TheGrio Daily

Frequently asked white questions: What race are you?

Episode 105

“White ain’t a culture, it’s just the leftovers from everybody else.” When identifying your race, ethnicity and nationality, things can get confusing. Michael Harriot admits even he has questions. As he answers a viewer who asked “what race are you?” he dives into the fact that all these categories are really just made up by white people.


[00:00:00] You are now listening to theGrio’s Black Podcast Network. Black Culture Amplified. 

Michael Harriot [00:00:05] Hello and welcome to theGrio Daily. I want to begin today’s episode by asking a question What race are you? That seems like a simple question, right? Are you white?  Are you Black? Are you  Hispanic? Or you, see there’s so many places we can go. And that’s why I want to welcome you to theGrio Daily, the only podcast that’ll explain what race actually is. 

Michael Harriot [00:00:42] Sometimes it’s confusion about race, the difference between race, ethnicity, nationality. And I want to explain that to you today. And that’s what we’re going to talk about today on today’s episode. So the answer to all of those questions is that race is different from ethnicity, right? And ethnicity is different from nationality. All of those things have similarities, but they mean just like you can be a Black Hispanic or you can be Asian and Mexican. One is ethnicity, one is a nationality. But the thing that they all have in common is that somebody made them up. There is no real answer to this question. Right. Because race is something that people made up. And I know that some people have heard a million times that race is a social construct. I believe that race is an economic construct. It’s built out of scarcity. 

Michael Harriot [00:02:02] But in reality, race, ethnicity and nationality or just constructs, let’s leave it at that. Constructs that we have to accept. So let’s start with race. So race is the most made up social construct, right? You know, we kind of know Black people, white people and then, you know, there’s a few other ones, right? Some people put American Indian or Native American or under the term race or Welsh, while some people put it on the term ethnicity. Some people put Asian as a race. Right. But what if you, for instance, are from a Asian country but your ancestors immigrated there, you know, a thousand years ago and they immigrated from Africa. Like, are you Asian or are you African? Or are you, now that if you moved to America, are you an African American? How long does it take to become an African American? Right. So if a person from Africa moves to America. Do they become an African American when they gain their citizenship? And does African-American equal Black? Scarlett Johansson, I think that’s the white girl. Or maybe it’s like getting the white girls mixed up, one of them white girls was born and raised in South Africa. Elon Musk, too. He was born and raised in South Africa, was the dude who used to close to the New Jersey Nets. He was born and raised in South Africa and then they moved to America. So are they African-Americans? Like we know they are not Black. So is Black the race and not African American? Is African-American an ethnicity? And when we get to ethnicities like how are some Hispanic people Black and some Hispanic people white, but no white people get to be Black or African-American or Hispanic? Like, for instance, how are Haitians Black? But people on the other side of a literal tiny island, Hispanic from the Dominican Republic? 

Michael Harriot [00:04:40] Now, you may say, well, Hispanic kind of is closely tied to people who speak Spanish. Then are Brazilians, not Hispanic? But, you know, we know a lot of Brazilians are Black, but they’re not necessarily African Americans and they’re not Native Americans. Or, for instance, let’s let’s go to Native American, like Native American people from Texas, whose ancestors lived in Texas for 1000 years they’re Native American, right? But what if they were across the Rio Grande from the same group people and we just arbitrarily drew that line and called it Mexico. Does that make them Mexican? So what’s the difference between a Mexican and a Native American? Because like, it’s if people from Egypt and people from Uganda and people from Sudan are all the same race because they came from the same continent, then how are Mexicans, Hispanics, and American Native Americans considered Indians or Native American? How are Eskimo or Alaskan Inuits a different race than American Native Americans or what we call Mexicans? 

Michael Harriot [00:06:14] Like, I can’t figure it out unless we all agree that like this, somebody made it all up and we all bought into those definitions. Well, who made it all up? Well, here’s the thing. Have you ever noticed that there ain’t no different kinds of variety of white people? It’s just white people. Like  Black people from Egypt or from South America are different from Black people from the Caribbean. Right. Like, even though we all basically were forced out of Africa by the same slave trans-Atlantic human trafficking system, but somehow we became like in four or five generations, different versions of the same people. Same is true with, you know, Hispanic people, like Hispanic people from Peru are different from Hispanic people from Mexico who are different from Puerto Ricans and Dominicans, but they are all Hispanic. And then, you know, of course, we know that there are Native American tribes. And we know, again, like we said earlier, the Inuits are different from the Cherokee, who were also different from the Pueblo, who are also different from like the Mexicans, but they got different names. Let’s not even get into nationalities. Right. Because. Is a person from Asia who lives in America are they an Asian American or are they just an American? And how long before they turn into an American? Because why aren’t like regular, you know, Dollar Store white people, English Americans? Have you ever heard anybody call themselves a French American because their parents came here, you know, with the Huguenots 200 years ago? Why aren’t there any pilgrim Americans and Dutch Americans? Why white people are just get to be white? 

Michael Harriot [00:08:29] Because they made up the categories Because, you know, I’m not even saying that these things separate us. Here’s what I’m saying, all of these things are defined in our heads by something, whether it is a skin color, whether it is a language, a common, you know, nation, a common continent, or a common group of people. Common culture. Is there a white culture? I mean, there’s a Hispanic culture. There’s a Native American culture. There’s a Cherokee culture. There is Inuit culture. There is all kinds of culture. Why ain’t you never about no white culture? You never heard about white music. What race are white people? I know they white, but that ain’t a race. That is the leftovers from everybody else being classified. White ain’t a culture. Is just the leftovers from everybody else being classified. Ain’t no white unsoul food kitchens. There ain’t no white restaurants. Nobody ever goes to a white culture celebration. What Whiteness is, is a fence that surrounds and protect the people with power. Sometimes you can climb over that fence. Sometimes you can be Jewish and become white. Sometimes you can become Italian and then become white or Irish and become white or Scandinavian and become white. And everything else, the Hispanics, the Native Americans, the Mexicans, the African Americans, the Black people, the Inuit, the Eskimo, all of that is just a name for not white. So what race are you? There’s white people and then there’s everybody else. And that’s why you have to download this podcast. That’s why you got to download your app. That’s why you got to tell a friend about it. And that’s why we always leave you with a Black saying. And today’s saying is, “I don’t know who did that, but I bet he white.” If you like what you heard, please give us a five star review. Download theGrio app. Subscribe to the show and share it with everyone you know. Please email all questions, suggestions and compliments to podcast at 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:11:30] I’m political scientist, author and professor Dr. Christina Greer, and I’m host of The Blackest Questions on theGrio’s Black Podcast Network. This person invented ranch dressing around 1950. Who are they? 

Marc Lamont Hill [00:11:43] I have no idea. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:11:44] This all began as an exclusive Black history trivia party at my home in Harlem with family and friends. And they got so popular it seemed only right to share the fun with our Grio listeners. Each week we invite a familiar face on the podcast to play. What was the name of the person who was an enslaved chief cook for George Washington and later ran away to freedom? In 1868, this university was the first in the country to open a medical school that welcomed medical students of all races, genders and social classes. What university was it? 

Roy Wood, Jr [00:12:18] This is why I like doing stuff with you, because I leave educated. I was not taught this in Alabama Public Schools. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:12:24] Question number three. You ready? 

Eboni K. Williams [00:12:25] Yes. I want to redeem myself. 

Amanda Seales [00:12:27] How did we go from Kwanzaa to like these obscure. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:12:32] Diaspora, darling. 

Amanda Seales [00:12:34] This is like the New York Times crossword from a Monday to a Saturday. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:12:38] Right or wrong. All we care about is the journey and having some fun while we do it. 

Kalen Allen [00:12:42] I’m excited and also a little nervous. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:12:45] Oh, listen, no need to be nervous. And as I tell all of my guests, this is an opportunity for us to educate ourselves, because Black history is American history. So we’re just gonna have some fun. Listen, some people get zero out of five. Some people get five out of five. It doesn’t matter. We’re just going to be on a little intellectual journey together. 

Eboni K. Williams [00:13:01] Latoya Cantrell. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:13:03] That’s right. Mayor Latoya Cantrell. 

Michael Twitty [00:13:05] Hercules Posey. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:13:07] Hmm. Born in 1754, and he was a member of the Mount Vernon slave community, widely admired for his culinary skills. 

Kalen Allen [00:13:13] I’m going to guess Afro Punk. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:13:16] Close. It’s AfroNation. 

Kalen Allen [00:13:19] I never heard of that. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:13:21] According to my research, it’s Samuel Wilson a.k.a Falcon. 

Jason Johnson [00:13:25] Wrong. Wrong, I am disputing this. 

Latosha Brown [00:13:30] I’m very, very, very rare 99.9999 sure that it is Representative John Lewis, who is also from the state of Alabama, that, you know, Christina, we got some goodness come out of Alabama. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:13:42] There’s something in the water in Alabama. And you are absolutely correct. 

Diallo Riddle [00:13:44] The harder they come. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:13:47] Close. 

Diallo Riddle [00:13:48] Oh, wait, the harder they fall? 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:13:50] That’s right. I’m one of those people that that just changes one word.

Roy Wood, Jr [00:13:55] I just don’t know nothing today. I’m gonna pour myself a little water while you tell me the answer. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:13:59] The answer is Seneca Village, which began in 1825 with the purchase of land by a trustee of the A.M.E. Zion Church. 

Roy Wood, Jr [00:14:06] You know what? Games like this make me nervous. I don’t know if I know enough Black. Do I know enough? How Black am I? Oh, my Lord. We going to find out in public. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:14:14] So give us a follow. Subscribe and join us on the Blackest Questions.