Thursday, September 29, 2011

What is he?

So, I was sitting at the park holding the handsome little man you see here.  Lexi was off playing with some friends.  I was singing Jayvan some little songs (his favorite is Head, Shoulders, Knees & Toes), when a woman walks up to me and says, "What is he?"

This took me by surprise and I didn't even have time to respond before she clarified, "What is he? Obviously half White and half . . . ?"

I looked up at her and answered, "Black."

She then went into a whole spiel about how she "knew it" but his hair threw her off because it looks like Mexican or Indian hair, but his nose looks Black, so she "knew it."

Then, Lexi ran up to us, and (as she often does) kissed Jayvan's cheeks and exclaimed, "I love my baby brother."

The woman looked a bit confused, so I'm sure her mind was going a mile-a-minute placing together some scenario where I was with two different men and now had two children of different races, but I was wearing a wedding ring, so I must be married to a Black man now.  I chose not to engage in conversation with her and she moved on, chasing after her own two boys.

I tried to let it go, but this conversations bothered me.  If she had approached me and asked what his ethnicity/race is, then I don't think it would have bothered me in the least.  I've been asked this question many times before. I am proud of my son's heritage, and (even though it is a bit intrusive) I have no problem telling people that he is half Caucasian and half Black.  He is.  However, I was asked "What is he?"  He is so many things:

  • My son (and Matt's son of course)
  • A beautiful child of God
  • Lexi's brother
  • B & R's birthson
  • K & L's birth brother
  • A baby
  • A boy
  • A person
  • A human being
  • A grandson, nephew, cousin, great grandson, etc.
  • An amazing blessing to us all

What is he?  Please, for the love of all things, never ask someone, "What is he?"  Would you walk up to an adult and ask, "What are you?"  Well, maybe this particular woman would. Who knows.

When we met Matt for dinner I told him about the encounter, and he said I should have just replied, "A baby" to the first question and stared at her blankly.  I really don't want to be rude to people, yet she was rude in asking the question in the first place.

As we prepared for the adoption process I read a lot and realized that by adopting a child outside of our race, we in a sense would have to become adoption advocates as well as advocates for our child.  So I thought to myself, if I hadn't answered this question with "Black" am I somehow showing my son that I am not proud of who he is?  Of course, he is obviously too young to understand that at 2.5 months old, but it is quite possible that we will have questions like this when he is older.  He may have to field these questions himself, so I need to set a strong foundation for him.

I discussed this situation with some friends (both on-line and in real life), and the suggestions for responses varied greatly.  Some of the suggested responses to "What is he?" are:
  • Why do you ask?
  • That's in inappropriate question? Are you always so rude?
  • Martian
  • My son
  • Human. What are you?
  • What are you? Part rude, part what?
  • A baby
  • How is that any of your business?
  • That is private.
  • I really don't know.  That was one crazy night. Ha!
  • We don't really know.  We were really surprised when he was born.  It must run on my husband's side of the family.
  • Why do you ask? Are you taking a census?
  • It's a secret family recipe.
  • He is a beautiful child of God, just like you.
Obviously those responses run the gambit of  meeting rude with rude, funny, honest, aloof, etc.  I'm still not entirely sure how I will respond if we get the question again.  I imagine it will depend a lot on my mood at the time.  For now, I will go on enjoying and loving my son for everything that HE IS.


  1. You forgot one answer: "A tax writeoff"

  2. Amanda, you are way too nice. I probably would have ran that lady out of there (with her feeling quite embarrassed). ::hugs::

  3. I think I would have answered just like you did, and then wish I had said something more witty later on. :) You did great. There are so many dim-witted people out there who don't know how strike up conversations without being so intrusive. You handled it very maturely. Good for you. :) And you forgot one. He is... a cutie pie. My professional opinion, of course.

  4. Sigh... Such ignorance... HUGS!