By Erendy Torres |Staff Writer|
Have you ever been asked, “What are you?”
Have you ever wondered about someone’s mysterious ethnic background?
There are times we cannot pinpoint someone’s race by their physical appearance.
We call this “racial ambiguity.”
“Someone that is racially ambiguous does not possess the stereotypical physical attributes of his or her supposed racial category. It is the physical features that one notices first about another individual when trying to determine that person’s racial identity,” as defined by Cindy Veronica Vargas in the study, “What Are You? A Study Of Racial Ambiguity.”
“Skin color, hair texture, facial features are racial markers that people utilize when trying to identify race,” continued Vargas.
Though we should not base someone’s physical traits in order to determine his or her racial background, we do it as part of our nature.
For example, we associate curly hair, full lips, and dark skin with Black people. Asians, on the other hand, are stereotyped as having slanted eyes, straight black hair, and “yellow” skin.
Some people might associate racial ambiguity with stereotyping; however, they are not entirely the same.
Stereotypes mainly concern thoughts and behavior; while racial ambiguity is solely associated with physical appearances.
Stereotypes usually come from the person classifying others, while being racially ambiguous is someone on the receiving end of the classification—a noun, an ownership.
There are mixed feelings and opinions in regards to those whom are racially ambiguous.
For the most part, most racially ambiguous people see their “differences” as an awesome thing.
Nora Turriago, a Colombian-Italian blogger, shared her experiences and opinions of being racially ambiguous in the article, “How To Know You Are Racially Ambiguous.”
In her blog, Turriago stated that she enjoys people guessing her ethnicity.
“The reason why it’s so fun? Because you’re racially ambiguous, that’s why! Based on the answers I’ve received from this guessing game, I now know that I can pass for Native American, Cambodian, Brazilian, Middle Eastern, African American…Oh, and white with a “nice tan.” Pretty cool, huh?” stated Turriago.
“The best part is that with all these various possible ethnicities, it’s a guaranteed fact that the racially ambiguous were destined for travel! We blend, people, it’s what we do, so please respect our craft,” continued Turriago.
Though Turriago makes part of the group who embraces being racially ambiguous, there are others who view it as a not-so-good thing.
“You get called exotic, but somehow it seems like racism or talking about animals in captivity than a compliment,” stated Muslim-Jewish writer, Naima Karp, in the article, “18 Struggles of Being Racially Ambiguous.”
While there are people who embrace being racially ambiguous and others who do not, there are others who are still debating how they feel about it.
They find themselves stuck between the “awesomeness” and the struggle behind the concept.
“I am Mexican-American, but I usually get asked if I am Middle Eastern. I love it. I think Middle Eastern women are beautiful,” said student Jiana Martinez.
“However, this one time in particular, a man at my job out of the blue asked me to ‘tell my people to stop terrorizing our country.’ It was the rudest, most weirdest thing I have ever encountered,” continued Martinez.
Breaking the mold and not fitting into any particular “physical stereotype” is something that should be embraced.
Those who ask, “What are you?” mean no harm. They are usually just curious.