“What are you?”: Multiracial People in Society

By: Alana Mirikitani


“What are you?”

This is a common question I face almost every day when meeting someone new. On a good day, I’ll tell them that I am half Japanese, and half White. However, if you catch me on a bad day, you won’t like the answer.

I, like many other multiracial people, like to identify with both of my family lines. The cultural aspects of being both Japanese and American appeal to me. While I may feel a certain way about my ancestry, people in society often see me as one thing: Non-White.

While I am not accepted by White people in our society, at the same time, I am not accepted by the other Japanese Americans.

When I’m in Arcadia, walking through the mall (which is predominantly Asian), I’ll get weird looks and stares by the people I walk past. It isn’t just me; they stare at my brother too. My mother never believed me until she saw it first hand.

11416303_1444457445874980_4178874975421520868_o                                                                                         (a picture of my younger brother and I)

She was infuriated. Why would girls my age at the time glare at me as I walked past them? Of course my mother would always try cheering me up by telling me it was because I’m beautiful.

Even before I was old enough to recognize race, I was mistaken for an adopted child. My mother would push me around in a stroller and people would tell her how great of a person she was for adopting an Asian baby. Of course this upset her. If you had to give birth to a nine pound baby, and not be recognized for this, wouldn’t you?

14963343_1724938904493498_3830319797093943055_n                                                                                                             (a picture of my mother and I)

Why was I easily mistaken as an adopted child? Because unconsciously, people don’t recognize ‘mixing races’ to be natural.

This can be a product of our past, when law and race coincided a lot more than they do today. Miscegenation laws in America forbid U.S. citizens from ‘mixing races’ for the longest amount of time.

I’ve always wondered, what am I really? Where do I belong on official documents? Do I select ‘other’?

This can also be reflected in a rule from our past; it was a rule nicknamed “the one drop” rule. Where if you had a single drop of any color, you’d be identified as non-White. You could even argue that this rule applies in society today.

Our former president Barack Obama is a perfect example of this unspoken rule. He was born to a White mother and Black father; however, we recognize him as the ‘first Black president of the United States’, not the ‘first half Black, half White’ president.

                                                                      (A picture of young Obama and his mother)

And why is that?

It goes back to Obama only being judged on his appearance, not his ancestry. So, what does that say about me? That I am to be recognized as ‘other’ because people can’t ‘figure me out’?

So, in society’s eyes, I am what others believe I am. I am judged on my appearance, not my upbringing, culture, or ancestry. This is a perfect example of how race is identified.

Race is a social construction, a concept that society has created to label us by appearance. So if society tells me I look like a certain racial group, that is what they will label me as.

For the longest time, multiracial children have been looked down upon in society as a result of an accident. That having children with someone of a different race was ‘unnatural’and that ‘God didn’t intend’ for it to happen.

However, some believe that the continuation of having multiracial children could prove to help our society progress within the issue of racism. By identifying as a ‘mixed population’ it erases the labels of specific races and the stereotypes that are associated with them.

This is how I visualized where multiracial people would reside within racial groups, and how it would dissolve our current issues with race. Think of our racial structure as a series of groups, and we are all put in circles to identify our races.

I can’t fit into both at the same time. So, I have one foot in the White circle and one foot in the Japanese circle.

But what about those who have more than two races? Now it becomes a game of twister. The more mixed people we have, the more positions or stances become complicated as they try to stretch to fit in each circle.

Soon enough, we all become unstable, and the whole system falls.

This proves that race is unstable, and can be disrupted.

So, go ahead! Have multiracial babies! It might contribute to something greater in the future.

So, what am I? What do we call ourselves? For now, it’s whatever we want.

Later on, it might not matter.


Written by: Alana Mirikitani

Information taken from these websites:

http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2015/05/psychological-advantages-biracial.html

http://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2016/08/25/455470334/all-mixed-up-what-do-we-call-people-of-multiple-backgrounds

http://www.asian-nation.org/multiracial.shtml

 

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2 thoughts on ““What are you?”: Multiracial People in Society

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  1. You don’t understand how often I get this question “What are you?” Sometimes I just want to say IM HUMAN!! But I agree with you on this blog. Growing up, I had light skin and small asian-like eyes and people always asked my mother what I’m mixed with and judge me. My mother would always reply, “why does it matter?” I really hope society gets out this weird concept that mixing races is weird but then there’s this other side of society that fetishizes mixed babies, which is a whole other story…
    – A.K.

    Like

  2. This literally hits home. Coming from a high school located in East L.A. I would say that my race from the greatest minorities. The first question I get is “what are you” my favorite answer, “just don’t ask”. It’s so hard getting that question because when I answer with, “I’m a quarter armenian, a quarter german, a quarter asian, and a quarter russian” it just blows everyones mind. It’s not easy because like you said, I am not accepted into the race of any four of those because I am just so different from each and everyone of them. Being unique and having a race that is not common is special and being part of an interracial family has such an amazing feeling until it comes to the views of society. Overall, I really just enjoyed reading your blog post, it was great!

    Like

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