“What Are You?”

Raised in an area that was 91.09% white as a multi-racial female where I was represented by less than 3% of the population– was tough. An oddity because of my skin color and eye shape, I was (and still am) often asked: “What are you?”– a minority in both my home countries, not “Asian enough” to be Asian and not “White enough” to be white. I faced slurs, and racist nicknames, and was fetishized as exotic from a very young age.

I am certainly not the only human who has been asked such questions. And this is why it is time for individuals, organizations, and communities to begin asking the tough questions.


Tough Conversations for Multi-Cultural, Multi-Ethnic, and Multi-Racial Individuals and Groups


  1. Have you felt that you are different from other children?
  2. Have you been treated differently by other children or teachers?
  3. Have you discussed your race and ethnicity, and where you are from, with your parents?

School life (up to high school) 

  1. Have you felt that nobody understands you, that you are different, an outsider who doesn’t fit in with any of your ethnic or racial groups?
  2. Have your friends asked you about your race because of your appearance or any accent?
  3. Have you been feeling differently about your mixed heritage as you grow up? If so, can you recall pivotal moments?

University life

  1. Do you feel uncomfortable when total strangers ask questions that they wouldn’t ask if you were not multi-racial?
  2. What micro-aggressions or stereotypes have you experienced, and what did you do about them?
  3. Do you feel that you are proud of who you are, and have no reason to “fit in” with local racial norms or appearances in predominately white areas?

Questions like these are important in an organizational setting to gather new perspectives, understand and hold empathy for the experiences of others, and create a safe space of trust, belonging, and inclusion.

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