my other sisters to marry Chinese men…

    • KinuKinu April 21st, 2012 4:04 PM

      I just wanted to say that your post was really nice.I’m not Asian,but my parents immersed me in Asian culture.Those videos were HILARIOUS.
      I think the most saddest thing is when I see girls who are obsessed with Asian culture and not Asian.The post pictures of themselves stretching their eyes,trying ‘desperately to look more Asian’ (quoting)That is beyond wrong in my opinion.
      Anyways,your post was really nice.

  • Nishat April 21st, 2012 2:34 AM

    This hits so close to home with me. People say I’m Indian when in reality my dad is from Bangladesh and my mom is Vietnamese. She gets Filipino a lot… to be honest one of the most cringe-worthy moments is when people attempt to guess. I just want to stop their guessing and tell them! It’s also really difficult because I speak neither of my parent’s languages and have two passports (one Luxembourgish and one American!) It’s just really complicated sometimes but I love that about myself (self-confidence or pompousness?)

  • KayKay April 21st, 2012 2:54 AM

    Being three quarters Swiss and one quarter Hong Kong chinese, I consider myself biracial, although my chinese heritage doesn’t really show in my appearance.
    Growing up, I lived in Dubai and went to an international school, so there were many biracial students and it wasn’t really an issue for me. I considered it “the norm” to be around people of different races and nationalities, as well as biracial kids. Pretty much all my friends were biracial. Swiss and Argentinian, American and Persian, Canadian and Hong Kong chinese. After reading this article, which really gave me an insight on how other biracial people have experienced things, makes me see that I was actually quite lucky.
    Last week my mom, my sister and I went to Istanbul and the people there kept thinking we were Spanish or Portuguese! It was quite funny when they kept greeting us with “hola!”

  • whodatgal April 21st, 2012 3:32 AM

    I have to say I’m nearly multiracial: my grandma grew up in the jungle in malaysia and my grandad came from england. On the other side my grandad came from scotland and my grandma came from melbourne. My Dad was born in singpore and my mum was born in perth, but they both grew up there. My eldest sister was born in sydney and me and my sister were born in London. I’m sort of a mix of South Asia (Malaysia/Indonesia/Singapore) and Australia and London I guess (-though there’s a bit of Scotishness in there! I don’t really care where I camae from though, it’s more about NOW for me :) By the way this article was pretty cool! And my mum makes a neat ADOBO so yummy! :D

  • amazingtessa April 21st, 2012 4:17 AM

    Thank you so much for this! I’m mixed race – my mum is white (pale, blonde) and my dad is from India. But I look white to most people.

    In recent years I’ve seen my dad’s family more and reconnected with the Indian aspect of my heritage. My dad is actually from quite a complex family – part of the mixed race Anglo Indians, he was born in Pakistan to a family who were mixed Indian, Portuguese (via Goa, like Frieda Pinto), Spanish, English and Irish. He looks Indian to most people but I can see the Spanish/Portuguese.

    I still get most of the things Leann says, even from well-meaning friends. I’ve had close friends say “but you still tick ‘white’ on diversity forms, right?” which made me doubt my practice of ticking “mixed: white and Asian”. I’ve had a boyfriend say “Your grandma was part-Spanish? Let’s pretend you’re Spanish, that’s sexier”. I’ve had another boyfriend say to friends “oh, Tessa thinks she’s black or something”, implying that I’m just exaggerating to sound cool or exotic. I think the fact that my Dad was raised Catholic, not Hindu or Muslim, contributes to people not seeing me as “proper Indian” because it doesn’t fit their stereotype (fun fact: there are actually 17.3m Catholics in India). Often people will try and guess my ethnicity, or my favourite (!) actually negotiate it with me, as though they could bargain me down from “Asian” while still making concessions to being not white “oh, I wouldn’t have said you were Indian, but you do look Italian/Jewish/whatever”. Incredible, really.

    • GlitterKitty April 23rd, 2012 4:33 PM

      Hey, me too! My mom comes from the Anglo Indians that are Catholic and my dad is white. When I tell people I’m Indian, they usually ask first “then why do you go to a Catholic school?” and second “do you watch Bollywood movies?” My sister probably looks like you, she looks much more white than Indian (she used to be blonde). I got more of the Indian though. Nice to know there’s others like me out there!

  • lovethemusic April 21st, 2012 4:57 AM

    I am biracial myself, ethiopian and philippino, and honestly, growing up, I didn’t find that kind of judgement or problems from other people regarding my mix of race. I definitely have a lot of people come up to me and ask, saying I look ‘exotic’ but really don’t feel as though those people have had bad intentions. Maybe I was a bit naive as a child. Of course I’ve dealt with racism but generally it has been directed towards me being black or Asian rather than a biracial person. I’m from Australia and I do think that has a lot to do with the difference in experience. I’m not saying Australia is a less racist country, but generally, as a nation we’ve had a lot less exposure to ‘black racism’ (I mean like African people, excluding aboriginal people) and people are just accepting i guess by being ignorant?? ughh That doesn’t make sense and I’m not quite sure what I’m trying to say but yeah. Im learning quite a bit more about this kind of thing around the world. THE INTERNET IS YOUR FRIEND! lol great job guys :)

  • hillary April 21st, 2012 6:11 AM

    I live in Australia and I gotta say I don’t think I know a single person who is of one single race! Everyone here came from some other country at some point or another (unless they are purely Aboriginal) and the majority of people are biracial so there seems to be generally a lot less racism. I’ve never seen anyone in Australia bullied for being biracial.

    There are a lot of stereotypes though, especially around certain areas, because there are certain suburbs and stuff which seem to have a high concentration of a particular ethnicity (i.e. a suburb near where I live called Springvale is commonly referred to as ‘Chingvale’)
    And many Australians are quite prejudiced against the high number of immigrants, which is completely idiotic because they are usually descended from immigrants anyway.

    Obviously there’s always going to be some racism but I’m really glad I live in a country like Australia where most people realise there are so many different backgrounds here that discriminating based on race is just plain stupid :)

  • ai-ai April 21st, 2012 6:31 AM

    This was such an interesting thing to read. Being a Finnish girl in an environment where basically everybody has 100% Finnish heritage, I can’t relate at all. Seriously, I personally know about 5 people who aren’t from Finland or have a parent who isn’t Finnish, not counting the exchange students. This makes me kind of sad since I don’t really know a thing about other cultures and ethnicities.

  • VV April 21st, 2012 6:51 AM

    My mother is Italian and father is Chilean, but I was born and live in London where they met in the 70s.
    It’s always struck me that at least in America being Latin or Italian is a significant demographic, usually here on the equal opportunity forms the closest to Italian is occasionally “other european” or “mediterranean”. South America doesn’t figure at all, it’s so small a minority.
    I always end up plumping for “mixed other” which is possibly the most self-parodic meaningless label it’s possible to create!

    I find on a personal level that people rarely question where I’m from because I have a british accent (which neither of my parents have) and when I’m in italy I also speak Italian foreign inflection-free having spent a lot of time there with my family.
    It can be slightly annoying to have to correct people when they make the assumption that I am completely Italian like them, or that I am foreign only in passport, it feels like I am going out of my way to make a point about my background when ordinarily you would never go into that detail with a relative stranger, it can feel as though it’s me with the hang up about it.

    On the whole I think it’s given me a lot of perspective on cultures that most people aren’t privileged to have access to, it’s great to have a foot in many camps and to be able to switch languages and blend in a multitude of places and situations.
    And if I ever suddenly develop a maternal instinct I will make sure that my spawn will also be able to do the same :)


    vv x

  • geriballmeow April 21st, 2012 7:36 AM

    I grew up in a small town where everybody was white and Christian and middle-class and so when I left there, I always got excited to see people from other cultures and ethnicities because it reminded me that I’d escaped the suffocating, narrow-minded place I’d grown up in and I was now part of the wider world where my best friend might be Pakistani or my boyfriend might be Turkish. I would never just go up to somebody and say “so what ARE you?” (ugh!) but is it so bad that sometimes I’m curious? For example, I have a friend who talks all the time about how she’s Asian, and I really want to ask what PART of Asia, but I know that even a simple question like that can be offensive or at least exasperating, especially if that person is asked that very question ALL THE TIME. All I’m saying is it can be difficult to know what’s acceptable and what causes offence as it is (rightly so) such a sensitive subject.

    But I guess you could say that there’s no reason I should care, because what difference does it make where’s a person’s ethnic background is from? If she’s my friend, she’s my friend, no matter what her physical appearances are.

    • ICantThinkOfAUsername April 21st, 2012 10:45 PM

      I think it’s completely fine to ask your friend what part of Asia she’s from!

      I’m biracial, and I have to say that there is a huge difference between complete strangers asking me what my ethnicity is because they like NEED to know how to categorize me, and friends (or even friendly acquaintances) asking about my background because they are interested in the kind of cultural climate I grew in, and how my heritage has influenced me as a person.

      • ICantThinkOfAUsername April 21st, 2012 10:56 PM

        Oops sorry I meant to type that I’m multiracial, not biracial (I always get those terms mixed up :/).

  • Jemma April 21st, 2012 8:24 AM

    I’m usually more of the silent reader type (meaning I don’t leave comments) but this speaks to much to me that I can’t not comment. I’m Eurasian and I always get anxiety whenever I move someplace new because I know that, inevitably, somebody will ask me where I’m from or what I am. I never know how to answer because on top of being biracial, my family also moves around a lot so I don’t really have a hometown and my biological father is dead and my stepfather is a different nationality. So whenever somebody asks me where I’m from I end up telling them my whole life story because there is no simple way to explain my background. “Oh I was born in Hong Kong but I’m not Chinese; I’m half Korean, half English but father’s not English, he’s American because my biological father died before I was born. When I was five I moved to South Korea then Washington, D.C. then Wisconsin and then I moved to Switzerland. And before you ask, I have British and American passports and my grandparents immigrated from North Korea during the Korean War so yes I guess my mother is North Korean.” I remember being told something along the lines of I wasn’t white enough for the white kids and I wasn’t Asian enough for the Asian kids which I just didn’t know how to respond to because why couldn’t I be both?

    I just find the whole ordeal incredibly frustrating although I’ve gotten more accustomed to it over the years.

  • peanutbutter April 21st, 2012 9:15 AM

    I have an opposite issue with race, being that I have no distinct heritage, but have a strongly greek/italian appearance. People often ask me what my family background is, which I find really awkward trying to answer. I feel like I’m being confrontational if I say ‘Australian’ because it implies that people who answer that question by saying something else are not Australian. But I don’t want to get into a long explanation about my ancestry, especially considering I don’t actually know much about it. I usually end up saying either ‘I’m just aussie’ or ‘I’m a european mix’ neither of which I feel comfortable with.
    Interestingly, I seldom get asked this question by white people. I suspect this is because race is less of an issue to white people, which is part of the white privilege that has been mentioned. White people don’t need to connect with other white people over their experiences of race, because their experiences are the norm. They don’t care about someone’s cultural background because they aren’t looking for people who share their own cultural background.

  • tallulahpond April 21st, 2012 10:17 AM

    I loved this article- it was really interesting to learn about living with racism from the biracial point of view. Racism disgusts me. Anyway, fantastic article!

  • kid caella April 21st, 2012 12:09 PM

    I am Creek (native american) and Welsh, and ive dealt with so much unexpected racism all my life. Walking through my own neighborhood and being called an ugly white bitch, with my mom and being asked if she was baby sitting me, and then being around white people and constantly having them comment on my “exotic” looks, but by far the most shocking was in school, from teachers. In middle school i got told i didn’t look “ethnic” enough to participate in a ancestry discussion, and in high school, if i happened to be around pale friends (some of whom were also bi or multiracial), teachers would say, what is this a kkk meeting?!:D? Because of all that ive pushed past my race and usually don’t publicly identify as anything, and let people think what they will… But now i think i should! Thanks for giving some biracial pride and hope girls <3

    • anonymouse April 23rd, 2012 6:40 PM

      Wow… Those teachers… What?! That’s definitely not something to joke about… People are ridiculous.

  • alexleefitz April 21st, 2012 1:18 PM

    This entire article makes me so happy. My mother is from Hong Kong, my father is Norwegian/Irish from New York. Growing up in a predominantly white town with very few Asian families and children, I dealt with a lot of jokes aimed at me being Chinese. Helped me develop a thick skin as a kid, but I’ve seen my fair share of almost shocking racism (seriously, a woman made fun of me at work because she assumed I didn’t speak English! What the hell?). Looks-wise, I got a variety of guesses as to what I was from other people (usually Filipino, Hawaiian, or Spanish), but most of the time they lumped me in with someone who looked “kinda sorta Asian”.

    I moved out to NYC for college and now I don’t even feel Asian-enough to identify myself as an Asian (which I primarily see myself as, despite my last name being super Irish). Not to mention I dyed my hair blonde, making it even easier for me to pass off as white.

    Its hard because I am really proud of all parts of my heritage, but especially my Chinese side. But identifying myself gets weird for me…like in a gender class when we were talking about race and people of color and I realized that in terms of identifying as white/person of color, I had no idea how I identified. I think its tricky…I have all the privileges of someone who passes as all white, but I like to see myself primarily as someone who is Asian.

    I know very few, if any, people who are also mixed race. This article made me feel a lot better about it.

  • phoebelouise April 21st, 2012 1:54 PM

    Biracial girls have the most interesting faces, IMO. I’m British, but I often get asked what nationality I am. Mostly it’s French (I have some French heritage), but often it’s Russian, mainly because I have very strong bone structure and a supposedly ‘steely’ look in my eyes. Sometimes I’ll play along with the Russian thing, especially if it’s a stranger asking me. I find it quite flattering, I’ve always thought Russian women were very beautiful. :P

  • poppunkgurrrlx April 21st, 2012 4:16 PM

    I know this may seem ignorant, but please hear me out. As a Caucasian woman, I think one of the main reasons white people ask people of color of their ethnicity is honestly out of pure curiousity. I can’t speak for all white people when I say this but I am really interested in other cultures and countries, so I think it’s really cool to learn about other’s backgrounds. I don’t mean any offense whatsoever to my friends or anyone if the subject is brought up. I am just genuinely curious and a bit jealous that others come from such interesting and cool backgrounds! At times I just feel a bit disconnected because I feel that I don’t really have certain bonds with my family because of a lack of historical culture.

    • Sugar April 21st, 2012 11:09 PM

      I don’t think you sound ignorant. I’m always flattered when people ask where I’m from!

    • loanna April 22nd, 2012 12:58 AM

      It’s not ignorant! It’s okay to be interested in the heritage of other people! It’s okay to find out more about your friends, whatever that may be! It just depends upon the context, and also the tone of voice. Sometimes being asked what my heritage is in a certain way (“what ARE you?”) by certain people (i.e. complete strangers/people I barely know or care about) can feel like I’m verbally being poked at with a stick to be classified later, and other times it’s just a friendly conversation between people trying to get to know each other better. Like with every other personal question, you wouldn’t just ask it of anyone at anytime in any place without any sensitivity whatsoever.

      Also, I’m half white, and I used to feel the same way about the white portion of my heritage, i.e. like it wasn’t heritage at all. But please don’t feel that way. European cultures differ from each other as much as African cultures, Latin American cultures, Asian cultures, etc. I’m descended from Irish and English, and each has their own amazing history and cultural traditions. By no means are they one and the same.

      Maybe you should just do some research on your family and find out where you come from? There’s this show called Who Do You Think You Are? that you can look up on HULU or whatever, and it’s all about that stuff. Get on or something! There’s a lot to find out about one human being!

    • Marie April 23rd, 2012 6:22 PM

      I agree with Loanna. I don’t necessarily mind it as long as the tone isn’t weird or rude. I definitely ask what people’s ethnicities are because I’m curious!

      Something I had originally was going to talk about was when men used that question as a weird pick up line and how I had felt my ethnic makeup had been vulgarized into some sort of fetishization (e.g. “yellow fever”) for them, but I thought that would be branching into a whole ‘nother conversation for another time.

  • Yasemin April 21st, 2012 5:31 PM

    I get this a lot as I am a very weird mix. I guess I don’t look particularly “ethnic”, but I am a Turkish/Mexican mix. I can’t say that I am more of either, because I identify with both. For the most part, I haven’t gotten anything derogatory, but there are times when I get comments about the Armenian genocide or Mexican immigrants, and it’s a little frustrating because those are things that are out of my control and that other people (ancestors or simply people of my same descent) have done.

    Thank you for writing this article

  • SuzieQ April 21st, 2012 5:32 PM

    My parents are both Brazilian and people usually think I’m either white or Spanish. I never cared about what I should label myself until recently because of college. On some applications I’m considered Latin, others I’m considered Other and sometimes I’m considered White. My race even confused most of the workers when I was getting another copy of my SS card. We were recently discussing race in school and it made me realize how much focus we put in race. We talked about how in the past someone could be black in one state but not the other and it’s just ridiculous. We should embrace our cultures but not put so much emphasis on race.

  • Juli April 21st, 2012 6:02 PM

    Marie, I’ve had similar experiences with people being confused over “what” I am. I’ve been identified as Jewish, Spanish, Native (just those off the top of my head). I’m German-Chinese. I know the feeling. :)

  • DanielleChristine April 21st, 2012 7:54 PM

    I’m a “sorta-Rican” as well, and have experienced all the same type of reactions as you have, Leeann. I’m half Puerto Rican but look very white, so therefore no one every believes me if I identify as Latina.
    This article was so refreshing, and relatable, thanks!

  • homemadepepsi April 21st, 2012 8:04 PM

    i’ll be totally on board when the accompanying artwork doesn’t just show two white girls with different colored hair

    • María Inés Gul April 22nd, 2012 3:43 PM

      I’ve seen some complains about my mixed illo – I just really didn’t want to draw two girls with different colours of skin because for me it seems a little toooo obvious. Thought it’s about something more than that, like being torn apart between two different worlds, different cultures? I think it’s more about the inside than just outside.

      • homemadepepsi April 22nd, 2012 10:41 PM

        understandable, but i really don’t think there’s anything wrong with being obvious in this case. skin color is an obvious thing, and we shouldn’t be afraid to talk about it. it’s something we can’t change, whereas hair color is something we can alter at will.

  • vanguardinspace April 22nd, 2012 12:00 AM

    Thanks for this! I honestly have no idea how to classify myself “racially”–which is something I actually have no desire to do, but something that would come in handy when I get asked questions like “What are you mixed with?” by random strangers, or even friends for that matter. My family’s background is very complicated and “multiracial” over many generations, and I don’t really feel like reciting the length of my ancestry every time someone is curious. I feel like making up a word, or co-opting the term “hapa,” BTW, see Kip Fulbeck’s hapa project and book “Part Asian, 100% Hapa” for pure awesomeness.

    I also feel awkward when I want to correct people for calling me black or African-American. I tried saying to a friend once that I don’t consider myself black and she laughed at me and said…”but you are”! And I was thinking, yes, I am partially, but to me, describing myself that way is disrespecting the memory of my other ancestors, who I am also proud of.

    I think that as our understanding of race as a social-construct and the genetic diversity that makes us look different increases, the way in which our society approaches and classifies the erroneous idea of race will have to change. I look at my six-year old cousin, who is Filipino, Irish, German, French, Occitan, Cherokee, Scottish, Choctaw, African-American and quite a few other things; who does not look more one of these things than the other, and considers herself simply “brown;” and wonder what people will do with the fact that she doesn’t easily fit into a box. I see in her face the future.

  • Torrie April 22nd, 2012 12:10 AM

    I love this article. I am white, but aware of my white priviledge and constantly trying to learn more.

    I do have a question: What is art’s role/function when addressing race? Is there a line that should not be crossed? I got into a pretty heated discussion with some friends because of blatantly racist (and distasteful) material in a play. Short story, I found it as naturalizing racism, making a joke of “othering,” etc. But my friends said the point of art is to create a discussion, so it cannot be wrong because it fulfilled its function. Maybe the question can only be answered by the individual, I’m not sure…

  • Chloe P. April 22nd, 2012 1:17 AM

    This is fantastic! I too am biracial and I always felt caught in some gray area of cultural identity. My mother gladly enveloped me in Mexican culture, and my suburban home showed me the ropes of Caucasian adolescence. But for a long time I was never “enough” of one side or the other and it made me feel incomplete. I know now that the mix of me is all I need to be for anyone. Articles like this just help me to remember that. Thank you.

  • Caden April 22nd, 2012 4:06 AM

    Shay Mitchell (Emily from Pretty Little Liars) is half Filipino too :)

    • Marie April 23rd, 2012 6:23 PM

      Awesome! I love that show!

  • Emmie April 22nd, 2012 12:17 PM

    I’m Oglala Lakota and I am now going to college at a predominately white, liberal school. What annoys me is people trying to be something they are not, and it especially comes into play with being Indian, because I encounter so many people who tell me they are also. Every ethnicity and race is diverse with interesting histories. Everyone should learn to be content with who they are, yet have respect for everyone else. It doesn’t bother me if people ask me where I’m from, and it’s pretty funny when I respond “South Dakota,” but it really rankles me when people tell me they are Indian based on some ancestor from 1845 or something.

    • anonymouse April 23rd, 2012 6:49 PM

      They might be, I don’t know, keeping up appearances? Many colleges give scholarships to people who have a certain amount of Native ancestry. Or they could be insensitive dicks…

    • EnidEnvy April 25th, 2012 11:48 AM

      I am almost a quarter Seneca, but i look very white. does that mean I cannot be proud of my heritage? If someone is interested in that part of their ancestry, there is nothing wrong with that. While I understand how it can become irritating, playing the “I am more Indian that you” card is just as equally irritating.

      • Emmie April 25th, 2012 7:12 PM

        Hmm I think there is a difference between your heritage and the race you identify with. I should have added the context these comments are usually in: someone talking about pine ridge and saying they understand the “difficult life” we have there ect. it feels patronizing.
        The issue of “who is the most indian” is actually comes up every now and then in the indian world. there are tribes in the east that are not recognized because they were decimated and no full-blooded people still exist. We loose cultures everyday, and while it is great these people are keeping history alive, I don’t think they should be called indian unless that is the majority of their background.
        I think you can see how it is annoying to be a member of a race that was systematically targeted and destroyed by the government/settlers ect but now to encounter people who are all about being indian based on a scrid of blood. At any rate, your opinion is just as legitimate as mine:)

  • fran April 22nd, 2012 4:02 PM

    Hi! I really identify with this article. I’m a quarter Italian, quarter English and half Trinidadian, and a lot of my Trinidad background is Asian and South American so I’ve always struggled with finding a part of my racial identity that felt the most like ‘me’.

    The worst thing for me was, actually, the racism I experienced from other mixed girls, because I wasn’t a strict half-and-half. And even though in really basic terms half of me is from white cultures, and the other half from black cultures, I still get told a lot by mixed race people that I ‘dont really count’ or that, as a mixture of racial identities, I’m not as mixed race as they are. But I’m incredibly proud of coming from a huge range of cultures, I believe being mixed race makes you more accepting of different cultures and I find it fascinating when people have a mixture of heritages!

  • DANNI April 22nd, 2012 8:54 PM

    that’s so funny because i’m half chinese and half jewish-american. one day i was talking to my grandpa in mandarin and this kid at my school was like “WHAT ARE YOU, SPANSH?!”


  • Livveeyy April 22nd, 2012 9:27 PM

    I am native amarican , irish and Nigerian

  • lelelikeukulele April 22nd, 2012 9:34 PM

    This is super interesting and I loved reading it! While I identify as caucasian (german and russian to be exact), I really need to send this to my two best friends. One is full Chinese and would probably laugh really hard and identify with the part about how some people find it so hard to tell different Asian ethnicities apart. The other one is half Croatian and half Indian (like FROM INDIA not like i don’t know what to call Native Americans), and she’s constantly getting told “You’re so exotic” or “where are you from?” and stuff like that. She’s a lot paler than her Indian side of the family, she calls herself white, and she gets pissed when people call her weird racial things, or when she gets assigned the “ethnic” stage makeup kit in acting class. However, I am allowed to call her Little Punjabi. BUT THAT’S IT. NO ONE ELSE CAN.

  • rhymeswithorange April 22nd, 2012 10:23 PM

    So I’m half Belarusian (which is a conundrum in itself, as when my grandparents came over it was part of Russia but not since the USSR broke up so which do I say) and half South African which always SHOCKS people when it comes up. I say my dad is from South Africa and their eyes bug out of their head and they get this look on their faces like “Your dad is BLACK?!” which doesn’t match my pale pale skin. Some people even ask it. It’s like Karen in Mean Girls: “If you’re from Africa, why are you white?”
    My dad isn’t black, and why would it matter if he was? There are white people in Africa!! Obviously my ancestors came there from somewhere else but they were there at least 4 generations back, that’s pretty long.

    • rhymeswithorange April 22nd, 2012 10:26 PM

      Also when I was little I asked my mom why we didn’t celebrate Kwanzaa because my dad was African American: he was from Africa, and an American citizen! I had to learn that meant differently than I thought it did.

  • meels April 23rd, 2012 6:59 AM

    Oh my gosh!! I totally get you with the filling in forms thing, I’m English, welsh, Irish on one side and Thai and Chinese on the other. I usually end up ticking ‘other’. Wooooohooo for being biracial

  • Pema April 23rd, 2012 3:14 PM

    Hi! I was writing a comment here but it got far too long and wouldn’t fit so I made it into a post on my blog. If you’re interested in reading it, this is the link.


  • actingpjs April 23rd, 2012 4:02 PM

    I come from a pretty interesting ethnic background aswell. My mother is Mexican American and my father comes from Cuban descent so I am more than 50% Hispanic but my father’s father is European. European such as English, German, etc. Because of this, I am pale with light brown hair and eyes so whenever I tell someone that I am Hispanic, I usually get an ‘Are you kidding?’ face. The name I have come up for myself and my brother is Mexican Cracker, that is not meant to offend anyone I just feel that its a clever play on words.

  • GlitterKitty April 23rd, 2012 4:26 PM

    This article is really amazing. I know this feeling so well. I live in Canada and have my whole life. My dad is white and my mom is Indian but grew up in Africa and Canada. When people guess what race I am I’ve gotten a whole bunch of things: Italian, Spanish, Hispanic. However, I don’t really identify much with any of the cultures I “come from” and neither do my parents. This seems to baffle a lot of people. There are genuinely shocked that I don’t eat curry everyday or use British terms.
    I’ve also encountered racism about being Indian and even being white. This shocks me constantly that people think these things in the diverse society I live in.
    Thank you for sharing the frustrations of bi racial girls everywhere.

  • Marie April 23rd, 2012 6:12 PM

    Thank you all for commenting on this. I really love hearing about everyone’s different thoughts on this and about all of your different experiences. NEVER LET THE CONVERSATION DIE. Write about it on your blogs and tumblrs, talk about these experiences with your friends. It is important for all of us to learn, whether you are or are not biracial/multiracial!

  • ender April 23rd, 2012 7:25 PM

    I am biologically 100% Indian, but growing up in the U.S. makes me feel like I’m in some bizarre limbo between the two cultures. It’s more than just how I look on the inside- I almost feel multiracial (multicultural?) inside, which is hard to explain to people who see me and immediately categorize me as “fresh-off-the-boat”.
    It’s also annoying to have to defend the fact that I am Asian, which is a term usually reserved for people of Eastern or Southeastern Asian descent.

  • erin April 24th, 2012 11:35 AM

    Interesting. The first thing that came to mind after I read this and the comments was about scholarships (that’s what’s on my mind most of the time anyways). I’m “white”. When I look at scholarships, I see all these ones that you can apply to simply for being an ethnic minority. So all these kids, whether they’re amazing students are not, can get into college for cheaper than I can, all because of their skin color. It’s like these institutions are saying, “our knee jerk reaction is to judge you and categorize you, and we’re not willing to change that, and we’re sorry, so here’s this scholarship to make up for it.”
    and I’m just a skinny white girl left to work even harder to get the same opportunity.
    I don’t know, it’s like, I’m “white”. But I have facets and backgrounds too! My mother’s side has Czech and Swiss, and my dad’s Scottish and Native American, but I’m not going to go CLAIM any of those. I know nothing about any of those cultures, speak none of those languages, and just because there’s small portions of those in my blood and in my appearance, doesn’t mean I deserve to matter-of-factly proclaim, I AM CZECH/SWISS/SCOTTISH/NATIVE AMERICAN. And yet if you have any sort of relation to an ethnic minority, you get to CLAIM that. Why shouldn’t I get to claim the blood of my grandmother or great grandmother? Because I don’t have a certain face, I guess. I’m just “white”. I’m mixed. But if I had just a hint of Hispanic blood, I could say, “Hey, all my other descendants are of European descent, but my grandpa is Mexican. So I am too.”

    • loanna April 24th, 2012 8:37 PM

      If those are the cultures that make up you and your family, why shouldn’t you claim them? Whether or not you do is your choice.

      No one is saying that white people aren’t diverse, just that European cultures historically haven’t been put down like other non-white cultures have (and I’m talking of America specifically, and there are some exceptions, of course). Now, young mixed people are having to confront problems that are almost unique to our generation, because we represent multiple races that each have their own historical and social “baggage.” The difference between people who identify as mixed and those who identify with only one race/culture is that pressure is sometimes put on mixed people to choose between their races/cultures, and that’s what all of these people are talking about. Not about how awesome affirmative action is.

      Affirmative action is another conversation altogether, because that has more to do with the mistakes of the government, and less to do with race.

    • Katherine May 10th, 2012 8:16 PM

      Yes! I agree completely with you.

  • yougomarikoko April 25th, 2012 12:21 AM

    Thank you for writing this article! I’m half-japanese and half-white, but people usually think I’m Mexican. For somebody who is 50% Asian, I have really big curves and an exceptionally “big” bosom. It was really awkward during my growth spurt when I went to Saturday Japanese School and I was the only one with curves. I was also ridiculed for being half, and used to despise it. Now I embrace my race (HA HA that rhymed) because it’s different, and I get the best of both worlds! Which means I get to go to Japan every now and then. Being raised by a Japanese mother, I’ve also had the privilege of learning the language, so I speak it fluently! I’m just happy that I’ve learned to accept myself and my roots because it’s what makes us beautiful. I hope young girls can do the same, because I know what it’s like to be racially confused and awkward.

  • EnidEnvy April 25th, 2012 11:19 AM

    I come from a multi-racial family, but i look VERY white. (my husband says paper makes me look pale). i have always looked out of sorts from the rest of my family, with their olive skin. i definitely have their features though. from the shape of my nose and my eyes to the shape of my body.

    i experienced a lot of racism when i was younger, because i didnt even know i was “white” until i started school. everyone around me was italian, american indian, and black. i thought i was black, too! i cannot tell you how many times my friends and family were called “nigger” in front of me.

    and now that i am older, i have experienced more racism directed toward myself. old women comment on my hair all the time. i am ghost white, but my hair is jet black, and i am always told how “unfashionable” that would have been during their day. well, i am sorry! i was born this way! i have been called a “whop”, i have been told to “shut your mouth or i will punch you in your big kike nose.” i mean, oh my god! who says those things?

    i am a proud Jew-talian-indian mutt! It has given me so much to learn about! i love that i can trace my family history around the world. don’t try to make me feel ashamed of that, because i am not!

    my husband experiences this much more than i do, on account of he is actually brown. he is Passamaquoddy, and as a bearded man, people always assume he is a “terrorist” and they yell things like “sand-nigger” at him on the street. people think his father and brothers are Mexican. they dont get called “exotic” but they do get “what are you? you look vaguely ethnic.”

  • Ila April 28th, 2012 9:45 PM

    I’m really glad this article was written, it’s always nice to know that you’re not the only person with halfie/mixed/multi-racial problems :) It’s kinda cool though how no two mixed people look the same for example my sister and i are half Chinese, quarter Dutch and a quarter Scottish/English- Australian yet she looks compete different to me. She has “asian” features like the ability to tan but she had almost blonde hair (“caucasian”) and i have dark brown hair and “asian” eyes (whatever the hell that means :P) but really, really pale skin! Genetics can be quite fun :)
    I have a question though: In America do you often have to fill in race for things like college applications because in Australia i don’t think I’ve ever seen a ‘race’ box on forms?

  • stellar April 29th, 2012 10:08 PM

    it’s all about the presumptions. just say u r a human being. it doesn’t make sense to have a “conversation” based on anything that just divides people from their common humanity.

  • See May 4th, 2012 10:03 AM

    As a white American who married a Philippino immigrant who is now a citizen, we knew there might be issues for our children. To mitigate these potential issues we have chosen to live in a more diverse community, where race is not an issue. My kids are now teens and I have asked them what issues they have faced due to their bi-racial status and they don’t believe they have faced any issues because of it. Our extended family looks like the UN and it is more a non-issue in their lives but they have not seen it all. My children regularly are assumed to be Hispanic and I don’t like that because I don’t like assumptions. I have also been asked if I adopted my children because they don’t have my coloring and they favor their father in this area, I’ve even had to convince people that they were mine. I also hate the race boxes that make you pick one, without a multi box! It feels like they have to deny half of themselves and maybe I’m most frustrated with the fact that it is my heritage that is denied because they look more Asian. But again, this does not seem to be a problem for my children. My husband underlines that my children are American, born and bred, by culture and in every important way that counts, they are American, which is true. It has to be said, Americans are multi racial, multi ethnic, and multi cultural, and I don’t think color or anything else has anything to do with it anymore. There are no boxes left, in reality, because as Americans we are our own version of unique and we need to quit fighting this truth!

  • ali v May 6th, 2012 2:12 AM

    It’s so good to see an article about being bi-racial. I’m actually mixed 6 different races but I usually only identify as black and filipino. The other day half-black, half-white kid at my school high-fived me for being black (in all honesty it was a little weird for me but I’m not the type to turn down free high-fives). However, a couple weeks later he started talking about how it was a fact asians were smarter. I told him it was a stereotype and to be careful what he said and who he said it around because it was offensive. He continued to state that it was a “proven” fact and that I should have known better because I was asian. It made me realize that people of the same race can still be racist towards inter-racial people, like me.

  • Tasya May 9th, 2012 6:18 AM

    wow, i totally relate to this article!! i ALWAYS get that “what ARE you?” or “where are you from (as in country)?” question. i just had 3 people ask me that within this week.

    it’s funny though, because i like to keep a record on what race people think i am and half the time they’re usually wrong, and people often are racist to me for a race i’m actually not (eg: they think i’m indian and throw a racist indian comments, but i’m actually half malay and half british-african)

  • rainbowjones May 10th, 2012 12:47 AM

    I am Afro-Latina and Indian, frankly I’ve always found biracial and terms like multiracial to be inane attempts to push categories that have no legitimacy in the first place. Race does not exist. White, Black, Asian they are only social categories that are kept to classify and separate. ‘Racial’ mixing has been going on globally for generations, most Americans have “mixed” blood, the only thing that separates those who fit neatly into the mold categories and “multiracials” are the generations. It may surprise people to see how in one or two short generations a family goes from being “multi-ethnic” to being “black” or asian”. And are these terms bi/multi racial that far off from the now offensive quadroon and mulatto??

    Part of me feels for other people who struggle with racial identity but, a big part of me wonders why the question raised is “why do i have to choose?” instead of “why is social perception so important to how i view myself?” A lot of people don’t realize latinas come in all shades. That doesn’t make me feel any less latina.

  • LeatherStuddedFae June 9th, 2012 11:46 AM

    Mmmm. I totally know the feeling of being biracial. I am not biracial though but some people think I am. I am a full blooded Filipino who lives somewhere in UAE, an Arab country. Some people my race talk to me in English until I reply in Tagalog and they say, “Oh… You’re Filipino too? O_O”. Some mistake me for being half American, British or sort of Euroasian. It’s quite annoying seeing as some people my race always ask me if I can speak Tagalog.

    My best friend is biracial. Half-Filipino and Half-something else. ;D Can’t tell. She might see this. It’s so cool for her part because she gets to learn both cultures of the family. She understands Tagalog completely but speaks English mostly. One time, she was riding a public bus and there were no seats left so she had to stand somewhere near front of a Filipino woman and hold on to whatever she can. Keeping your feet on the ground is a hard thing to do when the bus is moving and bestie, being the clumsy girl she is, accidentally stepped on the woman’s foot. She apologized and the woman said it was “okay”. But after that, the woman, thinking that my bestie won’t understand what she’ll say since she looks nothing like a Filipino, told the other Filipino woman next to her something really bad about my friend in Tagalog.

    My bestie got really… well not really but kind of hurt. But I guess that’s once con for her. :)

  • falkor4eva June 24th, 2012 11:45 PM

    Did no one else check out bamboo girl? It sounds soooo good, I had no idea something like this existed. Thank you for doing that research for me! It’s awesome seeing more Filipinas representttiiinnn

  • MayaLily July 4th, 2012 1:50 PM

    Few i needed to no that there are people that feel like me about there ethnicity and I’m not just going mad and ranting to people for no reason!!!!!

  • Marilia July 4th, 2012 11:01 PM

    Well, for me, it is really hard to understand this whole biracial thing, because I was born and raised in Brazil and we don’t really have this stuff. Like, most people don’t know if they’re part something, part something else, we don’t really care, because we’re really mixed up over here. For instance, we’d never choose a friend because they are/are not biracial, white, black, filipino or whatever. And I also got pretty surprised when I found out that in a lot of cities there were, like, areas of the town for black people, churches for black people and such. Over here, even though black people are disadvantaged economically because of the times of the slavery, there are no such things. I’m not saying things are perfect over here, they’re definitely not, poor people over here are more poor than poor in the USA, but there’s not such a big gap between the races. I mean, if someone is cool, just be friends with them.

  • Ballet25 August 13th, 2012 7:20 AM

    This is really interesting for me, as a non-American, to see the differences in the way this issue is dealt with over the globe. I’m from England, and identify as English. Mama is from India, but was educated at boarding school here, and Papa is very traditionally English. What I find interesting as a point of comparison is that the issue of race was considered important/a shock to mainly white people. However the only racism I have ever experienced over here was from other Indian/Pakistani people who used to call me ‘half-caste’ which is such a horrible term. When I went to Prep school, a totally white environment, no-one ever asked or made anything of my background, despite the fact that I definitely don’t look typically English. My best friend, when I mentioned this to him years later, just said ‘so?’ I feel very lucky and also very grateful which is itself an issue and it exposed deep rooted insecurity. I still find the issue moving, due to the earlier abuse for being of a mixed background. This article is really good, as it highlights the differences in racism world wide, and highlights the often forgotten racism towards multi-racial persons. Thanks.

  • Perfumed.Pansies May 10th, 2013 8:23 AM

    Yes! This is just what i needed to read. Im mixed, my mother is from england and my father is from the Caribbean so im a bundeled up mess.

    Since i live with my mother and dont see my dad’s family often, people always tell me that I ” act like a white person”. A guy in my global studdies class actually told me that i was ” neon white” or “clear” because i didnt understand the terms they were using.

    It’s never really bothered me much, but sometimes people would tell me i need to go ” back to where i came from” and im just like ‘do you mean england, germany, france, affrica, or florida where i was born?” and they just look at me like im stupid but really they are the stupid ones.

    Ever ‘white people’ arent ‘ white. papper is white, and if you match that paper …. you might be a vampire. Everyone in mixed with SOMETHING,wether its noticable or not.

    ok im done ranting. Love you guys!!!!!!!!

    - Bailey Rose