My Daughter and I Look Like We're Different Races. Here's What Happens

by Carmen Rita Wong
Originally Published: 

So just as some morning strap-hangers pigeonhole me and my child before I’ve had enough coffee, allow me to construct a few sociological boxes of my own based on a non-scientific sampling of morning eyeballs:

The Tribal Nod

They come in all colors, but their eyes linger a beat too long and come back more than once. I may even get a “S’up” smize from them. My daughter and I probably reflect their reality at home. Or, they’re just a young thing without borders in life. After all, the younger you are the more likely you are to know someone or be someone of another race or mixed race. So, they’re just like, “Cool,” and I’m like, “Word.”

The Feel-Good Liberal Stare

I get the usually-gentrifying person-over-35 and I probably share a lot of their politics. But the lack of a smile on their face or that flash of a false “Oh, sorry!” grin means they get only a 70 percent “aiight” and 30 percent “enough already.” They probably don’t know people like us and we’re freaking them out a bit. This is the silent equivalent of the mom at one of my daughter’s previous “progressive” Brooklyn schools who couldn’t stop herself from repeating to me: “I just cannot believe that is your child!” Lady, don’t make me pray to Jesus. Consider this.

The WTF Smirk

Here’s where the not-so-pretty shows up. Usually an older rider, recent city resident or tourist stares briefly at me at initial loading, then laser-points their orbits at my daughter for the remainder of the ride. Their pupils track her ruddy cheeks as we go from standing to sitting between stops. The “dun-dun-duuun” really begins when they realize that I’m not her nanny. Here comes the glare, directed clearly at me. For some, I assume I’ve offended them by betraying my people and procreating with a “gringo.” Others are so confused, they just look annoyed at the whole situation. How dare I make their head spin at this hour, questioning their hard-formed racial constructs?

Now, how do I take in all this without also being guilty of rubbernecking? Well, just as any Mama Bear on the MTA will tell you, I’ve got eyes in the back of my head and a karate chop in my purse. And if you don’t fit in my buckets, maybe you just think we’re cute. In that case, thanks…and please learn some manners.

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