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Monday, June 29, 2009

So, What Are You?

Traditional Maori greeting called a hongi, or the breath of life, once this breath is shared you are now considered family for the duration of your visit.

I bet that most of you dread meeting new people. Perhaps you are shy, you don’t know how to answer the questions posed to you or perhaps it’s for reasons other then I have listed. I personally dread meeting new people for one specific reason, it’s “the dreaded question,” I detest being asked the most. This is how the conversation usually goes:

Stranger: Hi, how are you?
Me: I am doing good,How are you?
Stanger: I am good, thanks for asking..
Me: Thats good, so do you mind if I ask your name…
Stranger: Oh sure, I am (Generic-Name-Easy-To-Pronounce-Insert-Here) and you are?
Me: My name is Moana, pronounced Moe-On-A
Stranger: WOW, that’s different…
Me: (cringing cause “the dreaded question” is coming)
Stranger: You look kind of exotic, so what are you?
Me: (Hmm…I thought it was obvious I am a HUMAN) I am Maori American
Stranger: Moldy what, where is that??
Me: No Maori the indigenous people of New Zealand and American.
Stranger: Oh, so you’re American…
Me: Yes, but I am mixed race I am Maori American.
Stranger: Oh, so you were raised in New Zealand.
Me: I was mostly raised in America but I am mixed race I am also Maori
Stranger: But if you were raised in America how could you be Moldy or whatever?
Me: My mother is a full-blooded Maori and my father is Caucasian American so the blood that I inherited from each of them is therefore mixed so I am both.
Stranger: That’s to complicated, can I just call you American with a nice tan?

I hope that through this conversation you can see how strange and one sided we as human beings seem to be when we try to categorize people into neat and tidy little piles of all white, all black, all Mexican, etc. Especially when we are uncertain about where they are coming from, find it hard to pronounce their names or are unsure from what side of the planet they hail from. Its like we have sensory overload and our brains shut off and we go into information shock or something. I have seen many an intelligent person go into this catatonic state before and its not fun!

In the past fifty years or so there have been many interracial marriages of which I am a proud product. I illustrate this topic not to draw negative attention but rather to enlighten you to the fact that I am a product of BOTH my parents. When asked to claim one race and not another it feels to me as if I am being asked to choose my father over my mother or vice versa. Honestly could you do that? Why then would anyone ask me to make that choice? Besides I didn’t know that your blood changed based upon where you were raised. The genes I have are from BOTH sides of my ancestry despite where I was raised, so contrary to common belief your blood does not change according to where you live or are raised. I also assert that because of this blood I have inherited traits from both progenitors and I am confident in claiming both races as my unique heritage.

I propose that as a society that we must learn to incorporate new ideas about race and allow the person to choose for themselves and not for society to impose this choice upon them. I also hope that I can inspire those of you out there to find a nicer and more appropriate way of asking about someone’s ethnicity and not asking them, “So what are you?” We are all human beings belonging to the same big and colorful family for which I am personally grateful for!

That my friends is just my two cents worth...

4 comments:

The Kooky Queen--Rachel said...

I can see how that would be incredibly frustrating. What am I? A mutt. Loyal to many different cultures. Though sometimes I feel like maybe I'm the idiot posing as the "stranger" in your conversation because I truly am curious of that person's heritage and where they come from, haha! :) However, there are tactful ways of saying things and some people are incredibly IGNORANT of other cultures. You are definitely beautiful though! Totally exotic!

Joanna said...

I read this post and just laughed and laughed - I can definitely see that happening!! Of course what American has ever even heard of the Maori race - and some don't even know where NZ is!! My hubby is half Hispanic, half white American, and he refuses to pick one or the other either. And then there's my little blond haired blue eyed 4 year old....called Joaquin Martinez!! Imagine if we moved back to NZ and he had to deal with that name lol! Our 5 year old boy Coleman looks the complete opposite, dark hair, lt brown skin - much like you and your siblings, and my daughter, Sofia is another blonde/blue/white kid. Isn't it great that we create these kids with so much heritage?!!

Murdoch Clan said...

Moey! You are so funny and clever! ANd not just funny, but LOVE how passionate you are about things like that... very humorous because it's SO TRUE! And very straight forward and you made your point! Great to read, just found it and thought "How did I not read this post earlier?" Much love Sissy!

The Taylors said...

You would have laughed about 10 years ago when I was trying to ask a woman if she was Maori or Pacific Islander! I finally figured it out that she didn't even speak English, only Spanish...