Why Saying I Look "Mixed" Isn't A Compliment

There’s one line that I’ve always found particularly interesting:"You’re so pretty. You look mixed."
Publish date:
March 20, 2013
rudeness, race, compliments, mixed race, faux pas

I was a bartender for six years. This basically means I spent over half a decade blocking corny pick up lines one double shot of Hennessy at a time. And then there’s the fact that I’ve had breasts since I was 11. So I say all this to say, like most women, I’ve been hit on a lot.

And I’m quite confident that from the mundane, to the crude, to the flat-out weird, I’ve heard it all. But there’s one line that I’ve always found particularly interesting: You’re so pretty. You look mixed.

But that’s just generally speaking . Usually “mixed” is specified by a race, ethnicity, or geographic location: “You look part Indian (Or Puerto Rican. Or Brazilian. Or Polynesian if the suitor is especially creative).”

Now, if I wasn’t so cynical, I might actually believe that these “observations” are a testament to my racial ambiguity; a characteristic of my face I have failed to observe despite possessing it for nearly thirty years.

But they’re not because there is nothing “mixed” about me. My mother is from Boston, and my daddy is from Jersey and they’re both as black as asphalt. (Well, not literally, but I you know what I’m saying). And me? I’m from West Philly which is about as exotic as a six-pack of Old English.

So if I’m not mixed and I don’t look mixed, what would be a man’s motivation for telling me so? Well, I have my suspicions. Personally, I think they think they’re giving me a compliment.

I can tell by the way they say it. “You look mixed.” It’s the same smarmy inflection with which they deliver such classics like, “Let me take you shopping”; as if they’ve successfully implemented the line that will render you completely unable to resist them and couldn’t be more impressed with themselves. Then they smirk, bask in victory, and wait patiently for the panties to melt right off your body.

But this assumption is not with bias. I’ve asked other Black women, of all shades, shapes, and sizes, if they’ve heard this line a time or two. This “you look exotic” phenomenon isn’t just a cluster of isolated incidents reserved only for yours truly. Apparently, this a thing now.

But what’s the big deal right? Why would I interpret being called exotic looking to be a bad thing? Multiracial women are stunning. Shouldn’t I be flattered?

In a word? No.

Because, yes, multiracial, biracial, Hispanic, and Asian women are in arguably gorgeous. But so are Black women. Regular old Black women just like Beyoncé, and Janet, and Tyra and innumerable other African-American women who, for generations, have been revered as the most beautiful in the world.

So do we really have to be “mixed” to be beautiful? Should another race, ethnicity, or nationality be a requirement for attractiveness?

I don’t think so. That’s why I don’t blush or give a coy giggle when I man tries to tell me I look something that I’m not.

Because when a man tells a Black woman that she looks mixed as a form of endearment, he’s insinuating that her beauty comes from the (allegedly) non Black part of her. All they’re effectively saying is: You’re too beautiful to just be Black.

Oh, but I am. I’m beautiful just like my beautiful Black mother, just like her mother and her mother’s mother. We’re generations of women born right here in the US of A, from North Carolina to Massachusetts by way of the motherland. Brown skin, nappy hair, cornbread and gravy gorgeous.

We aren’t beautiful in spite of our Blackness, we are beautiful because of it. So don’t dare try to give the credit to anything else.

Reprinted with permission from Clutch.