Mixed South Asians are Tired of Hearing “What Are You?”

Mixed-race Asians are increasingly common, but will South Asians ever accept multiracial people as their own?

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Naomi Scott as Princess Jasmine ("Aladdin" 2019)

Naya Jorgensen


August 2, 2023

In April, an uncle came to visit me in Paris, where I was attending a study abroad program. When he asked how long it had been since I’d visited India, I realized the answer was almost a decade, but he brushed me off when I expressed regret: “Well, you’re not really Indian, right?” It was less of a slap in the face and more a prod at a fading bruise. Growing up in Singapore with a Gujarati mother and an American father, this is a variation on a theme I’ve been hearing my whole life. As mixed-race people become increasingly common not just in the U.S. but globally, South Asians of mixed backgrounds reported that they still face regressive commentary. They fear that, no matter the mother tongues or South Asian hobbies (from tabla to classical dance) they master, they will never be South Asian enough.

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