March 14, 2018

Think Before You Ask

While commuting home I like to go through my news notifications and see what articles I need to take a closer look at. I noticed an alert for a Refinery 29 article that hit closer to home than ever before. All I could think was, me too. 

Photo by Bryan Minear on Unsplash

The article gave a brief experience of five women and their experience with what it really feels like to be asked 'what are you'. I can't tell you how much I wish I could have contributed to this article. 

As a "brown girl" I will admit that I am fortunate enough to have never experienced racism or bigotry. However, there is always one question I am always asked. What are you? 

Growing up in upstate New York I was never asked this question. In retrospect I suppose everyone just assumed I was mixed. When I moved to New Jersey, the question became a regular occurrence. What are you? 

If I wasn't outwardly being asked what are you, it was where are you from? My standard answer of 'upstate New York' never seemed to be what they were looking for. It was, and still is, almost always met with a follow up question of originally? 

As I've gotten older it has occurred to me to mind that people ask this of me. Now, my response is a very curt 'why?'. They will usually feign innocence and say they were just wondering, or they were curious, or because I "look Dominican".

If I know you and we've established some type of rapport and it comes up in conversation, I am perfectly fine with discussing it. If you're some random person who thinks it's appropriate to ask me after maybe 5 minutes of interaction, I will have an earful for you.

You're unable to categorize me on first glance so you feel the need to ask. And I think the more upsetting part is that a lot of people do think it's acceptable.

Because here's the thing - these questions are never okay, and asking them makes you come off as a compete moron.


  1. I get 'what are you' when people see me with my dad since I'm clearly not Indian. I kind of understand that but still, wtf. And in your case, huge wtf. That's something you ask about a dog, not a person.

  2. 100% agreed! I hate "What are you from" especially when followed up by originally...I am originally from Chicago asshole that is where I was born.

  3. One of my favorite responses to “what are you?” is “human”