Biracial Identity: Beyond Black and White

The man in the next seat had been eyeing her furtively for a while, so Asst. Prof. Kerry Ann Rockquemore (Sociology) figured it was only a matter of time before the question came.

“What are you?”

There was neither malice nor menace in her fellow airplane passenger’s voice, but Rockquemore – recalling the event in a recent interview – knew what he was asking: He wanted to know her racial and ethnic background.

The daughter of a black father and white mother, Rockquemore was no stranger to questions and misperceptions about her appearance. That very day, one person had spoken Spanish to her, apparently thinking she was Latina, and a casual remark by the attendant at her flight check-in indicated that he took her for Italian.

“What are you?”

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