As the world becomes more diverse, multiracial people are not quite the rare unicorns we once were. Even with more combinations of skin, eyes and culture constantly blending, though, it seems that uni-nationality people (pretending for a moment that's actually a real thing) still don't quite know how to approach or talk to "The Mixed". -That's my new term and I'm sticking with it. It sounds like the newest hit drama on NBC; already in it's second season, with rave reviews, starring yours truly.
No matter what term you use as a description, there are definitely 3 things you should keep in mind when you meet someone who appears to be multiracial.
The question, "What are you?", is not welcome!
It's probably the single most frustrating question for us. I haven't taken a scientific poll, but I think I can safely say we all have an eye roll reserved for the occasion. Just don't ask, and spread the word so hopefully the question dies altogether. We are human! Whether well intended or not, the question implies that we're not. Add in the bewildered face people wear as they ask, and the feeling of being an outcast just grows. I am a woman, sister, daughter, writer, actress, mother extraordinaire if you must, but if you'd like to know my background simply ask me, "What's your background?" I am happy to unlock the mystery.
The touching of our hair isn't either
There seems to be a fascination with ethnic hair in general, but I've noticed an extra layer of "Oooh what's that" when it comes to hair that falls somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. It comes in a variety of textures and sometimes the color seems out of place given the corresponding shade of skin, but it is just hair, and we don't like people touching it. If my curls are calling to you and the urge becomes overwhelming, again, ask. You may get a firm and passionate, "No!", but if you're not given permission, it feels like a violation. It's kind of like the hand on the belly bump phenomenon. Apparently, there's an unspoken rule, that if a woman is pregnant and her belly is visible, she becomes public property, and it's okay to lay hands. Well uh, I can assure you this rule was not written by a pregnant woman; I literally used to slap any strange hand that got close enough. Anyone who thinks it okay to walk up and touch someone's anything, hair included, has been seriously misinformed. If you didn't know, now you do.
Starring makes things awkward
Now, I have to give a disclaimer. I have seen a multiracial few that are an absolutely stunning display of artistic magnificence personified, and I couldn't take my eyes off them. There are people that beautiful and visually captivating, but they are not wax figures and there is most certainly a line. Whether gorgeous and statuesque or not, The Mixed are something like a puzzle. It drives you nuts if you can't identify where all their features come from and you just can't look away until you've got it; I've been there. Starring is understandable, but anything beyond a 5 second gaze starts to become uncomfortable. Even worse, if we've made eye contact and you still haven't said anything things go from awkward to concerning. We are approachable, I assure you (most of us anyway), and we don't bite. If you find yourself taken aback by someone it's okay, and actually preferred, to say something instead of just persisting with a stare.
If you've been following the dots and my entire rant seems to deal with consent and respect, you're right on target. It's in our nature to explore the unfamiliar, admire unique beauty, and try to dissect anything that we don't understand. Unfortunately, it has also been a part of our history to treat differences in humans, the same way we would a new cell phone. We don't bother learning about it from the manual, we just look it over and play with it. Great for technology, not okay with people. I don't think enough of the population realizes or cares that it's not okay, though. My hope is that as people learn better, they'll do better.
The differences in our cultures and traditions are what make blending them so beautiful. Admire, inquire and enjoy when you come across a way of life different from your own. I don't have a drop of Greek in me, that I know of, but Mediterranean cuisine is definitely at the top of my favorites. As you become more worldly though, just keep a sticky note, somewhere in the back of your think tank, that reminds you, there is not a person in this world that is on display for your curiosity or entertainment. Multiracial individuals are not beautiful patchwork quilts for you to run your hand over. Their feelings are no different than your own, so make sure you're "Doing unto others..."
I have grown into a much greater sense of confidence when it comes to my blend, but that was not always the case. As a child I felt like a bit of a sideshow. Kids always wanted to play with my hair, or come up with a creative reason why they thought I had freckles with brown hair and eyes. I no longer care much if someone turns my face into a guessing game, but I'm sure there are still children and even adults, today, who haven't yet gotten to that place of self assurance. In a world of carbon copies, unique is not an easy mountain to climb. When you do meet someone who appears multiracial, the biggest thing is to show respect. If you're sensitive in your approach, I think plenty of The Mixed wouldn't mind sharing their story.