Saturday, May 1, 2010

Race Matters

So, I was thrown, as I looked at a form, made to be a simple declaration of age and race.

The 2010 Census had thrown me off.

As a form, it was designed to take basic statistics of the population of this country. Race data as the Census website claimed, "was used to address the fairness of employment practices, to monitor racial disparities in characteristics such as health and education and to plan and obtain funds for public service".

But it provoked in me a search for who I was and more importantly who my children were and would identify.

As I gently tore open the form, filling it out carefully to have my family counted, there it was, question #9, "What is person #1's race?" Well, that question would be easy for person #1, my husband is Caucasian.

Person #2, 3, 4, and 5 a little more tricky.

Do I put the race I identify with, the races I am or the the race people see me as?

Even though I am mixed, I am and appear to be African American. (I am very proud of my heritage.) So checking the race box should be easy but for some reason it never is and a couple of times, I have checked other. My kids appear to be Caucasian, but they aren't, they are a crazy beautiful mix, somewhere among the amazing colors of the race spectrum. And their racial history will be somewhere between the first settlers to this great nation, slavery and amazing flights of courage.

I had an amazing childhood and race was never something that burdened me or ever came across my mind,unless I was confronted by the rudeness and bluntness of classmates, sometimes calling me Oreo cookie and questioning if that was really my dad. Notice I said never burdened me, but my parents fought a lot with race and being an "interracial" couple. They had trouble often doing simple things like looking for houses or apartments so my dad would go alone, because he was the "safe" choice. He was racially ambiguous, just like my children, to whites he appeared white and to blacks he was a light skinned African American, both of which was true.

When my husband and I married, none of this really crossed our minds, we married out of love, not "racial compatibility".

Is there such a thing?

We hope that when we had children, their identity would be based on the love we had for them, for each other and the love and acceptance we would show lots of different people, just as my parents had done for me.

And once again somewhere between question number 8 and 10, I went on a journey of self discovery.

But what does checking the right box REALLY mean?

It was never about the box and it should never be.

It was about seeing you kids smile and knowing that they are happy and healthy.
And when and if they are ever haunted by the fear of checking the box, you would be there to help them figure it out.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for stopping by! I love comments!