On being mixed-race
PSA: stop asking us “what” we are
Rachel D’Sa // Arts and Culture Editor
Something that continues to baffle me is also something that I feel doesn’t get enough attention. Somehow, the ways in which people talk to me as a mixed-race individual are still not considered offensive in our society or addressed, despite the impacts. When I go out, I frequently get stopped by strangers asking “what” I am. Of course, over time I’ve gotten familiar with the phrasing of that question so I know exactly what they’re referring to – my race. I often like to fuck with those who ask, by getting them to play the guessing game and observing how they suddenly watch everything they say very carefully. Dare they stereotype the way certain races look and appear ignorant. The overreaction and fascination with the way I look is in no way flattering. This occurrence, that follows me and my family everywhere we go, makes me feel like a circus attraction – a repulsive feeling that I just can’t shake.
For most of my childhood, my mom was a stay-at-home parent, driving my sister and I to and from school, piano lessons, ballet lessons, the park, you name it. While my sister and I have olive complexions, pitch black hair and brown eyes, the woman who was with us has ivory skin, light brown hair and green eyes. More recently, I’ve had conversations with my mom about being mixed-race. She brought up the constant occurrence during my childhood, when strangers would stop her buggy to tell her just how cute my sister and I were, and to ask if our dad was a certain race. People’s fascination with whether or not we were adopted festered in our minds, and over time, has been able to affect the way we see ourselves.
I feel that people have this misconception of mixed-race individuals as those who get to indulge in culture, more than those who are a singular race. I was privileged enough to get the opportunity to take Italian language lessons, and learn how to make traditional Indian sweets every December. However, I have found an insecurity within myself that has been swelling from a young age. I’ve been told by close friends who are also Indian that I’m too white to talk about being a person-of-colour and my love for my grandmother’s chapati. I’ve been given the cold shoulder from those who are “fully” one of my halves and it’s caused me to develop an identity crisis. Over time, my confidence in calling my grandmother on my mom’s side my nonna, and discussing my experiences with discrimination towards my Indian background, has diminished. With culture comes community. Now an adult no longer attached to the hips of my parents, I don’t know where to turn to feel in touch with who I am and how I fit in.
When I get asked “what” I am, I feel violated, as people tend to draw their own conclusions on what my family dynamic is, additionally asking which “side” I feel I am more of, or like more. With time spent with my parents separately, I’ve had the chance to experience both sides of the discrimination spectrum. Though my mom has gotten used to being questioned regarding her biological connection to her children and my dad continues to face discrimination everywhere he goes, I find myself still not used to my missing sense of identity. I’m proud to call myself Indian just much as Italian, and it doesn’t make me any less of an individual. All I want is the acceptance of both sides.