This video is part of a series for Everyday Feminism, an online magazine that helps people address the violence, discrimination, and marginalization that they face through applied intersectional feminism.
As a mixed race woman of color, I know that navigating a multi-racial identity can be pretty confusing. And it’s already difficult enough on its own without outside contributing factors such as racism and sexism. I also understand that most of the comments mixed race people receive don’t come from a place of malice or hatred, but a place of ignorance and lack of understanding.
So here are six racist and sexist things not so say to mixed race women (and mixed race people in general) in order to avoid being racially insensitive.
1. What Are You?
I’m a human being, but you probably mean “what ethnicity are you?”
It’s fine to be curious, but demanding that information out of the blue is rude and off-putting. It also sometimes stems from a need to categorize people based on race so we can assign stereotypes and expectations of certain races to an individual.
When you are considered “racially ambiguous,” it’s harder for people to categorize you, and it makes them uncomfortable, hence the demand to know what ethnicity you are. If you find yourself frustrated about being unable to tell what a person’s racial and ethnic background is, you might want to reconsider why you feel that way.
2. Where Are You From? No, But, Like, Where Are You From?
We get it. You’re not asking us what state we might be from (California, by the way). You’re asking us what our heritage is.
But this is problematic when you consider that many multiracial people and people of color in general were born and raised in the United States, and it feels like you’re “other-ing” us as these alien-outsiders or something.
Mixed race people can be just as American as any other race. But that is not always the case, and that’s why it’s important to take people’s word and not make assumptions about their cultural background.
3. You’re So Exotic
Really? Because I’m from Sacramento. The least exotic place in the world. Racially diverse in some areas, yes, but very whitewashed in the neighborhood I grew up in.
These type of statements are often directed at multiracial women and women of color because they don’t fit the typical white standard of beauty.
In a society where we’re bombarded with images of impossibly beautiful and thin white women that all other women are compared to, calling us exotic only serves to further “other” us from this ideal.
It doesn’t help that this is usually said to us by white men with implied sexual undertones.
Multiracial women become sexualized commodities meant for the consumption of white men who simultaneously dehumanize us and put us on a pedestal known as “exotic.”
4. Mixed Race Women Are the Most Attractive Women – I Wish I Was Mixed
Usually when people say this, they use it to mean one race mixed with white – which is problematic, to say the least. It completely discounts mono-racial (definition on screen) people of color because it implies that they’re less beautiful than people of color who are part white.
In response to comments like that, I’d also like to add that being mixed race isn’t a trendy jacket you can throw on when it’s convenient (gif of bi-racial joke from Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) – there’s a lot of confusion and alienation that can occur growing up with a multiracial identity.
A lot of mixed race people – myself included – don’t feel like they belong with either side or sides of their identity and that can be really hard for us to navigate.
5. But You Aren’t, Like, Really [Insert Race Here]
This implies that you can’t belong to a certain race if you have had a different racial experience from other people of the same race.
And let’s be real, nobody is going to have the exact same experience with race.
Statements like “You aren’t white enough” or “You aren’t Asian enough” have been used against mixed race people and people of color for ages because they don’t fit into a particular stereotype of the race they belong to. Which only upholds racist thinking because it perpetuates the idea that all people of the same race act or think or experience life in the same way.
It also implies that people need to prove their race, which I am not down with at all.
How many times can I say “race” in this video?
6. Pick a Side Already
This statement completely disregards the nuances of multiracial identities.
You don’t get to decide for a person how they’re allowed to identify with their heritage.
One person may identify with one side of their ethnic identity more than the other or others or they might identify with them equally or not at all. But that is up to them to decide.
Being mixed race isn’t a math equation. We don’t need to try and figure out which side holds more weight or value because we are greater than the sum of our parts.
Thank you for watching this video. Give it a like if you enjoyed it or learned a new perspective, and subscribe to this channel for more videos like this one. Also check out Everyday Feminism for more content dealing with race, gender, sexuality, LGBTQ issues, rape culture… and pretty much everything.