But I am all of the above. Here is where I should mention some of my ancestors are English and German, which goes a long way in explaining my light brown hair, dark blue eyes, freckles, pale skin and... Back up. I've seen makeup specialists at Clinique and Origins counters reduced to muttering stressballs when they figured out I didn't have the hue of your typical English Rose after none of those lovely porcelain-ish foundations worked on my mug. Maybe there is something to the old ad tagline about only your stylist knowing for sure.
I should also mention I have one of those faces, or something. Complete strangers seem to feel comfortable setting themselves down to tell me their life stories or share their theories about everything. This isn't a complaint. People are interesting and sometimes those strangers are just friends I haven't met yet. Then there are instances when someone is talking and I'm thinking, "No, don't go there. Oh, please don't...You went there."
This is relevant because we've reached one of those nadir points in our history where things are getting rough and as a people we start to act detached from our baseline of cultural values. This is when loud, hateful, and stupid becomes an identifiable subset of talkers. Unfortunately, when all of the above happens, people get scared and sheep-like and they start listening to the frantic, hard breathing dealers of fear and loathing. The inevitable next thing is always talk about the danger of getting too complacent about Scary Brown People.
Looking like the cowboy side of your typical Western movie means most people who don't know me very well don't know that I come from a long line of brown people. You may call them scary. I call them Dad and Great Grandma, and so on. The scariest brown person I've encountered was my dad when he played his role as the Long Brown Arm of Justice, sweeping the back seat of discord whenever the "Stop touching me! Daaaaad! Moooom!" arguments got out of hand. And you, or...of course it's not you. It's some strange person with a different sense of boundaries. Let's go with that. That strange person sometimes feels okay with saying words like "Camel Jockey" and "Sand Nigger" and "Raghead" and "Towelhead" and "Kike" and "Wetback" and "Monkey" and- Do I really need to go on?
I'll tell them I'm not okay with those words. Sometimes they'll protest that I'm white because I look white and it doesn't apply to me so it shouldn't matter. Even if I was so European I could out-white David Duke it would matter and I would not be okay with it. What's funny is some people will still insist that my appearance is argument enough for me to be okay to, I don't know, still be white or pass as white or something. And I'll explain to them that my father's people are Mizrahi Jews from Palestine and Sephardim from Greece who migrated to Central America where they became rabbis and cantors and Kosher butchers and at least one mohel. He may or may not have been a butcher as well. When I'm feeling silly, I assume he was and refer to him as Dick Carver. (I will apologize, but only in the interest of keeping peace.) Sometimes I get around to telling them about intermarriage with the New World people and the Cherokee relatives on the Tennessee side of my family tree, but it rarely gets that far. I have yet to explain that the Mizrahi branch of my family left Palestine because they didn't trust Whitey.
So how do people usually usually respond? Quite a few people apologize. Some will say something like, "I don't mind foreigners as long as they work" or something like that, realize they have both feet so far past their glottis they need to go somewhere to cough up their shoes so they can legally drive home. Others can. not. get. past. my appearance and insist I'm 100% Southern. (Actually, I'm one of 12 remaining native Nashvillians. Shhh! I've heard Megan Barry wants to round us up and put us in a preserve in Percy Warner Park.)
My all time favorite response was from a rather bellicose man who wandered into Cafe Coco one day, looked around the empty back room, decided the woman minding her own business typing happily on her computer was dying for company, sat down and started complaining about the Ay-rab doctor who took his vitals. I told him my life and hearing had been saved by a Muslim doctor from the Philippines when I was four. It didn't register. He started to rant about immigrants. I told him I was first generation American. He asked where my people were from. In the interest in boring him away, I gave him the short form and told him one side migrated to the U.S. from Panama.
He paused and squinted.
"Panama?" He squinted at me even harder.
"Yeah. I see it now. Panama. Well. I don't have anything against you Canadians."