By wearing a headscarf, I become a category of ambiguous Muslim. Who knows what I could be? Whatever I am, I’m certainly not “White” anymore.
I am very racially ambiguous. If someone is from outside the United States and their country is one of color, they simply adopt me into their culture. I get asked if I am a Latina. I get asked if I am a Pacific Islander, Egyptian. Latina, that is the one that is most used. Generally, people just don’t know.
Black. But, honestly, it depends on where I am in the world. When I was in Africa people asked me if I was Ethiopian. When I was in Central and South America people assumed that I was Latina. I’m assumed to be Black with a little something else.
People have a lot of trouble identifying me. I get Hispanic a lot. I am from New York and so I have had many a person come up to me and start speaking in Spanish.
I got called Mexican the other week. But, most people assume that I am a Black kid from somewhere. I’ve been called everything: Black, Arab, Mexican, mixed.
Something other than White, that is the usual answer. White sometimes. Not usually Chinese. But, some people think that I am from Xinjiang which is Western China. But, it is always ambiguous.
I think that people see me as White. Actually, it depends on the context. When I am surrounded by other people who are, for example, Spanish or Italian, it is harder to tell. The way that I look is quite ambiguous, and I like that I don’t have to be defined into one race.
Here in the North, I am seen as being Black. Some people here recognize that I am mixed. At home, in the South, people didn’t consider me valid enough to talk about being Black, even in part: “You’re not even Black.” I got that a lot. People said that I never really knew what it meant to be Black because I grew up with my mother who was White.
Most people assume that I am White. Yet, at the same time, if I am on the Tuscarora Reservation many people assume that I am Tuscarora. No one questions it because I look similar to them. When I tell people that I am mixed race, people say things like: “Oh, I can see it.” But, can you? I remember one incident in high school: we talked about the census and different categories and someone asked me, “How are you Native American AND White? Don’t you just identify by what you are the majority of?”
Shelly Dale Amaral Preza
People have a hard time with my race. People here haven’t met a lot of mixed-race people. People tend to ask me because I am so ambiguous. And, when I say that I am Native Hawaiian people also tend to say, “Oh I see that.” But, Hawaiians look so different. So, I don’t see how that is even possible.
People just assume that I am White.
I’d say that most people see me as White. When people see my last name - de los Reyes - they see me as Latina.
One term that often comes up with people who don’t know me is "racially ambiguous." I have a lot of feelings about this term since people tend to have a problem with this kind of ambiguity as a result of some obsession to immediately categorize individuals. Many people guess mixed a lot, too, which isn’t incorrect, but some people have the idea that mixed can only mean half-White and half-Black. It’s a lot more complicated than that. But, I am more receptive of the term mixed.
People who see me and don’t know me assume that I am Latina because of my hair and my skin, but people who know me say that I am mixed.
No one has been ever been able to pin me down. People assume that I am Caucasian and Asian, always some sort of Asian. This has led to a lot of interesting conversations about identity between me and my friends.
Most people assume that I am Black because I have a southern tinge in the way that I speak. Some people think that I am more White than Black. It only bothers me when people say, “You don’t act Black,” or “You are way too White to be Black.” The people who say that never think that I am Black until it comes to relationships. And then, I am always “the Black guy dating so-and-so.”
It really depends who you are talking to. To the Mexican community I am a “milky Mexican.” To my White peers I am “off-White.” I am White, but something is off. I constantly have to think about who I am with and how to tell people exactly what I am with my cultural ties because that conversation is not happening from the get-go.
Most people can tell that I am biracial. But, I grew up in a very White area of Wisconsin so I was always the Black person in my class, which I was okay with. Here, people are much more exposed to the idea of interracial couples.