Sunday, May 06, 2007

The What Are You Experience

Re-listening to Addicted to Race Episode # 18 gave me the most meaningful answer to why the "what are you" question is so painfully annoying. All multiracial folks go through this & I'd like to pass on what guest Claire Light said in that episode.

"The experience that we all have in common (mixed race people) is the what are you experience, where people come up and have to address you and find out what your racial mix is and where you come from...

That moment is a very clear expression of discomfort with difference. And the thing that's most wearing about it is not having to address strangers. The thing that's most wearing is having to absorb other peoples discomfort with you day in and day out...

Whether you do it in a positive or negative way it doesn't matter. You're forcing the other person to deal with your discomfort."



Anonymous said...

I am not mixed-race (at least not in the way I think you mean) and people of all colors have shown what I have perceived as benign interest in my ancestral make-up, and have all my adult life.

Is it not possible people are occasionally just curious?

Especially in the USA where "ethnic" shifting occurs all the time from within and without the US, could not people just be showing historical and anthropological interest in another person?

I grant you racism exists but is it always to be perceived as you put it for "mixed-race" people of color.

FrancesM said...

Well anonymous I don't think I ever wrote that racism is just directed at mixed race folks. Obviously from reading my other posts I very clearly say that all kinds of folks have racism directed at them.

Yes some people may be occasionally curious about ethnicity. However in I believe mixed race people are asked far more than people percieved to be of a single race. I have heard white friends say they get asked about their ethnicity but when the see the sheer volume in the number of times I get asked, they finally see there's more to the "what are you" question than just mere occasional curiousity.

When people put themselves in a position where they do all the asking and don't really ask themselves about their motives, they are seeking a type of power. To say you're just curious without asking yourself why is a key way that racism continues to play out. If you don't ask yourself where exactly the curiousity comes from you are participating in #1. Clinging to unconsciousness #2. Supporting the idea that you have the right...the POWER to not have to care how YOUR curiousities may effect others.


M said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
FrancesM said...

Darlin' I respect your opinion & as I said before agree that folks may occasionally be curious to whomever they ask the "what are you" question to. I think the point I'm trying to make here is simply that many whites and unconscious POC, when they ask folks they are unsure of how to catagorize ethnically, they are showing an uncomfortability which is in essence racist.

If these curious minded people want to know for historical and anthropological reasons I'd still ask them why. What does it benefit them to know. How does that make the world a better place. When they know someone's ethnic/racial heritage what truly has been accomplished? And upon that knowledge does that change how the ask-er views & treats the ask-ee.

When someone asks for say historical purposes, and finds out someone is say Native American, does the person assume suddenly that the part Native person has a bunch of attributes that are generally associated with Native peoples by mainstream opinions? Then do the annoying questions start like what tribe/nation, where parents from, family hiostory & so on. Because usually even more questions come at the mixed person once they've given out their ethnic background and even if it's to quench the curiousity thirst, there are always more questions & assumptions to go with the initial question. It's annoying and time wasting for the person being asked regardless of the intentions of the asker.

M if you wish to discuss this with me personally I'd appreciate it. I hope things are going well where you are!