Sunday, July 31, 2011
"My French accent has always been source of questions in Miami. Despite my 11 years of residency in the so called "melting pot" city, I have never spent one day in Miami without answering the "where are you from' question. It became my daily routine but as the years passed by I also realized that another question has been thrown at me even before I started talking.
'What are you?', or 'what is your ethnic background?' has become the new rite of passage for any social event I am attending. At the beginning, I was amused by the question as I felt empowered by a mission to educate people on mixed offspring, but the usual reaction I get when I explain that my father is French "from France, and not Haiti", and that "my mother is black from Guadeloupe, a French island in the Caribbean" is what started to really aggravate me.
Mixed children are born with no real same combination of genes and features. I have three sisters and we all display different skin tones, body type and facial features. United Colors of Benetton could have hired us for their international billboards ads. I would have been the light skin woman with kinky hair and a muscular body and prominent behind!
Everyone asked me the question, blacks, white, and Latinos among others, but there is a difference between white people and black people asking the question. The first group will have that surprised look as I announce the "French" part of my heritage, then a high pitch "really?" usually escapes their mouth as they start a cross examination with questions such as "not Haiti? Or a Brazilian background? Are you sure?"
The need to discern where the black features on my face or body come from is always stronger than just accepting my answer. I guess every French person should come dress with a beret and a baguette at hand while singing "La vie en rose" and having Pepé le Pew on a leash.
This is exactly what bothers me when the question comes from a white person. Most of the time, they look disappointed when I explain that I am a mixed child born from a black woman and a white man, as they were expecting a more exotic and interesting explanation.
When I usually return the favor, they often look surprised and simply answer " I'm from here" or "I'm from New York." I have yet encountered someone who would explain "My mother's family came from Poland, and my father's side fled England for a better life in the State, and that is why I am white with green eyes!" So if they don't feel obligated to give me their geological tree story when I ask them, why should I?" [Article]
I think I see where you are coming from Jessy, but I never get questions about my Maroon and Jamaican heritage when people meet me, (except if I break out into deep patois) so I can't really relate.