As a bi-racial child myself I often find race boxes to be a bit of a puzzle. Do I just check Hispanic or do I check Caucasian or do I just check other? And what is “other”? With so many children of mixed race these days why do we only have to pick one? Why should I be forced to choose one or be obligated to choose “other”? Why can’t I be proud of both of my races why do I have to be defined by one?
I came across a great post about this very topic the other day on the blog Diary of a not-so-angry Asian Adoptee. The author ajcaidensmommy, wrote a blog post Parenting the “Other” Race Child about how the elementary school she found for her children wouldn’t allow her to choose 2 races on the application form and said that if she didn’t choose they would choose for her. I was horrified! She wrote:
My husband and I had spent 5 years raising a proud, biracial son, and with one flick of my pen, I was expected to change my son’s racial identity in the eyes of the school system. In doing so, it felt like I was telling my son that half of his identity didn’t matter. “
This is totally unacceptable to me in this day and age. Why should someone be forced to choose and deny a part of themselves. Seems to me this school needs some diversity work. But it also really made me think about how many other times this crops up and why it even matters? Why did the school need her to choose? They couldn’t need statistics that badly could they? Actually yes, that is often what it boils down to. Schools use the information to show diversity in their school system which allows them to get money from different sources.
Personally I think this practice is out dated – how about a box that says bi-racial or multi-ethnic and leave it at that? Why “other”? Who even came up with that? Often there is a blank line after “other” where you can fill in what race you are which makes me wonder if you do fill that part in if they don’t just then choose for you anyway when they enter you into their computer system. America is supposed to be a melting pot but we still keep trying to fit people into categories that just don’t work anymore. As ajcaidensmommy says:
We, as a society, have come a long way in terms of racial and cultural competence, but we have so much more to learn.