What Are You?

Do you remember the day you realized you were mixed? Not white but not completely black either? Maybe someone pointed out that you weren’t Asian enough or made fun of you for not liking tacos since you were only half Mexican?

Mixed people all over the world have to face the category issue at some point in their lives—an issue many others who identify as a single race do not have to address at all. All of us have our own identity stories and remember the moment when we had to face the fact: I am mixed.

I sat down on the couch with my mother, and before I knew it, through my tears and sobs, I told my mom that I hated myself. I had finally expressed, out loud, the tormenting feelings I had harbored inside for the past two years. Not knowing what to say, she let me cry it out, but from that day on, I began my life-long identity journey to answer the simple question I get asked on a weekly basis: what are you?

And I thought the most compelling three words in the English language were “I love you.”

Many children, like myself, grow up aware that they are not of a single race. Knowing that I was not one or the other but rather one and the other, I went back and forth between my two identities, trying each on with different people, seeing which persona fit best, like a coat or a pair of shoes.

Since that didn’t work out too well, it came to a point where I felt like I had to choose white or black, and essentially, mom or dad. That is a choice no child can make or should have to make just because society has a categorization issue—a society that likes to peg, ostracize, segregate, and separate people based on race and ethnicity.

A lot of mixed people end up choosing one side or the other. That’s fairly common especially if your physical features favor one ethnicity over the other. Others altogether reject society’s categories since it has never provided the right ones for them. Only since 2000 could people mark more than one box on the national census, and because of that shift, 7.3 million people identified as more than one race. Also, 41 percent of those people who identified as more than one race were under the age 18.

There are so many issues when it comes to identification, and some people—ignorant people—make others choose between their races for whatever reason. But despite all odds, choosing for yourself, loving yourself, and feeling comfortable being you in your own skin are the only things that matter.

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