How To Tell You're Biracial

If there was a lively debate on infant ear piercing when you were little, you're probably biracial.

By Alida Nugent

I’m biracial, which is something I think about a lot. Most of the time, it’s serious stuff: I don’t always know where I fit into the world, I struggle a little with my identity and where it lies, and I feel guilty at times with how I present it all to the world. I’m white, but not really, I’m Puerto Rican, but not all of me, and I don’t always feel 100% anything. How serious! Other times, it’s super funny to me. Watching my dad go to Puerto Rico and get called “lobster man” by my own family members is hilarious. Having my mother flinch when she sees tuna melts, a food she never knew about until she met my father, is also hilarious. Being biracial is odd to others, but feels normal and funny and all that I know. If you’re biracial, or multiracial, or a Heinz 57 mix (as my dad calls me), then you probably know what I’m talking about. There’s lots of common threads in our experience, although everybody has their own unique stories. Here’s how to tell if you’re biracial, in case you didn’t already know:

1. . Take A Look At What You Eat

When I go home to visit my parents, they ask me to bring two things back from New York: bagels and plantains. I always find this hilarious. My dad loves to eat plain bagels with American Cheese, which is actually the whitest thing I’ve ever typed, and my mom wants the plantains as the basis for a bunch of authentic Caribbean dishes. They both grew up in New York, and as we all know, the bagels are the best here. Apparently, you also can’t get plantains in the suburbs as good as you can in the bodegas of Brooklyn. Who would have thought? Anyway, she turns the fruit into delicious fried tostones, which I grew up eating, probably right before she makes something totally different to go with it, like chicken parm. There’s rice and beans at our holiday table. It’s this mix that reminds me of where I come from—my own pantry has achiote powder and Goya sofrito, as well as my father’s favorite condiment of all time. Did you guess ketchup? Nope! It’s mayo!

2. . Try To Find The Right Beauty Products

I have a light/medium skin tone that is borderline yellow. In the summer, it goes at least 4 shades darker whenever I step out into the sun. But my nose and shoulders will burn. With all this in mind, I need approximately 12 foundations on hand to make this work. If you saw the inside of my makeup kit, you would think I was a makeup artist. Nope! I just change my skin color like a yellowish chameleon, and a lot of foundations make me look like I have jaundice! As for my hair, it’s curly like my mom’s, but not coarse like hers. It’s a little finer, like my dad’s. So every curl product weighs my hair down. My mom has almost no advice because she’s used to her thick hair that needs the prayers of all the Gods to calm down, so most of the time I just had a big puffball on my head. Now I can mostly manage it, but it’s still a battle. I suggest a line of biracial beauty products I will call Middle Ground.

3. . Note When You Got Your Ear Pierced

My mom got her ears pierced, I think, when she was a zygote. You get that ish done early. When I popped out in the 80’s, my grandma basically had the needle ready in the hospital. She pierced all the girls in our family, and she didn’t see why I would be the exception. I would be. Turns out my dad wasn’t so keen on having his mother-and-law sit his infant daughter on my mom’s lap and stab her just so she could wear tiny gold crosses on her ears. My mom eventually decided not to pierce them because he was so horrified, and guess what? I wish she let me. I spent most of my teen years by the Piercing Pagoda, crying every time the ear gun got near me while my brother slammed his head into the wall. I wish I was pierced when I wasn’t sentient enough to know that it would hurt! If there was a lively debate on infant ear piercing when you were younger, you’re probably biracial.

4. . See If People Squint When They Talk To You

When I meet new people, I know a few things will happen: I’ll say my name, we’ll engage in some small talk, and I’ll watch their inner battle unfold as they try to decipher my ethnic background. All of a sudden, I’ll watch their eyes dart around at my features. I have light-ish skin. My arms are super hairy and my eyebrows thick. My lips are small. Then they’ll start to repeat my name. Your name, they’ll say. Is that…..and then they’ll trail off, hoping I’ll produce some kind of family tree from Then, they’ll start to play detective by asking vague questions that may reveal the answer. It’s like 20 Questions: Race Edition. Would Donald Trump want to kick you out of the country? Do you like chickpeas or black beans? When do you celebrate Easter? If you get interrogated about your possible ethnicity or race, then you might be biracial. And anybody non-white will identify with the aftermath of the eventual reveal, which always leads to some idiot at the party calling you exotic! I take a shot every time I hear that word! Ban that word!

5. . Feel Conflicted Often

This is a big one! Whenever people start talking about race, I want to chime in, and then sometimes I don’t! I don’t want to take over the conversation about race from someone who feels the negative effects more than I do. Whenever people make a joke about white people hating spice, I laugh because it’s hilarious, but then I think “am I supposed to laugh at this? Isn’t everyone just thinking how I’m white?” I always feel a little uncomfortable. I always feel a little conflicted. When is it cool for me to talk about my experience? Is my experience a valid one? Obviously, it’s a real one that exists, but in the current social climate, is it a helpful voice in conversations of race? Of course it is! Not always! I try to remember that speaking about my own experiences is not automatically talking over someone else’s, but it’s a hard line to learn. I’m just biracial. I eat American Cheese and salsa dance and I try to find out when to talk about it! The answer: when you want to share your experience, and always, always, when people are squinting at you at parties.

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