My dad said they tried to rub that black off him. They were my mother's cousins who'd never seen a black man up close before. They grabbed his forearms and rubbed with their pink fingers because, they said, he had dirt all over him. He was dirty.
Today, people don't do that. Instead, they try to cake the dirt on. Not literally, but with their Scantrons and employee applications, with their black and white and yellow and red. They want to sort you away. They'll want you to speak black because you're not white. Oh no. Even though you grew up in the white suburbs and speak "proper" English, you're not white. You can't be with that hair and that nose.
But the blacks don't like the caked on look, the fake look. They're ready to dump the water on you and wash away that dirt, that fake black mask. You didn't come from the hood, you don't speak their ghetto nonsense. You can't say "nigga" and not be offensive.
So when they can't figure it out, they'll stare. They being everyone who has ever asked, who has even wondered this question. They being everyone that sees in color. They will stare until they pull together the courage to ask, "What are you?"
As if being mixed is some other species, some wild experiment turned loose. And never say "American" cause that will never be enough.
I wish I had the black to rub off of me.