Get Gorgeous/ Personal Best
Kristin Booker • September 25, 2012

Daily Reflection: A Commentary on My Article About Racial Background for xoJane

These are my paternal grandparents, who I know are somewhere in Heaven, positively OVER further questions about what I look like.

As some of you may know, I’m grateful to write for a multitude of sites, not the least of which is xoJane. If you’re not into this community of extreme female honesty, I would encourage a look. There are A LOT of articles on there, written in a witty, sometimes-harsh-but-always-very-real tone and there’s always something on there that will make you think. If you’re familiar with my EIC Jane Pratt’s former stints at Sassy and then her own title mag, Jane, you’ll understand exactly what I mean.

I always find that writing helps me surface some personal issues and there are two outlets for me to express these viewpoints to the world: one is FSB and the other is xoJane. Just yesterday, my editors published an article that I wrote, entitled “Why My Racial Background Is None of Your Business.” You can read the article and, if you so desire, any of the 195 and counting comments that appear below. I guess the article struck such a nerve that The Root was kind enough to pick it up, which sparked more comments and my first round of hate mail, which I received this morning.

No, seriously, I received an email from a woman who thought the stock image used on The Root  – a gorgeous model with sandy-brown curly hair and green eyes – was me and she took me to task because I OBVIOUSLY look mixed and that I should shut up and enjoy the attention. I would encourage said individual to understand two things. One, that stock image is not me because The Root doesn’t have the right to use my image without my permission, and two, telling me to shut up and deal with it is exactly the wrong way to handle the situation. Whatever issues that woman  – and the writers of the other rather hateful emails I received this morning – are dealing with, I wish them the best with healing those wounds. Because that’s exactly what they are.

These are my maternal grandparents. My grandfather is gone, but I know he would be a bit over the discussion about my racial identity. I know my grandmother, who is still alive, is.

I also received a lot of comments from “friends” on my Facebook page who basically told me that I’m overreacting, that I should be flattered to get this inquisition every single day, that I should be responsible for educating the world on what my racial background really is and that if I weren’t attractive, no one would ask. Thank you for that…compliment?

As I understand the world is a rather complex place and that the wounds of race are still intensely sensitive in our country, I knew that writing this article might strike more than a few nerves, but I never dreamed that it would put a face on the issue of racial inquisition, namely my own. We live in a society now that desires to start fights over the internet, our wounds and daily frustrations “solved” by firmly placing the issues we deal with all the time on someone else who has made themselves readily available and then just firing away until we feel better again. This is why I love and sometimes really dislike the medium in which I work.

But in regards to the mean-spirited emails I’ve received and the Facebook comments telling me to get over it, I’ll just say this: I respect your opinion, so kindly respect mine. I’ve stated my course of action and how I plan to deal with the situation. If you have something constructive to add to the discourse, I’m excited to speak with you. If you have nothing positive to add to the discussion or you’re just going to tell me to deal with it, I don’t have any interest in anything you have to say.

I wrote the article because I had hoped that others who have the same issues wouldn’t feel alone,that the ever-blending population that is our society would know that it’s okay to give whatever answer you want to give and not feel the need to answer further urgent, probing questions from total strangers. You can look the way you look and be exactly who you are without feeling the need to explain yourself. We are who we are, I am who I am, you are who you are and that’s really all there is to it.

I have finally healed the wounds of grappling with the question of my identity after decade upon decade of feeling I need to explain my existence. We all have the right to be exactly who we are, no further questions need to be asked.

As I said before, the question portion of the program is now over. The woman who identifies herself as Black is now stepping off the podium. No further questions, please.

 

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One Response to Daily Reflection: A Commentary on My Article About Racial Background for xoJane

  1. Beige says:

    I would like to add asking ethnicity out-of-the-blue is like approaching a woman asking “ARe those boobs real or fake. My friends are have mixed opinions. Either way they are beautiful. Personally I think they are real.” She kindly answers “They are fake.” The asker than says “NO way. They look so real.” Then the asker walks away without getting to know the woman.

    Another scenario. Someone asks “What is your sexual orientation.” Woman answers “Bisexual.” Okay so bisexual woman is very butch looking so the other person tells others the bisexual woman is lesbian solely because she looks more butch than fem. This is like being introduced to a half Japanese and half German woman and telling everyone she is Japanese or Asian. The bisexual woman likes men too. The Japanese-German mix is also German.

    Similar concepts but of course ambiguous people “need to get a grip.” It’s their “job” to “educate” and have “tact.” The sad thing is people with Phds are asking the ethnicity or racial questions. People who have sex with various races feel they “can tell the differences.”

    Approaching learn ethnicity is usually based on a curiousity of why the nose looks a certain way, they eyes, hair etc. Let’s not kid ourselves, how often does the conversation lead to learning other customs, politics, ways of life, or an exchange of recipes. The topic usually ends at the disclosure of the ethnic background.

    Furthermore the “answer” is often not enough. The asker says “but you don’t look it. I thought you were *insert*, are you sure?, why don’t you do those DNA kits, I bet you’ll find out you are what I think you are.

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