Thought Catalog

How To Be Racially Ambiguous

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One of the great poets of our generation, “Lil Wayne” Carter, so aptly stated “what’s the world without enigma?” and in today’s globalized society, no one takes this more seriously than those of us that work so hard to be racially ambiguous. Because why would you want to be just one simple, uncomplicated race when you can make yourself more interesting at parties with your heightened sense of worldliness and traumatic multi-racial identity? Le sigh.

Take heed, it’s not easy. There is an art to creating your questionable and seemingly colorful family tree. When someone asks you where you’re from, take a deep breath and roll your eyes. They may as well have asked you to translate the Bible into one of the three languages you don’t speak fluently. Don’t start with yourself, you’ll give away that you are, in fact, a born and bred American citizen. Your dad is from an obscure but mildly buzzed about country. You know the type, we probably got involved in their government in the early 1980s with little to no success. Your mom was born in Tennessee, but again, leave that out and push the fact that her parents came in exile. So the racial tension was palpable throughout her childhood because your grandma didn’t know what Brownies were and thus didn’t let her join—making your mom a social outcast in the suburban South.

While your captive audience is oohing and aahing over your family’s plight in coming to the good ol’ US of A, make sure to throw in that you moved around a lot for your dad’s job since all his bosses were probably racist.  “But you keep it so real!” they’ll say. Yea, because you were raised in the mean streets of like, LA or Miami. No need to mention that you were born and raised in suburbia and went to private school.

Speaking of audience, this performance is only as good as your dem. Growing up, make sure to be the opposite of what your friends are. Compensate for the fact that you’re a teensy bit jealous of their full-breed status by really pushing the opposing angle. Half-Cambodian, half Viet? Make sure your Vietnamese friends know your WAY closer to your Cambodian family, and drop small bombs about how much harder they had it.

When you get to college and are reinventing yourself anyway, join a fraternity or sorority. Because nothing says “I’m proud of my heritage but can still hang” like homogeneous, predominantly white groups of people that wear lots of matching t-shirts and need to meet quota. Do not by any means join the organizations “historically” designated for your race. Your ancestors didn’t bust their ass to make it in this country for you to be anything less than American, God dammit! (Pay no attention to the fact that your grandparents all went to college and/or were very wealthy in their country of origin. Oh, and don’t care what frat you join.).

Make sure everyone knows you’re not like everyone else, as demonstrated by the naturally bronzed color of your skin and loud phone conversations in your native tongue over 2-for-1 margaritas and chicken fingers at Applebee’s. Yes, it’s an urgent call, and no you can’t switch to English. It’s your grandmother and she gets PISSED if you don’t answer. Even if it is to ask about whether or not you have a boyfriend, job, or baby yet. When your friends comment on how it’s so weird that you can switch between languages, answer in vague blanket statements. “IDK, it’s just a part of me, I guess.”

Judge other “colorful” people HARD. Say things like “Right but her dad is British. Not exactly a tough transition.” When you’re with these people, though, swap war stories about how hard it can be to be so different. After they leave, tell your friends “Um, they’re so intense.”

Make it clear that your wide spectrum of interests is because of your dynamic background. You work out to mixtapes of no-name artists that use a lot of African drums and marimbas because it just keeps you grounded, you know? That doesn’t mean you aren’t blasting T. Swift with your girlfriends in the ride your dad bought you when you were 16.

Going out tonight? Tell your white friends you really want to hear “really ignorant rap” or go to that “new Brazilian joint” since you’re into that, being ethnic and all. Be texting your more racially diverse friends and say you kind of want to hit that bluegrass dive bar for some Bud heavys and shots of Bourbon.

Be super protective and proud of your native land(s) when they come up in the news. Even if you don’t really know what the hell is going on, you can formulate an opinion no one will question in five seconds flat just based on the stories drilled into your head as a kid. Tweet it, and post a link to the NYT article you read that was no doubt written by someone who just “doesn’t understand.” Then go back to researching the top ten restaurants in your city that serve your native cuisine du jour. You have a date with a white boy tonight. TC mark

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  • fidellecastro

    This comes across as pretty racist, insecure, and self-hating.

    • Greg

      I think that's a knee-jerk reaction and way too easy to claim…the author is deeply-aware of the unavoidable contradictions that accompany being mixed-race and middle-upper class in America. Regardless of whether this comes from personal experience, I know I lol'd and I am mixed race

    • Guest

      I love that you commented this on an article a Cuban girl wrote, with your username FidelleCastro.

  • devya

    ???

  • Talullah

    this is just bad.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1363230138 Michael Koh

    One of the great poets of our generation, “Lil Wayne” Carter, so aptly stated “what’s the world without enigma?”

    I like your sarcasm

  • mack

    *you're lolz

  • jessucka

    your sardonicism is pretty amazing.

  • Teukros

    This is basically a very long passive-aggressive Facebook status. Why don't you just tell the person that you find his/her behavior annoying?

  • Customconcern

    what the hell is wrong with you

  • eqv

    hey Carmen, are you Brazilian-Armenian-Turkish-American-Russian, by any chance?

  • 790FM

    meh

  • Susan

    i thought this was hilarious. plus, great writing.

  • Hotmail

    He also said real G's move in silence like lasagna.

    I rest my case.

    • wackomet

      man I know this is a silly thing to let bug me but

      it's just a weird syntax thing! he's not saying “real G's move in silence, as does lasagna,” he's saying “in life, as in the word 'lasagna,' real G's move in silence.” It might not be the Queen's English but it's extremely clear and not unprecedented.

      that is all

  • jonasluver4lyfe

    what he said

  • http://profiles.google.com/shewit.zerai Shewit Zerai

    I hate it when I read an article that's supposed to be passive aggressive and I can identify with parts of it.
    Fuck self-awareness.

  • Dan

    I'm white and proud of it. I don't pretend to be something I'm not. Yeah I grew up in a comfortable house and went to a good school, and I won't ever deny it.

    • http://somuchtocome.blogspot.com Aja

      “White and proud of it”. Last time I checked, that was the mantra of the KKK. Good job, you (sarcasm).

      • http://somuchtocome.blogspot.com Aja

        But weren't you the one that was very proud to vote against gays having the same rights as everyone else? Right, that was you. Okay, now I'm not surprised, at all.

      • Dan

        Yeah I am still against certain things that liberals find unthinkable, but whatever. I don't support the KKK however, because they're a bunch of religious nutjobs who run around drunk shouting racial slurs and burning crosses, they're a joke these days. And tbh, what's wrong with being proud of one's racial identity. So what if I'm not a minority, I can still be proud of who I am.

      • http://somuchtocome.blogspot.com Aja

        See my problem with your argument is that you seem to think that declaring your white pride is something that you should be commended for. You need to understand, nobody gives a shit. Until the day comes when people who fit your description (ie: white heterosexual males), have to have the laws reversed so that they can vote, ride on a bus, drink from a water fountain, go to a good school and marry the person of their choice . . . well when that day comes and I'll happily give you your ribbon for your pride. You will have earned it. But until that day comes, you'll always just be a boring white kid, standing on a goddamn soapbox, which I will happily kick from underneath you. Cheerio!

      • http://somuchtocome.blogspot.com Aja

        Also since you clearly look down your nose at “religious nutjobs” why the gay hate? Are you just of the raging homophobe variety?

      • Dan

        I simply don't agree with homosexuality. Maybe it's the way I was brought up, maybe it's a small little chunk of religion I cling on to, I have no idea. I just know that I don't like it.

      • http://somuchtocome.blogspot.com Aja

        I strangely feel bad for you. But I do hope that one day you understand that two consenting adults in love is still love. And it's not anyone's right to decide whether or not it's “right” for them. Love is love. Take care.

    • jessucka

      thanks for bringing this thoughtful insight to the table. we are all enlightened.

    • Greg

      @48d6ff6415d126ea4807707db373315d:disqus umm congratulations? now while you coast through life, the grown-ups have important things to discuss (pat on the head, send back to kiddie table)

  • http://goldenday.tumblr.com Kia Etienne

    some people just are racially ambiguous. i.e. every mixed-race person alive.
    i thought it was funny, anyway

  • Scarlett

    People who act like this make being racially ambiguous and not a douchebag really difficult. So do racists.

  • JLH

    this is hILAAAAAAARIOUSSS. WISH I WROTE IT GODDAMN! I KNOW I think it all the time. it's perfect. thank you. i hope everyone gets it, and if not, that's kind of even more fun. heh. i love this site my god its like providence.

    • Bro

      bro…

  • Dan

    i was gonna give this a shot but then you said “le sigh”.

  • http://twitter.com/jhollida Jordan Holliday

    genius, pure genius.

  • andy

    this girl needs to write more! geniuss

  • Thought Catalog

    Reblogged this on Misery and commented:
    So. True.

  • http://theaccidentalcosmopolitan.wordpress.com/2013/03/07/390/ The Accidental Cosmopolitan
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