If you're mixed, we're willing to bet you've heard a few of these more than once. Though often said innocently, and with good intentions, these statements and questions can negatively impact a multiracial/multiethnic/multicultural person's well-being.
A mixed person may experience this kind of invalidation of their racial/ethnic identity over and over again by many people and/or organizations many times throughout a day. Psychotherapists have called this kind of microaggression exclusion and isolation. These statements and questions are damaging, and can lead to mixed people feeling as if they do not belong in the racial/ethnic groups with which they identify, or that they are not allowed to identify with their racial, ethnic and cultural groups.
Here is a short list of things you should NOT say to someone who is mixed. Do you have any others? Let us know.
1. "You don't really count, you're only x%." This is wrong for so many reasons, but we’ll keep it simple and remind you that only YOU get to define yourself. Yes, you do count. You can identify however you choose. And it’s not up to strangers, friends, relatives - ANYONE - to tell you otherwise.
2. “Where are you actually from?” If you ask someone where they’re from and they give you an answer, that means they’ve told you where they’re from. If you want to learn more about someone’s racial/ethnic/cultural background, this is not the correct way to ask.
3. “You don’t look (insert race/ethnicity) - I would have never guessed!” Come on, it’s 2021 - if you’re making assumptions about someone based on their appearance, you need to check yourself.
4. “What are you?” A human being...Again, if your goal with this question is to learn more about someone’s racial/ethnic/cultural background, this is not the correct way to ask.
5. “If you had to pick a side, which one would you pick?” Would you ask someone which parent they like better? Would you ask someone to embrace part of their identity and deny another? Please stop asking us to pick a side.
6. “You don’t act like (insert race/ethnicity).” What does this even mean?
7. “If you don’t speak the language then you’re not really (insert race/ ethnicity).” Wrong. Incorrect. False. Your racial/ethnic background remains the same, regardless of what languages you speak (or don’t speak).
8. “You don’t look mixed!” Let us be perfectly clear: There is no mixed look. People who identify as mixed come from all racial/ethnic/cultural backgrounds and are many different shades, have diverse hair types, & various eye colors.
Written by: Ruby Herrera