What Race Are You?
Nine o’clock pm, walking out of the Austin Convention Center, fumbling through the apps on my phone, I pull up Uber and request a pickup to take me back to my hotel. A red Toyota Corolla pulls up. Walter greets me hello. I step into the back seat. It’s dark, but it’s the quiet refuge the introvert in me craved for from the loud, musical night life of the conference known as South by SouthWest (SXSW.)
The small back and forth banter begins. I ask “ do you live in Austin” because most of my drivers have come in to the city to make extra cash this week. Many have been from San Antonio and one from Puerto Rico. He tells me he was born in the Philippines, but grew up in Hawaii.
“Where are you from?”
“I’m from Minnesota.”
Thinking this thought out, naturally.
But I realized now that he wasn’t satisfied by that answer.
So, he probes, “What race are you?”
“I’m the same race as you.” And I started to laugh. “I check the same box. Asian.”
He did a quick glance back at me, to reassess what does this lady in the back of my car really look like?
Race being a social construct, meant to divide us, put us into boxes. I’ve never been asked the question of my heritage as it is written on the demographics portion of a survey. And so I’ve never had an answer I’ve verbally expressed. Just checked the box.
“My parents are from India.” He seemed more content in knowing my heritage. Relaxed, we continued our drive down the long highway into the dark of the night back to my hotel.