7 Things You Must Not Say To Multiracial People

Did you know that there are things that you must not say to multiracial people? I know that most people mean well and that are they simply curious, but when you are constantly asked, bombarded, and needled with these questions your entire life, it can get pretty tiresome. It is so aggravating to go out and do an errand only to have someone approach me, asking me questions about things that I really couldn’t help, or things that I really don’t want to get into with a complete stranger. These comments are just plain annoying and are things you must not say to multiracial people.

The heading "7 things You Must Not Say To Multiracial People" over a background of a bridge leading to the forest.
7 Things You Must Not Say To Multiracial People

7 Things You Must Not Say To Multiracial People

1. Where are you from?

Coming in at number one is the question I get asked the most. Sometime random people will come up to me on the street and ask me where I am from. First of all, I don’t know you. Why should I tell a random stranger where I am from? Second, does it really matter where I am from? And third, if I live here, then shouldn’t it stand to reason that that is where I am from? By asking me this question, they are saying that I am not the same as them and that I can’t possible be from this country. That is why this is the number one question that I absolutely loathe and one that I do not answer the way they expect me to.

2. Where are your parents from?

I don’t answer the first question the way they expect. I often say: I’m from here, or I’m from America. That causes them to reword that question by asking me where my parents are from. This further shows their own ignorance that multiracial people can’t be originally from America, and that they have to be immigrants, or even first generation Americans. It goes to show that I don’t like being asked this question and it only makes me more inclined to simply walk away. I get that some people might just be curious, but if I don’t know you, then why should I tell you where I or my parents are from? After all, many people who aren’t multiracial aren’t asked this question. So, why should I be singled out? Why should I be made to feel differently just because of my mixed heritage or my hair and skin?

3. So, what are you really?

Even after people may know my mix, they still may ask “so, what are you really?” It is as if the concept of being the product of two different races is so foreign to their minds. In a world in which people are trained to put people into boxes, it can be hard for many to understand that not everyone fits into one box. Not everyone wants to be in one box. And not everyone should be put in one just because of what society says that you are. You have the sole power to say what you are. That is your right, and not anyone else’s.

4. What race do you identify as?

And still people also ask which race I identify as, or which race I identify with more. First of all, no multiracial person should be forced to choose between their races. Choosing between one or the other is the same as choosing which parent you like better. After all, aren’t you 50% of each parent? That means, that you are both your mother and father equally. One race does not trump the other, and nor should it. By saying that one race should take precedence because of that foolish one-drop rule in America or that you should identify as your father’s race because you have his last name or that you should identify as the race you most look like, it is simply foolhardy and unjust. We can’t simply pick and choose. We are both, and not one or the other.

5. You should say that you are ____, because that’s what you look like.

Again, sometimes people like to make assumptions and try to persuade you to choose one of your races over the other because that is how you are perceived. Well, first of all, race is a societal construct. The concept of race was made by the very people who were determined to separate the human species. In fact, people have more in common with people of other races than they do with people who “look” like them. People primarily determine your “race” by the color of your skin, hair, and even eyes. But there is so much more to it than that. Just because someone may “look” like a particular race doesn’t mean that they are. That is why multiracial people should not be told to choose one race over the other on job and school applications and standardized tests. Instead, they should be encouraged to check all of the boxes that represent them.

6. No, really, is that really your mom/dad?

Sometimes people may take a second look at someone who has a parent — or parents — who “looks” like they are of a different race from you. By asking someone whether their parent is actually their parent reveals their own ignorance. Why would someone ask this question? Anyone looking closely enough can tell that parents and children can look alike, even when the color of the skin is different. There are so many more genes at play that determine a person’s ethnic makeup. Just because your skin and hair might be different does not mean that you are not related.

7. You’re so beautiful for a mixed person.

And finally, while it is nice to be told that you are beautiful, it is not nice when you are also categorized. When people say that you are only beautiful because you are mixed, then that’s not really a compliment, is it? Why can’t we just be beautiful? Why do we have to be beautiful for a multiracial person? It is as if people have certain standards in their head of what a multiracial person looks like. It is as if a multiracial person can’t possible measure up to that of someone who is not multiracial. At least, that is how it feels when being asked this question. It is the same as when I’ve been told that “I write really well for a left handed person.” I mean, why should people add that last bit?

What is the most annoying thing you have been told as a multiracial person?

Please help me grow!

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Hi! I'm Helen and I am a 32 year old biracial millennial mom raising two multiracial children. I am a writer, English consultant, and social media manager. I am a self-proclaimed chocoholic.

19 thoughts on “7 Things You Must Not Say To Multiracial People

  1. I so agree with you! I am multi-racial and I get asked all the time, what race or nationality I am. Can’t I just be me and not have to identify with just one race! Great Post!

  2. Helen, thank you for this thoughtful post. I’d like to say I’m shocked by what people will actually ask another human; but sadly, I’m not. Take care!

      1. “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.” Albert Einstein πŸ˜‚

  3. I have never asked a person where they’re from, unless we are getting to know each other, Connecting and having a full conversation and THEY bring up something specific to culture or heritage, locale, or such.
    I have been asked many times where I’m from and I am nice, and honor my roots, but I am fair skinned, and have multi-racial heritage: English, Irish, Dutch, German, and Cherokee Native American. If I want to give someone a short answer, I say that I am a mutt and laugh. If they ask about my accent, I reply that I am from West Virginia. Beyond that, I cite all 5 of my known races.

    1. Yes, most people don’t ask until we are getting to know each other. There are just times when random strangers walk up and ask. : And when youve been asked so often, it gets tiring after awhile πŸ™

      1. I understand. Many may just be curious and not mean to be hurtful, but we all know there are some who are ignorant. β€οΈπŸ¦‹πŸŒ€

  4. Leonardo da Vinci was left-handed. … So were Albert Einstein, Mark Twain, Mozart, Marie Curie, Nicola Tesla, Stephen Hawking and Aristotle.

    I am Italian-Greek, Sicilian, Iberian, North African, English, Irish, Western European, and Jewish. There is only one group that ask me consistently how much I am of their group … guess!

  5. Hard to push the “Like” button on a blog about ignorant people.
    One of the lessons Anita and I have learned over our 31 years together is that when someone asks an awkward question (especially ‘random people’ for whom it is not any of their business) is to answer with a question. With some practice you can learn to keep this dialogue up until the questioner usually just looks frustrated and walks away with a remark like, “Well, how rude,” as if WE were the ones being intrusive. πŸ˜‰
    So the next time you are asked “Where are your parents from?” (which shows their lack of English grammar skills), try something like, “Well, from where are YOURs?” and then keep directing questions back to them no matter how hard they try to pin you down to “Answer MY question!” By the time they hit that button, they will realize you are not going to answer and angrily walk away. Hopefully, they will come to realize THEY were the ones intruding.
    prayers for you and you family’s walk into peace,

  6. Geez that last one really is dumb… β€œyou’re beautiful for a…” is never a good way to compliment someone if you don’t want a punch in return!

  7. A very thought provoking post, Helen. People, broadly speaking, do like to put other people, in boxes. It’s almost as if they cannot cope with life if they don’t.

    Although, I haven’t had to endure your experience (and I did wince reading what you have said here and I have winced reading some of your other posts), I have had to endure some things regarding the boxes others (except my very good friends, some family and a handful of colleagues) have always tried to put me in. CA’s suggestion re handling certain questions above does work.

    Also, exploring one’s family tree reveals some interesting and (I think) amazing insights. I have traced my tree all the way back to 1416 and then more loosely from there. Such a process is a lesson in history and diversity as well. “We” can never assume “we” have always been this or that 😊

  8. I’m an Indigenous citizen and have been asked, what’s your nationality? I say, guess. Answers always was Phililipino, Puerto Rican, Asian? I’d just laugh and tell them, N American Indian. Time and again over the years and agree, it’s tiresome. I did have one stranger step in front of me to say, I just wanted to say, you’re beautiful, and he walked on. That is nice to hear. Definitely a curious experience being asked, what are you? Maybe next time, will answer, I’m an Earthling? lol. Great post! always good to ‘teach’ others of our experiences. Thank you!

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