Absolutely fascinating piece on Racialicious. The author reflects on nonwhites who spend a lot of time trying to pick out nonwhite heritage in people who identify as white. It's natural and automatic (and problematic), and almost like a sporting event. You can look at someone and just be certain that they're part black/hispanic/asian/whatever. The author, Nadra Kareem:
I know I do it. Do you? And more importantly, why? What do we stand to gain by pointing out a presumed white person is really one of our tribe? There's a certain sense of satisfaction, of ... knowingness, maybe.
My then soon-to-be boyfriend laughed hysterically throughout the reading. He’s not Native American—not by more than a drop, anyway—but he is often assumed to be “other.” In fact, at the reading even I assumed that he was half-something, and the mostly Latino and black students he teaches routinely ask him the question that makes mixed folks worldwide cringe: “What are you?”
The answer he gives is one they don’t expect. “I’m white,” he says.
“You’re not white! You’re not white!” they protest in disbelief. And they are not alone. Both strangers and acquaintances alike take it for granted that my boyfriend is a person of color. When the teachers at the school take count of their few white colleagues, my boyfriend is oft-overlooked. His dark-brown hair, beige-pink skin, prominent nose and lush lips take him out of the running. “You can pass,” one of his coworkers tells him. Only, in his case, she means pass for non-white.