The hilarious, awkward, and bizarre interactions ethnically ambiguous people have daily.

Kandis Mak is a successful Canadian actress working in Los Angeles. She's been on "Workaholics," "True Blood," and "Rush Hour" to name a few, but the questions she hears when she meets someone usually go something like this:

"So ... where is your mother from?"  

"Montreal."


"Oh, then where are you from?"

"Los Angeles."

"No, no, where are you from from?"

Photo via Kandis Mak, used with permission.

For ethnically ambiguous people, this "where are you from from" question is typically accompanied by a slight cock of the head and squint of the eyes as people try to understand what category to place them in.

If we must, how do we define "ethnically ambiguous"?

It's someone who looks like multiple races and cultures. They can have a slight darkness to their skin or maybe "non-traditional features" (historically defined by Europeans for the last 800 years).

130 million people in America are classified as non-white, and more than 9 million people consider themselves multiracial. That means close to half of the country can be classified as ethnically ambiguous or a melding of many cultures, races, and nationalities. National Geographic went so far as to say that within the next 40 years, everyone will look this way.

Yet despite the growing number of people defining themselves as ethnically ambiguous, individuals still face daily questions and uncomfortable conversations about their identity. Here are some of them:

1. "Do you speak a foreign language?"

"I've had multiple people just be very confused as to what my background is," says Raajik Shah, an Indian producer. "They'll come up and ask, 'Are you Indian? Are you French? Pakistani? Black?' I've gotten Mexican out here, I've gotten them all."

Photo via Raajik Shah, used with permission.

Even when someone correctly identifies Shah's Indian heritage, they often take it a step further and end up asking another silly question.

"The one that's the best is when they ask, hesitantly, 'Do you speak Indian?' Which is hilarious because ... that's not a language, and then I feel like I have to explain it in a way that won't be insulting," Shah says.

2. "How about those Arabic people, right?"

"Sometimes people will talk about my culture, not in the nicest way, without realizing I'm Arabic," says Jessica Sherif, who is of Arabic descent, which of course leads to some inevitable awkwardness when they do find out she is part of the same culture they're joking about or insulting.

Photo via Jessica Sherif, used with permission.

"People have a really hard time pinpointing me down," she explains. "It feels as if not knowing is some weird instability and the conversation can't keep moving forward."

3. "Why are you pretending you don't understand me?"

"When you're ethnically vague, people assume that you are what they are," says Gabrielle Kessler, whose family is from Colombia. "If you're talking to someone Dominican, they think you're Dominican; if you're talking to somebody Puerto Rican, they think you're Puerto Rican. If you're talking to someone Italian — I'm from the east coast — everybody automatically assumes that you're Italian."

Photo via Gabrielle Kessler, used with permission.

She's noticed people assume she's different races depending on where she is in America.

"When I moved out to California, I'd get Persian, all the time, people speaking Farsi to me, literally trying to convince me I'm Persian. And the Armenians would exclaim, 'Oh, you're so Armenian!' It's so confusing because some people want you to be like them and others need to identify you one way or another."

4. "But you don't look [insert culture/race here]."

Mak, Sherif, Kessler, and Shah are of Cantonese, Arabic, Colombian, and Indian descent respectively. On any given day, they are asked if they are French, Pakistani, Afghan, Mexican, African, Persian, Armenian, Korean, Hawaiian, Malaysian, Philippine, Japanese, Italian, Dominican, Brazilian, Spanish, Puerto-Rican, Chinese, Venezuelan, Moroccan, Lebanese, Egyptian, and many more. Daily.

The situation seems to be binary. Either you have been preselected by another minority group as one of their proud members or everyone else is desperately trying to get to the bottom of your DNA. Then when they do, sometimes they don't believe you.

So, is there a way to eliminate these kinds of interactions?

It's not always malicious intent that provokes these uncomfortable interactions of course, but they still happen.

The closer we get to just seeing people for what they have to offer, what they think, and what they say and not the molecular breakdown of their DNA, the better off we'll be as a human race. We'll be more united as a people rather than us being a people solely defined by our race — a historically massive obstacle to true unity.

"Once we realize that we're just a part of humanity and stop trying to classify we'll be in a better place ... though it will take a long time before we get there," says Mak.

Several years ago, you wouldn't have known what QAnon was unless you spent a lot of time reading through comments on Twitter or frequented internet chat rooms. Now, with prominent Q adherents making headlines for storming the U.S. Capitol and elements of the QAnon worldview spilling into mainstream politics, the conspiracy theory/doomsday cult has become a household topic of conversation.

Many of us have watched helplessly as friends and family members fall down the rabbit hole, spewing strange ideas about Democrats and celebrities being pedophiles who torture children while Donald Trump leads a behind-the-scenes roundup of these evil Deep State actors. Perfectly intelligent people can be susceptible to conspiracy theories, no matter how insane, which makes it all the more frustrating.

A person who was a true believer in QAnon mythology (which you can read more about here) recently participated in an "Ask Me Anything" thread on Reddit, and what they shared about their experiences was eye-opening. The writer's Reddit handle is "diceblue," but for simplicity's sake we'll call them "DB."

DB explained that they weren't new to conspiracy theories when QAnon came on the scene. "I had been DEEP into conspiracy for about 8 years," they wrote. "Had very recently been down the ufo paranormal rabbit hole so when Q really took off midterm for trump I 'did my research' and fell right into it."

DB says they were a true believer until a couple of years ago when they had an experience that snapped them out of it:

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Two weeks ago, we watched a pro-Trump mob storm the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to overthrow the results of a U.S. election and keep Donald Trump in power. And among those insurrectionists were well-known adherents of QAnon, nearly every image of the crowd shows people wearing Q gear or carrying Q flags, and some of the more frightening elements we saw tie directly into QAnon beliefs.

Since hints of it first started showing up in social media comments several years ago, I've been intrigued—and endlessly frustrated—by the phenomenon of QAnon. At first, it was just a few fringey whacko conspiracy theorists I could easily roll my eyes at and ignore, but as I started seeing elements of it show up more and more frequently from more and more people, alarm bells started ringing.

Holy crap, there are a lot of people who actually believe this stuff.

Eventually, it got personal. A QAnon adherent on Twitter kept commenting on my tweets, pushing bizarro Q ideas on many of my posts. The account didn't use a real name, but the profile was classic QAnon, complete with the #WWG1WGA. ("Where we go one, we go all"—a QAnon rallying cry.) I thought it might be a bot, so I blocked them. Later, I discovered that it was actually one of my own extended family members.

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