Racially ambiguous. Ethnically mysterious. Curiously racialized.
These are the terms used nowadays to refer or explain interracial. To be specific, interracial is a combination of two or more races.
As an interracial myself—Malay mixed with Indian, by the way—I know that navigating through life can be confusing. Life is already difficult on its own, without outside factors contributing in, such as racism. Living as an interracial can also get tiring when these curious non-interracial tend to ask you the same question every single time.
To the non-interracial, I know that meeting an interracial for the first time can be quite an experience and you’d have lots of questions running through your head as your curiosity gets the best of you. It’s totally okay, trust me. And it’s not your fault that you have all these questions. We understand that your questions don’t come from hatred but rather lack of understanding.
But, sometimes, we interracial just get tired of listening to the same question every single time and having to explain it repeatedly.
Take a read at the curiosities that we interracial usually get asked with and hopefully some of them can answer yours.
1. “What are you?”
Well, personally I’d like to admit that I’m a zombie who came back to life looking like a complete human. But, logically and obviously, I’m a human.
What you’re probably trying to ask is what ethnicity I am or what race am I mixed with. It’s okay to be curious but asking the question out of the blue—especially after staring at them for the past minute—could take any interracial off-guard and can come off as an offense to some.
There are people out there who feels the need to categorize someone based on their race so that they can assign a certain stereotype. Like, if you’re Chinese, people would probably be like, “Oh, so does that mean you’re smart?”, or maybe if you’re Malay then maybe you’d hear something like this, “Oh, you must always get jealous at others’ success, don’t you?”
So, by being interracial, it makes it harder for these types of people to categorize you and that confuses the shit out of them and makes them uncomfortable.
Therefore, their question might come off as a demand. Next time, try asking, “So, what ethnicity are you?”.
To my fellow interracial, just do what I do. Smile and explain till you can’t no more.
2. “Interracial are the most attractive.”
First and foremost, thank you.
Secondly, yes, I know, it sounds like a humblebrag but if you’re interracial, you would agree with me that you’d hear this for at least twice in your lifetime.
This is also like when people say, “Wow, you’re so exotic,”. Cause, I mean, like, am I really? Are you sure? Have you thought this through?
Just because interracial people aren’t only one race, doesn’t necessarily makes them exotic. But if you’re mixed with Hawaiian or Maldivian, then you’re extremely cool.
This sentence is usually often directed towards women due to their non-typical beauty. By being a mixed race, you tend to grab the features from the different races you’re born in. Therefore, it kind of makes you look more different than the typical standard beauty.
To the monoracial, it can be discriminating, especially it makes you feel like you’re less attractive than an interracial. But, you should remember that being an interracial kid isn’t as simple as throwing on a pair of Ray-Ban shades.
Most interracial kids—myself included—feel like we don’t belong to one or both sides of our identity and that makes it hard for us to navigate and discover ourselves.
Let’s be honest guys. How are we supposed to discover our true selves if we don’t even know in which side of our identity we belong in, am I right?
3. “Really? You don’t look or act like [insert race here] though.”
This is something that I’ve heard A LOT and I’m sure most of my fellow interracials can agree with me on this matter.
This happens when you act or are experiencing something that people of the same race don’t. It basically implies that you can’t belong to a certain race if you do something different than the people of the same race.
But if you think about it, not everyone of the same race is going to be experiencing the exact same things. Some are too shy to do it, some are too outgoing to do it, and for some, it’s just not their thing. You can’t force someone to do something that they have no interest in.
Statements like, “You’re not Malay enough,” or, “You’re not Indian enough,” are overly used to be directed towards interracials for a long time just because they don’t perfectly fit a specific race or they don’t fully fit the stereotype of the races they belong to.
These kinds of statements may also seem racist to some because it sounds as if you’re saying that everyone of that same race should act or think of the same thing.
This relates to the statement I said before, about not knowing which side of our identity that we belong to. Being in these kind of situations makes figuring out your identity an even harder task.
Imagine thinking to yourself, “Oh okay, I feel like I’m more towards my Chinese side,” but then someone comes along and says, “Nah, you’re more of an Indian, in my opinion,”. Doesn’t that bring you all the way back to square one?
Again, to my fellow interracial kids, if you have no idea how to react during these situations, do what I do. Nod, smile and say, “I know,”.
You don’t have to ‘prove’ yourself to these people, alright?
4. “Ala, just pick one side je lah.”
This statement may also sound offensive to some because it makes it seem like one side of our identity is a nuisance. You don’t tell an interracial to pick one side of their identity or to follow the heritage of only one identity while disregarding the other side of their identity. It may seem easy for a non-interracial but it’s more than just ‘picking a side’ for an interracial.
Some interracials might identify with one side of their ethnicity more than the other. Some may identify themselves equally. Some doesn’t even identify themselves to either side of their ethnicity. Some are still identifying.
But that is completely up to the interracial to decide. By putting them in this situation, it makes them feel as if you are pressuring them to ‘pick a side’.
Also, for the cases where some interracial prefer to identify to one side of their identity more than the other, don’t overly question them on their decision. Some may find it easy to answer why they choose one side more than the other, but for others, it could be hard for them to explain and the excessive questions might make them feel guilty for choosing one side more than the other and make them rethink their decision.
This isn’t a math equation where you must figure out the sum of a value. You just take your time and take life one step at a time.
Identifying yourself to one side, both side or none isn’t something that you have to do immediately.
5. “So, does that mean you’re bilingual as well?”
Well, not every interracial at least. So, don’t go expecting that your interracial friend is also bilingual.
Let me tell you an experience that happened when I was out with my family. We were out having dinner and our waiter happened to be an Indian and he had a hard time understanding what my mum was trying to say.
So, my step-sister turned to me and she asked, “Could you translate this to the waiter?”. Yeah, even my own step siblings tend to get confused in this matter even after explaining it to them so many times that I can’t speak Tamil.
Don’t feel bad non-interracial. It’s not your fault.
Some interracials are eager to learn about the cultures and language of both sides of their identity. While some others prefer to just learn about the culture and not the language. And for some, it didn’t even cross their mind about wanting to learn either.
So, when you’re asking this question, don’t follow-up with a “Why?” because it might make them feel guilty for not learning the other language.
To all my fellow interracial, it’s totally okay! You don’t have to feel guilty about not knowing the other language. It doesn’t mean that you’re completely disregarding the other side of your identity.
Once again, to all my non-interracial friends, it’s okay to be curious but try to word it properly so that it doesn’t come off as offensive to some interracials. And I hope that by reading this article, some of your curiosities has been answered and you know not to ask your newly found interracial friend these types of questions.
But, if you’re REALLY curious, then go for it. Don’t say I didn’t warn you though when you get eye-rolled or ignored.
And to all my interracial friends, let’s cut these guys some slack alright? It’s not their fault that they’re such curious cats.
Written by Nabilah Rahim