Hello good people of the Internet,
Ah the what are you question. Anyone who is mixed or is ethnically ambiguous has heard this question.
I’ve seen countless videos on YouTube regarding this topic and often, the mixed person feels unhappy or offended. It seems this stems from the feeling of… Oh you don’t look like you’re from here, so clearly you aren’t, therefore I demand to know what you are so that I can validate my own opinion.
A lot of people like me have struggled and/or experienced an identity crisis, I haven’t, so I may not be qualified discussing this topic, but I can provide an alternative point of view.
Do I feel offended by the question?
Nope (unless the person is intentionally trying to offend me or is incredibly ignorant that it’s offensive).
To be honest, I don’t mind if someone asks me this question. Or thinks that I’m not a local. If you’ve read my previous post on What It’s Like Always Being The Foreigner, you know that I’ve never felt a belonging to one place. This might be why I don’t feel offended. Because, I, myself don’t feel like I’m from this place.
I think those of us who are mixed can sometimes be sensitive and defensive (there is a reason). Many have experienced difficulties fitting in, laughed at for their ‘foreign’ food, being neither here nor there – so there no solidarity group to defend you if there is a racial comment directed towards you, so I get it. For those of you who have asked this question and have received an irritated/upset response from the person you are talking to…chill out, you don’t know what they’ve experienced or what memories they are carrying. Their reaction is not about you. It’s an accumulation of past experiences. I do agree that if you are from a country and you are consistently asked what you are and where you’re from. You feel you are treated as an outsider. Us humans are social creatures, we crave belonging, so when we feel we are denied this… Of course we are going to be upset. Try to understand and remember, if a mixed person appears to overreact to ‘simple’ question/comment…. It’s not about you.
I thought it would be fun to tell you guys some funny interactions I’ve had with strangers.
15 years old. Airport: I was with my Mum at at airport on the way to Taiwan and this man approached us and began a conversation. Then suddenly, he looks at me very seriously and goes, ‘No offence, but are you Russian?‘. I said no, and he asked… ‘so what are you?‘
(a) That was super weird.
(b) Why is it offensive to be Russian? Maybe he was referring to the potential of being wrong, who knows.
~20 years old, sitting alone: I was sitting outside my lecture room squeezing some some report writing and I noticed one university staff walking past me, with his head turned in my direction. He walked back, glanced at me again. Walked past me a third time, and just before he disappeared behind the wall he jumped back and said ‘excuse me, but are you from Kazakhstan?‘…. ‘Nope’ I say… ‘So, where are you from‘.
Them: You look kinda Asian. What are you?
Me: Taiwanese/New Zealander.
Them: [insert opinion about my face and proceeds to tell me all about my culture and their travels. Bonus points if its related to New Zealand or Taiwan and not some other East Asian country.]
Them: Did you know you looked mixed race?
Me: Really? *sarcasm*
Them: [Finds out I’m mixed]. Do you know [insert other mixed race person name].
Them: So what are you?
Me: Taiwanese/New Zealander.
Them: No you’re not. You look more like [insert what they think I look like]
Anyway that’s it for today. Have you guys any any funny, weird, different interactions with strangers? I’d love to hear them!