From Books for Littles: Microaggressions Against Multiracial Kids – Books Where Kids Can Belong
This post highlights my experience as an ambiguously multiracial woman constantly challenged by nosy strangers to justify my ‘otherness’ in public – and how reading picture books with my children has given me a sense of belonging.
Microaggressions Against Multiracial Kids – Books Where Kids Can Belong
I am tired of strangers asking me, ‘What Are You?’
It starts with a conspicuous stare.
Curious strangers, I like to think you aren’t consciously trying to make me uncomfortable. Conscious or not, the subtext is always the same.
The question you really want to ask is, “What are you doing here?”
I stick out. I owe you an explanation.
I have an answer for you.
But you’re not going to like it.
What Are You?
I was 30 years old the first time I saw a normalized multiracial family in a picture book.
I stumbled on ‘Cook It!’ in my first months as a new mother. We would go on to read another few hundred more books before we found another, but after that – I was on a mission to find more.
This new experience – of being represented and accepted without question, even just in a book – was intoxicating.
What Are You?
Dear strangers who demand I explain myself,
I’m kinda impressed with your consistency. You hound me with the same series of questions along racial lines, as if there’s a script.
From white people, it’s a timid smile and a hopeful, happy look. You know I’ll be delighted by this flattery, like I’m a labradoodle who preens under unsolicited inspection.
You tell me, ‘My secretary’s daughter is like you.’ Or, ‘We have lots of you people in the Southwest!’
Like me how? She’s a photographer? A mom? Be more specific, old white dude. What is this ethereal connection I share with a random person who also exists?
Successfully courting a person of color means you get a free pass. If you’ve got a multiracial child, or even just dated an Asian guy in 8th grade, I’m not allowed to voice my dissent. You have the right to ask because you think my ambiguity is a good thing. You find us ‘beautiful,’ or ‘exotic.’ Like a fancy breed of cat.
That is not reassuring. I don’t want to hear about your fetish.
I should stop being a brat about this. It’s a compliment. Friendly small talk! We have something in common!
Except the point is that we do not have something in common, and you won’t rest until I understand that.
This alienating question reduces me to one thing – always, always, always one thing. It’s always the thing that sets me apart, never the thing that welcomes me and invites me to belong. It’s always my distinct race – or rather, my lack thereof.
Let’s flip this around for a second; After staring at your for ten minutes, I walk up to you and declare:
“Stranger – I notice you are the only one here wearing a pink tuxedo to this black-tie party. I’ve never dressed like that, but my gardener’s cousin has! Just wanted to point that out, in case you didn’t notice that everyone else here belongs. You, however…”
“I guess what I’m asking is…What are you doing here?”
Except, in this case, the pink tuxedo is my face, and I can’t choose to leave my face at home. I am not great at metaphor. Whatever, you get the point.
Read on for the full article: Microaggressions Against Multiracial Kids – Books Where Kids Can Belong on Books for Littles.