Mixing It Up

Observations and ideas about race, ethnicity and mixing.

Black & White

Jasmine, a novel by Bharati Mukherjee, tells the story of an Indian woman’s journey to America and her experience becoming an American.  The protagonist, Jyoti (aka Jasmine, aka Jane) endures microaggressions and discovers the horrible truth of America as she realizes the country is not as welcoming as the brochures in India made it seem.  In a quote from the novel, Jasmine describes how she is physically characterized in America.  “They want to make me familiar.  In a pinch, they’ll admit that I might look a little different, that I’m a ‘dark-haired girl’ in a naturally blond county.  I have a ‘darkish complexion’ (in India, I’m ‘wheatish’)” (Mukherjee 33).  Reading this novel, and especially this quote, reminded me of the tendency Americans have to classify people by skin tone and the desire to see everyone as either black or white.  In India, Jasmine is seen as a lighter skinned woman, but in America they categorize her and label her “dark-skinned” and “different.”  This idea was also mentioned in class when we watched the film “An Island Divided,” where the narrator Professor Gates comments, “in America all these people would be black” while walking down a street in the Dominican Republic, even though most Dominicans identify with Spain rather than Africa.  It’s strange that in America we are told to “never judge a book by its cover,” yet people are still constantly classified by their physical appearances.


Mukherjee, Bharati. Jasmine. Virago Press, 2014.

Haiti & Dominican Republic. Dir. Ricardo Pollack. PBS, 2011. Kanopy. Web. 18 Feb. 2018.


  1. I like how you write about societal differences in categorizing by race. As a Chicana, I have had various reactions living in the United States and traveling to Mexico. It is a troubling situation when realizing that a person or society can change their perception of you due to location.

  2. This post on Jasmine reminded me of myself and the ambiguity of my skin tone color and how often people from all kinds of environments will try to classify me as being something that I am not. In Carlisle, for example, people ask me all the time where I am from, specifically what my ethnic origins are and often times they will think I am Mediterranean (Greek, Egyptian, Turkish, Italian and so forth) and other times they will think I am Spanish/Latina, which is the correct answer… sort of. However, when I am within in my own Hispanic community, the same thing happens because of my skin color and often times family friends/co-workers will not believe that my father (Nicaraguan, darker skinned individual) is my father because of the contrasting skin tones and hair texture. Even amongst my own Latino friends, I am considered on the lighter side and was even called a foreigner at my old job (in California), however I do not see this. My skin is constantly trying to be placed into a nationality, which bothers me sometimes, but other times it makes me feel proud because I get to talk about my culture and ethnicity which I am very proud of.

  3. In other countries that I have been in, nationalities are the main focus of identity but in the United States, nationality always get thrown out and you get put into a box quickly as either white or black, which is very troubling to me. There are more to people than how their skin color look like. Even I had caught myself when I saw a white looking person with blue eyes and assume that they are white but later meeting them and talking to them, I found out that they are actually Mexican with Mexican ancestry. We shouldn’t assume what people are based on their skin color.

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