“What are you?”

By Ashley Rodriguez
On September 18, 2020

Ashley Rodriguez, Online Editor 

Have you ever been asked this question? Have you ever asked this question?  

If you’ve been asked this question, how do you answer? How does it make you feel? Do you take offense? Do you just simply spend minutes trying to explain what it is you think the questioner wants? Do you wonder why you are asked the question in the first place?

If you have asked the question, what was your reason? Do you need to know so you can put the person you asked into a column in your worldview? Do you need to know so that any preconceived notions can be applied? Will your interactions with this person be positive or negative based on their reply? Are you simply curious?

The question of “What are you?” is one I have been asked frequently in my life. Coming from a biracial background of both Black and Hispanic ancestry, I have seen the confusion in people’s eyes as they attempt to decide which ethnicity box I fall into. I would explain, as best I could, my background. I would then see their acceptance, indifference or further confusion. Being a part of two worlds was something I was used to. It was normal to me. Unfortunately, my view of normal has changed recently.

Growing up, we learned about the struggles of minorities during Black History and Hispanic Heritage Months. We learned about the gains that were supposedly made and how things were changed. As a child in grade school, I never would have imagined that the racism of those days would be anything that I would have to experience in my time. Sadly, this past year alone, my reality has changed significantly.

Instances of racism, violence, police brutality and intolerance are all around us. Being civil and respectful to others has lost its value. What you are seems to be more important than the type of person you are. The racism that we were taught was a thing of the past is actually alive and well. Recently I personally experienced this in dating relationships, work environments and peer interactions. Anyone who has dealt with these issues knows the hurt, pain and sadness that you feel when you face this.

So, what does one do when faced with these experiences? Give up? Be silent? Keep quiet?  

I have been told that when bad things happen, it won’t be the last time.  

When these bad experiences occur, you can’t let them get the best of you. Learn from them and let them strengthen you for the next time. I personally have done this, and it has helped me become stronger emotionally and physically. Seek support from others, both professionally and personally. We gain strength from each other. Let your voice be heard and stand for what is right. Treat others with respect and help those in need.  

I hope sharing this with you will encourage you to be brave, confident and always have hope for better times.

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