I really wanted to share this arcticle because it hits home in so many ways. It's called "8 Things NEVER to Say to a Mixed-Race Colleague" by Yogi Cole. The first question the author discusses is appropriately,
"What are you?"
The last time I was asked that question (in a way that bothered me), it went something like this [names and details changed]:
Boss: Belle, I'd like you to meet our newest "insert job position," Jane.
Me: Hi Jane, nice to meet you--
Jane: What are you?
Me: (smiling) American.
Jane: Where are you from?
Me: I was born in California, but I've lived in Tennessee so long I'm pretty much just Tennessean.
Jane: No, I mean, what's your ethnicity?
Me: Just plain old American.
(on and on... everyone getting uncomfortable)
Jane: Well, the reason I'm asking is because my daughter is in India, and I thought maybe you were Indian.
Me: I'm not Indian.
Now, under different circumstances, I would have gladly and politely answered her question. Several factors meant I wasn't going to cooperate---the most important one being that she had just met me. So, she came into the office, met everyone else (white), then met me and basically "othered" me in front of everyone. You could've heard a pin drop. Read the article.
--Thanks for Topaz Club for sharing this article