My Racial Background Is None of Your Business


I can’t pinpoint when it started exactly. I think it must have been somewhere around college when I started getting interrogated about my racial background. The conversation I now have almost every day of my life began when I was about 18.

“Where are you from?”

“Charleston, West Virginia.”

“No, I mean where are you FROM? What’s your racial background?”

“I’m black.”

[Insert pause/shock/dismay/disbelief.]

“No, I mean which one of your parents is white/Asian/other? Because you can’t be ALL black.”

Wait, what? What the hell is THAT supposed to mean? Well, thank you, bachelors in Genetics, but that’s how I identify myself, as does my birth certificate, the United States of America, the Census Bureau, all 50 states and the world via my passport.

When I was younger, I used to spout off the various branches of both family trees, dating all the way back to when the Hell ever; there’s some Spanish in there, a dash of German, a big touch of the Irish, maybe a little American Indian in there (Blackfoot tribe, holla back) and I think a bit of Cajun. That seemed to quell the spirit for a second, but then I get the demands that there MUST be [insert Asian nationality here] because of the shape of my eyes. “You look so exotic,” is what’s been said.

This is a nearly daily occurrence for me and I’m here to say that I’m fucking sick of it. The question portion of the interview is now over. I am BLACK. My birth certificate says “Black,” my parents’ birth certificates say “Black” and my grandparents’ birth certificates say “Black.” We all have a little “B” in the race code category, so it doesn’t really matter what anyone thinks.

I don’t know exactly when it became completely okay to ask a random stranger which one of their progenitors stepped outside the narrow queue of their own race and decided to knock boots with someone of another race. I find this line of questioning really irritating amd incredibly invasive — the Chris Matthews-style interrogation has become too much. If I walked up to you and asked you what race of man your mother had sex to create you, wouldn’t you be taken aback? Dude, it’s fucking disturbing.

Speaking of which, this line of questioning is particularly insulting and irritating to my mother, who doesn’t care to divulge the details of her life with ANYONE, much less to be questioned as to whom she had sex with to give birth to me. She doesn’t understand the fascination with putting someone under a hot lamp and asking 15,000 questions about how many races intermingled so they look the way they do.

Whenever I tell her about these questions that come from everyone from the local coffee barista to cab drivers to makeup artists and manicurists, it sends her into an even bigger frenzy than it does me. “What the hell, does everyone have to get in everyone else’s business? Why is everyone so DAMNED NOSY?!?”

True that, Mom. True that.

So, I have made the firm decision that I’m not answering this question anymore. I WILL admit that I’ve started screwing with drunk people who ask this question for sport. Have a couple of shots of tequila and ask me what my racial background is and I might throw Star Wars references. “My father’s from the Dagobah system. Met him you have? Yoda is he.”

But at the end of the day, a simple answer should be sufficient, random stranger. If I decide to answer that question at all, I’m being nice. All further questions past the answer, “I’m Black,” will now be met with one answer and one answer only: “I’ve answered your question.”

I am who I am. Who my progenitors had sex with is none of your business. Kindly stop asking. This interview is now over. *throws mic down*

This post originally appeared on XO Jane. Republished with permission.

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