Traits of a Mixed Person: Linguistic Ninja

I was recently asked what the traits of a mixed person are. I think what the guy meant was, is there a stereotypical mixed look, style or way of carrying oneself. I couldn't think of anything that's standard issue "Mixed." Our hair runs the gamut, skin color covers the rainbow, and any part of us may reflect one parent's lineage or the other.

Except, I think that many mixed people have the makings of linguistic ninjas. Depending on who raised you and your socio-economic background, many mixed people have learned how to reflect the people around them in the way they talk. An op-ed piece on Barack Obama in the International Herald Tribune on September 10 reflected my thoughts on this.

The gist of the article is this: Barack Obama is flexible in his speaking style. Sometimes he sounds more typically African American while other times he is more racially neutral. The article also points out that Obama says he quickly picked up on the language and customs when in Indonesia, knows a bit of Spanish  and a little Hawaiian Creole. Yes, the man is well educated and has proven intelligence, but this kind of linguistic agility and speed may be rooted in something else - having to blend in with different ways of speaking from a very early age.

And he's not alone. A mixed friend of mine, Lisa, speaks English, a bit of Black slang, French and enough Spanish to travel alone in Spain. Another mixed friend, Jeff, is the same - except his fourth language is music instead of French. Personally, I would say I speak American English blended with Black slang and British terms (from living abroad). But when I travel, I either pick up the local accent - my Scottish accent used to make my ex-husband so delightfully frustrated - or the language (if it's a Romance language). For this I thank being comfortable as a kid in Minnesota with my White family and Colorado with my Black family and feeling at home ever since, as I travel the world.

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