The Dumbest Question You Can Ask Another Human Being

They seriously have the best answer.

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Woman 1: "Girl, you are so pretty. What are you?"

Woman 2: "What are you?" The quintessential question for any tan-
skinned girl with soft, kinky curls and a frizz that doesn't seem to quit, because answering "human" . . .

Woman 1: "Human."

Woman 2: . . . simply isn't enough for them. They can't handle my racially ambiguous figure.

Woman 1: They itch to know just what I am. It helps them sleep at night if they can just pin down the reason for my cream, bronze, burnt potato bread skin.

Woman 2: Bronze, khaki, burnt potato bread skin. So I answer politely, hiding my annoyance under my kind, pink smile, "Black and white."

Woman 1: "That's it?"

Woman 2: What do you mean, "That's it?"

Woman 1: "I'm sorry. I just thought you were Chinese and Mexican."

Woman 2: "Chinese and Mexican."

Woman 1: "Or Israeli or Egyptian."

Woman 2: "Israeli or Egyptian."

Woman 1: I'm Egyptian, but not in the way I've been portrayed. I'm not the seed of Cleopatra. I'm not the Nubian capturer. I do not worship the Sphinx, and I was too lazy to build the Great Pyramid. But I'm the golden glow of the sun on Alexandrian sand. My thoughts are hieroglyphics unwritten. I shine so brightly that even Ra shields his eyes from my brilliance. But that you will never know when you see me. You see the golden girl with kinky brown curls, and you think she must be Mexican.

Woman 2: She must be Mexican.

Woman 1: Is that what you see when you look at me? A puzzle to be figured out?

Woman 2: So you connect the dots with the freckles that I lack.

Woman 1: Subtract the possibility of an accent.

Woman 2: Calculate the sum of my eyes, nose, lips, and tongue.

Woman 1: Multiply by every curl on this nappy, nappy head, and what do you get? Ambiguous.

Woman 2: Ambiguous. I apologize that my race isn't visible to your eyes. But last time I checked, it wasn't any of your damn business.

Woman 1: Mind your damn business.

Woman 2: Then there's the next question that they ask, even more uncomfortable than the last.

Woman 1: "So if you're black and white, which side do you identify with?"

Woman 2: I didn't realize I had to choose sides of myself. Why do I have to choose a race? The halfway through my body isn't a demilitarized zone. I am not warring countries. My parents were not warlords fighting for control of my identification. But the hood girls always ask.

Woman 1: "Then why do you talk so white?"

Woman 2: I didn't realize I was supposed to be fluent in two languages - English and yo we about to get that [shh] walking yolo.

Woman 1: Yo we about to get that [shh] walking yolo.

Woman 2: I don't equate being half black with being half ghetto. But if sounding like a white kid means that I can sound like I have stepped foot in a school, call me a pasty assed mixed kid. Then they still have the nerve to ask, "So what are you?"

Woman 1: "So what are you?" I'm not an alien whose origins are to be probed, traced back to tribal Martian hoards who conquered red desert sands and gaseous Martian skies. I am a human being.

Woman 2: I am a human being.

Woman 1: Two ears, two eyes, and a heart that beats in time. Not a show dog whose pedigree is to be determined before buying. You don't need to know my genes. I wear them just fine. I've got pockets full of culture that you'll never need to see. And if you really want to know, watch "The Mummy," because that seems to be where you get all of your information on my people.

Woman 2: So do me a favor and stop assuming.

Woman 1: Stop assuming. Because I'm more than my race.

Woman 2: I am more than my color.

Woman 1: And the next time you feel tempted to ask, don't.

Woman 2: Don't. Or at least have the courtesy not to stare at me like I'm some beast and ask, "What are you?"

Woman 1: "What are you?"

There may be small errors in this transcript.

CNN posted this piece on its YouTube page. Becca Khalil and Nayo Jones were part of a series by CNN called "Who Is Black in America."

Feb 12, 2014

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