Opinion: Asking someone’s race is simple


Anika Marino

While “coloring outside the lines,” people often tell Nisha: “You’re Mexican,” “You’re Native American,” and “I’m confused.”

Nisha Marino, Highlander Editor-in-Chief

As the U.S. grows, so does its diversity.

Interracial marriage became legal in all 50 states in 1967, but mixed-race kids have been running around for longer than that. I’m 16 years old, and shockingly enough, I have been half-white and half-Indian my entire life.

As I’ve grown up, I’ve come to enjoy a game that nearly everyone who meets me without knowing my parents likes to play. I call it “coloring outside the lines.”

Sounds fun, right? I’ll tell you the rules, and then you can go out and play it on your own.

The premise of the game is simple: it is impossible to determine my racial background without already knowing it. You can play this with any ethnically ambiguous person you meet, and I can guarantee they’ll enjoy it.

The first step is to dig inside your brain for someone you’ve seen that looks like they’re the same color as the subject. This step usually doesn’t take too long, especially with the increase in diversity in movies and television.

But step two is even simpler: you just have to remember what race that familiar person is. When people play this game with me, the person that usually comes to mind is Mexican. Once you remember their race, you’ve reached the fun part.

Step three is all about the wording — this is when you get to vocalize your guess. You don’t want to offend anyone, of course, so this step takes practice and precision. You can repeat after me if you’re new: “You’re Mexican, right?”

And that’s the game! But, you might ask, what if you made the wrong guess? Well, this has happened to many people when they try to color outside the lines with me. And really, the answer to your question is even more straightforward than the game itself. You don’t want to look like an idiot and be wrong twice, so now you have to ask a broader question.

“Then what are you?”

These four words are so much clearer than any others you could possibly use. I promise, you never want to ask someone, “What ethnicity are you?” or “What’s your racial background?”

Asking a respectful, open-ended question is far more awkward for the person on the receiving end. Play it safe!