“Are you Tiger Wood’s Sister?” An elderly Chinese man once asked me in an Arlington market. I was 11 or 12 at the time, but this was only the start of the many questions my racial ambiguity would lead strangers to ask. I once heard that Tiger Woods refers to himself as Cablinasian, a mix of Caucasian, black, American Indian, and Asian. Like Tiger, I’ve come to realize that I too am Cablinasian.
Just call me a United Nations baby, baby. I have to admit, I like this term better than referring to myself as “half this” and “half that” Why should I have to refer to myself as half of anything, when I’m a whole person? However, if you were to use a family portrait to determine my ethnicity, you might say that I’m half Black and half Asian (Yes, Black & Yellow by Wiz Khalifa was my theme song for a short period of time). But like I said, I don’t like to think of my race in terms of fractions. People come from a variety of different backgrounds, ethnicities, and cultures, (after all we are a melting pot) yet too often we view racial groups as completely separate entities with no leeway in between them. Why do I like Tiger Wood’s crafty little name for himself? He’s a combination of all those things, not half this and half that. You get the picture.
It goes without saying that you can’t judge a book by its cover, however we all do it. I too have made the mistake of thinking people are, for example, just white, when they’re Latina or something. Hell, people do it to me all the time. People even ask if I’m wearing a weave! Open up your eyes and broaden your horizons guys! Remember how ‘other’ and ‘mixed’ are now boxes you can check off?
Now, I’ve def been proposed to in Adams Morgan, because some guy declared that he didn’t know what the hell I was, but I looked good. (Très romantic but then again it was 1a.m.) I’ve also had older men; ones classified as ‘Daddies’ on any rating scale, hit on me and compliment me on how ethnic/exotic I look. Sadly, when it comes to guys my age, they really just don’t know what to think of me as. I guess with age comes experience, but still. It’s such a #mixedgirlproblem.
Being in the nation’s capital, you’d think things would be a little bit different, given the fact that we have so many foreign embassies, diplomats and know-it-alls. But even in this city, guys haven’t a clue of how to deal with my racial ambiguity. On any typical night out, I am left to deal with not only the typical unwanted male attention, but I also get the added bonus of men trying to figure out what I am. And I’m not the only one.
Just the other night, a man came up to a friend of mine, who also happens to be racially ambiguous and said “hey, I just wanted to talk to you because I’m Pakistani and Indian and I don’t know too many other people from there.” Wait, what? Just because she looks foreign too, you thought you’d hit it off? P.S. she’s Lebanese, not Pakistani or Indian.
This is why my friends and I have turned scenarios like this into a game. It’s so much fun to play “Guess what ethnicity I am.” It’s like an unspoken rule if you’re racially ambiguous to find great pleasure in having people wonder. Always make them guess, it really keeps the mystery going and gives you so much insight into how you’re perceived. My favorites I’ve gotten include Brazilian, Dominican, Malaysian, Indonesian, and Guatemalan. Remember how someone even dated me because they thought I was Peruvian? I’m sure if I went down to Brazil I wouldn’t stick out like sore thumb. Another fun game is what I call the race tease. You know when someone asks you, “so where are you from?” they’re trying to figure out your ethnicity in the most P.C. way possible. Never give them what they want. I typically reply with “New York.” What? I was born there.
I’m really just trying to help you guys become more worldly, because remember as Kit said in her Guide to Capitol Hill, DC is ALL about the diversity. If you can’t pretend to be culturally diverse or associate with those who are, then you probably won’t make it too far in this town. This is why my favorite weekend game will not only keep you on your toes but will also benefit you in the future.