Not-too-serious post about race, pt 5
So for our last installment, back to me, your resident Clever Chick, to sum everything up. I’ve been trying to focus on humorous, unintentionally ignorant race situations. (See parts one, two, three, and four)
I personally am a white American, but I have dark hair, eyes, and skin. I’m constantly asked “What are you?” by random strangers. I don’t know why it matters. I know that people are just trying to fit me into a category, to try and understand more about who I am by fitting me into whatever backstory they assume comes with whatever race I happen to be. I’ve been mistaken for Indian, black, hispanic, Native American, Romani (aka gypsy), and Jewish.
People are always surprised when I say “White”. Some people just won’t let it rest at that answer.
Nosy Stranger: “Really? Are you sure? You don’t have any black in you at all?”
Me: “Well technically all humans evolved in Africa and migrated throughout the world from there, so we all have a little”
NS: *eye roll* “No, I mean like, in your family”
I also have random people come up to me and just start speaking Spanish. I speak a little, but usually they talk so fast I have no hope. When I tell them I don’t speak Spanish, I get this disbelieving, disgusted look, as though I have betrayed my culture.
But I don’t have any “culture”. I can’t speak for all white Americans, but in general, we don’t have any “cool” cultural traditions. We don’t have bindis, egg rolls, or people dressed as dragons. We have the Americanized version of things: oriental rugs, fortune cookies, and Tex Mex. White people will bond over both being 1/8th German or Irish, and it’s ok to ask about and discuss. Our ties to any family roots are tenuous, but that has both positives and negatives.
I’m not trying to excuse anyone, and we can all definitely stand to be more sensitive and culturally aware. I appreciate the fact that I can have these in-depth discussions with my friends about all the different aspects of race and background in our society.
To sum up:
1) If you want to know someone’s race or ethnic background, think twice before you ask. Why do you want to know?
2) If you want to bond with someone, don’t assume you know anything about what they’re like just based on their ancestry.
3) If someone is well-meaning, but ignorant, try to gently point out their behavior. Hopefully, they’ll realize what they’re doing.
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