Native, Slave and...

On average, once a month, someone asks me some version of the question "What Are You?" This past weekend, in Washington, DC, I got it twice, so I'm good until July, I guess. Sometimes, I enjoy making people guess. It usually makes them uncomfortable. Makes them realize they've casually asked the equivalent of how much money do I make or how old am I. Besides, I like puzzles and games. When it comes to my race, every day is a carnival and I always win the prize because no one has EVER guessed correctly.
And yet, I am one of the most common American mixtures, I think. Black, white, Native American. No islands, except England. No Latino, but my mom speaks Spanish. No Middle Eastern, even though a version of my name is common in Lebanon. Just a basic combo of Americans - Native, slave and Son of the American Revolution.
There are times when people ask when I'm in a bad mood or taken by surprise and I don't want to play the guessing game. This weekend someone asked as a way of flirting with me. I was not wooed. A couple months ago some boys sidled up to me in Times Square to say, "What you mixed with?" I wasn't in the mood and didn't think they should continue to live in this world thinking that was a good opening salvo. "Do I know you?!" I snarled, in a rare moment of righteous New York bitchiness. 
Humans love to categorize. We do it naturally, even compulsively. I know that my parents did not combine into an easily categorized human being but trust me, if you get to know me, you'll find out soon enough what I am. However, if we're passing on the street, just meeting at a party, standing in line at Walgreens or sitting next to each other in a park, I ask that you resist your biological urge to hunt, gather and categorize me.
P.S. If you can't help yourself, here's a quick guide to terms you could use and might want to avoid:
Mixed, bi-racial, person of color - fine by me
Mulatto - reeks of 1975, like honky or afro american
Mutt, redbone, high yellow gal, mariney - jokey, diminutive, borderline (unless you're mixed, too)
Snowflake, light bright (damn near white), Triple H (half and half ho) - generally insulting, very loaded, what some might call "fightin' words."
Halfrican, Leprecoon, Mixie-can, Something Rican, Real Black Irish - to me are all hilarious, but watch yourself; not all mixed people look alike and we certainly don't all feel the same about how we're discussed!

Bad judging

This weekend I met a woman at a party. She is married to a black man. When he introduced me, I had a small moment of judging; a fleeting thought of "Oh, another black guy married to a white woman."
She was cool and so we talked for a while. Some how the fact that I'm in a sorority that is made up predominantly of African American women came up. She asked me which one, I told her (Oo-oop!) and she told me that she is a member of what is sometimes described as a rival sorority. 
I was almost stunned. It's good that people can't see what happens inside out heads. It would have looked like a tornado. Even I, a frequently mistaken for "other" mixed girl, hadn't realized this woman was black. 
I felt myself completely rearranging the story I had created for her, her husband and what we could talk about -- I felt I could be more open, in some ways.
But it was also a moment of real self awareness. I realized how many boxes I had put her in based on her looks and being married to a black man. They weren't all bad or good, just judgements. And definitely unnecessary. It's easy to wish other people wouldn't make assumptions about me. The reality is, I need to take my own advice!