It happened when I was spending some free time at the public library. It’s always a great place to avoid drama, since no one else my age would be caught dead in there. In a mood for some lighter reads, I was browsing the graphic novel section when a motherly-looking, middle-aged woman came up to me with a perplexed look. She was quizzically holding up on of the Japanese graphic novels that are bound on the right side. “Um, hi, miss,” she faltered. “Do you know why these books are backwards?”
“Oh, that’s called a manga,” I replied. “They’re like that because Japanese is written right-to-left.”
“Ah, they’re Japanese,” she said as if in revelation, then looked back at me. One sweeping glance took in my mismatched facial features, a hodgepodge set she was apparently unfamiliar with. “So what nationality are you?”
Silence. I tried to fill it with charming stutters while the pleasant woman looked questioningly on. What was I supposed to tell her? Did this lady want an hour-long anthropology lecture? I glanced back at her face, where the wide suburban smile was beginning to turn down at the corners. She just wants a straight answer so that she can ditch this futile conversation. “I’m a mix,” I finally said.
The lady made some polite sounds and excused herself, leaving me to ponder that answer. My dad is white and my mom is Filipino. That is the short answer. Nothing too uncommon. But I could also say that my mom has roots in the Spanish conquistadors and the native people of the Philippine mountains, that my dad is pretty much a Mayflower descendant but has some Irish, Scottish, and even Viking blood. There’s a lot more I could say, too. My mom came here in her early twenties with hopes almost as high as those my dad’s ancestors came here with so long ago. To give that woman a true description of my “nationality,” wouldn’t I have to tell her about my entire family history?
I looked around the library for other “nationalities.” That lady over there looks kind of Irish, but she definitely is part Italian. That little boy has a Russian father and a Vietnamese mother. That man is part Puerto-Rican and part Haitian.
Then I realized. They’re all “mix”. And all pure. Pure human being. I felt connectedness with mankind surging through me. I believe that’s what links us all. It doesn’t matter what we call ourselves – black, white, “mix,” – we’re all people. Next time someone asks me for my “nationality,” I will smile and say,
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