Censuses show that the number of multiracial children has been increasing rapidly, with numbers increasing almost 50 percent from 2000 to 2015. According to the New York Times, it’s the fastest growing group in the U.S.
Coming from a multiracial background certainly has benefits. Immersion into multiple cultures from a young age has allowed me to learn first-hand about different ethnicities. However, it also comes with challenges.
Growing up, I was the only multiracial child I knew. It didn’t bother me that I didn’t look like either of my parents. However, as I grew older, small things like this started to affect my thinking more. When I was little, people would tell my mom she looked more like my babysitter than my parent. There are many examples of when people either quickly assumed I was fully white, or didn’t bother to ask my ethnicity. The amount of times random strangers have given me a weird look simply because I was speaking Mandarin to my mom will never stop making me feel uncomfortable.
When people discover that I am half-white and half-Asian, it usually evokes the response, “Really?! Wow, I would’ve never guessed!” This can really hurt and often causes me to wonder what I could do to make myself appear either more Asian and less white, or vice versa.
Someone I once went to school with was so sure there was no possible way I could be Asian, he was willing to bet money that my mom wasn’t Chinese. The most ironic part was that he himself was also mixed. On standardized tests or questionnaires, I never knew what to put: was I white, or was I Asian? I usually answered “Other,” because the option to select multiple wasn’t always offered.
Race, by definition, refers to the physical characteristics of a person. While race can include skin color, eye shape, or hair type, ethnicity deals with language and customs. People use these words interchangeably, but there’s an important difference.
With race being such a sensitive topic in our society, even by writing I feel as if I have somehow violated some unspoken rules. This shouldn’t be the case. Everyone should be able to talk about themselves without fearing judgment.
White people have the stereotype of being easy-going, even lazy at times. They might not necessarily be motivated to push themselves as much academically as some say Asians would. On the other hand, Asians have the stereotype of being smart. I’ve never fit into either of these areas. I find that I challenge myself too much to be fully understood by the white side of my family, but I’m not smart enough to be considered really “Asian” by some friends. Sometimes I’ll ask a question and classmates will go “Jeanette, that’s so obvious, everyone knows that!” Whether these social stereotypes are right or wrong is to be debated another time, but it is instances like this that only add to my internal struggle.
I, and other multiracial kids, shouldn’t have to struggle to squeeze ourselves into an imaginary box. As a society we should work towards being more open and aware, so that we can make everyone feel comfortable, no matter their background. America is a country built upon the shoulders of immigrants, so we should embrace the blend of different cultures. We’re all just human beings after all.