By Alex Temblador
I personally never had a problem growing up in a mixed home. In fact, I thought it gave me an edge to understand the different dynamics of race. However, as a mixed kid, I’ve been on the receiving end of a lot of ignorant, naïve comments.
With the rise in interracial or multiracial families, I thought it best to share some of the crazy things that I’ve been told or been asked as a mixed kid.
I hope these situations that I share will help many parents of mixed children be able to discuss with their kids the best way to deal with similar experiences throughout their life. Better yet, it might be an eye-opener for other parents when it comes to talking with their kids about race and making sure that they too are always being respectful.
“She can’t be your mom. She’s white!”
Probably the first person to say this to me was a four-year-old girl (who I became friends with as a preteen) at a playground.
As a half-Mexican American, half-White mixed kid, I’m darker than my fair-skinned, blonde mother. Even though this little girl didn’t mean to say something so insensitive, it happened because she hadn’t been exposed to or spoken to about mixed families. (This was the early 90s)
My mother said I responded, “Yes, she is!” I don’t know if I argued with her about who my mother was, but I’m glad I can’t remember. However, your child might remember a situation like this and be affected by it. If you are a parent of a mixed child and you look different from them, be prepared to deal with a situation like this.
For parents of children who are friends with mixed kids, talk to your children about race so as to help mixed children from dealing with things like this.
“So how’s that your mom? Are you, like, adopted?”
This one hurt. I was in graduate school when someone asked me this after seeing pictures of me and my mom on Facebook.
Just because I don’t look exactly like my mother, doesn’t mean I’m adopted. And even if I was, aspects such as family life should be something that I share with others. I shouldn’t be asked if I’m adopted based on antiquated notions of race.
“You look just like your dad.”
First of all, I actually don’t look a lot like my father. I have the same skin tone as my father and that’s it. If you actually look at our facial features, our eye shape, nose, even lip shape are not the same. His hair is black, mine is brown. Granted, we share a few characteristics. I have similar hands to his; like him, I grew really fast as a kid and then didn’t grow much more at a certain point; both of our lips are big but his is a different shape; we both have bad ankles; he had bad eyesight, I had bad eyesight before I had Lasik. But these aren’t things that are super obvious by just looking at us.
So why do I look like my father? Because of our skin color? Now that’s ignorant.
“You look nothing like your mother.”
This too is one of those things I hear often and I can’t stand. Yes, my mother has blonde hair and fair skin, and, yes, I have brown skin and brown hair. Yes, she has an athletic shape, and, yes, I’m shorter and curvier. However, if you actually look at my mother and I, we have quite a lot of the same facial features.
As I grow older, my eyes are starting to slant downward like hers. We have the same nose, the same forehead, the same chin, teeth, and neck and ears. We actually have more similar facial features than my father and I do!
Just because our skin is different, doesn’t mean we don’t look alike. Look past the skin color and the hair color.
“How are you two cousins?”
When it comes to meeting my white cousin’s friends, I usually get this question. Some people ask it straight out, while others start with “How…” and point between us.
It’s 2016; why is it still difficult for us to understand how diverse families are?
“What are you?”
This might be the most common question that a mixed child will get as they grow up. And it’s one that they may resent. I know that I didn’t and still don’t like it.
“What are you?” That question makes me feel less-than-human. Something not good.
I know people are not asking me this question to offend me. They want to know my race, my ethnicity, but they don’t know how to ask that in a respectful way. (In my opinion, why do you really need to know?)
“That’s not very exotic.”
When I humor people and tell them what my ethnicity is, they don’t always like that I’m just half-Mexican, half-White.
Exoticism is something that many mixed children will be subjected to. Exoticism in any form is not okay. As mixed children, we did not choose who we were born to or how we came out of the womb. We are just who we are. Please don’t make it something more than what it is. Features. Skin. Hair color. That’s all it is.
“You’re so lucky you got that pretty brown skin.”
There are many problems with this statement.
For one, I feel bad for my brother when I’m told this. My brother who is also half-Mexican, half-White doesn’t have the same color skin as mine. He is more fair-skinned. So if my brown skin is pretty, is my brother’s not?
Secondly, how many young boys or girls who are black are told that they are so lucky to have pretty dark skin? Not many. This statement has a double standard and it shouldn’t only apply to someone who was born with a skin tone in the middle range.
“How do you have such a nice tan?”
I was born that way. Why is it hard for people to get that?
“So you’re not really Mexican.”
A Mexican-American co-worker of mine said this to me once because I don’t speak Spanish. No, I’m not just Mexican. I’m mixed. However, that doesn’t demean my cultural heritage which is half Mexican-American. Do not put me down because I wasn’t raised to speak the language of only one half of my race. Furthermore, why doesn’t anyone expect me to speak German, Polish, French, or whatever my white side is (because I really don’t know)?
“Oh, you’re dating a white girl?”
I hate when someone assumes my race. I also hate when my race is used as a way to label me. I also hate when they get it entirely wrong. I’m not white. I’m mixed.
“What do your parents think about you dating a black guy?”
This one made me laugh. I was in a serious relationship with an African American guy for about four years. I got this question quite often.
Why would my parents have a problem with me dating a guy of a different race? My parents are in an interethnic relationship. I’m pretty sure they won’t have any problem with me being in one too.
Though these are not questions or statements I’ve been exposed to, many of my mixed friends have so I thought it best to include them:
- Can I touch your hair?
- Is your hair real?
- You’re lucky you’re only half black. You got such nice hair. (WHY IS EVERYONE OBSESSED WITH HAIR?)
- That’s that Blasian persuasion. (Exotic, sometimes sexualized reference to someone who is half Asian, half black)
- You’re not mixed, you’re black. (Said to someone who is half black, half white. You aren’t allowed to choose one half of someone else’s race for them).