Burmese. (“She could look Myanmar.”)
Peruvian. (“Lots of Japanese migrated there.”)
Brazilian. (“Look at your ass!”)
Trini. (“Because of the way you dance!”)
Wait, what are you?
“A human.” (12 year-olds have a sense of humour, too.)
Sheepish grin. “Yeah, I know, but, like, what ethnicity?”
Ethnicity, hm. Like, akin to what race? Hailing from just one country? Part of a centuries-old diaspora? A phenotypic religious identity? A regional origin? …Convoluted misperceptions.
Do you even know what you’re asking?
“I know,” My chuckle-less chuckle responds. “I’m kidding. I’m mixed.”
“Oh, so you’re half black.”
Oh, right. Being mixed is simply binary. Only black and white exist, apparently. With white being the default. Not many options of boxes to tick off on the census.
So over its multiple-choice question, thick angry words scribble: Does it even matter?! (10 year-olds have a sense of awareness, too.)
“Can Christine come play at my house?” “Sure.”
Her mom comes to pick her up and meets my mom for the first time.
“I can’t have any more people at my birthday party, so I couldn’t invite you,” Christine says some weeks later.
“Oh, that’s ok.” (7 year-olds have a sense of understanding, too.)
We play that day, consistent with our daily ritual of the last two years. Our playground days were numbered after that. She soon finds another group of girls to play with. You can guess the color.
Cheryl’s older sister’s birthday party. “I love how we’re all only black girls here! Oh, except for you…sorry,” the birthday girl adds. Cheryl got flack after that for not having “more friends like her”. And she soon parted ways, too.
Nobody ever sticks.
We receive Christmas money from a set of grandparents. $20 for each of my sisters and me to the $50 for my “full” cousins. “That’s for my good half,” sister says.
On the other side, the other full cousin is showered with gifts and love and language on the daily by our auntie. We get a box of Pretz sticks.
You should have black hair.
You have ‘Hispanic hair’.
Don’t you know how to make dumplings?
You’re so fair. You look better tanned.
You’re so tanned. You should stay out of the sun.
We’ll get you a boob job. Korean girls do it all the time.
But you have thick thighs and a big butt?
But Chinese are usually pencil-thin and you’re round.
Look at your thick lips! Where does that come from?
Me: What does it mean to be the all-American anyway?
“I used to feel defensive and angry, too,” Dad would say. “But you have to realize, everybody’s just curious…
“Plus, you’re not half. You’re double.”
Half the ignorance, double the consciousness. This cheers me.
And although every side expects something, no “side” wants you. (30 year-olds have a sense of sensitivity, too.)
But fuck sides. Redefining and defying the mold is your mantra.
You’re strong in your own category…whatever that is.