Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Race You!

Apparently the US Government is tired of us Americans checking "other" on all of our race and ethnicity questionnaires. It sure does put a great big kink in their pigeon-holing- I mean statistical analysis of demographics.  It started last year. I decided that when asked ,in all race related questions- I would check "other". They usually want you to select one and it is written like this ONE. Well newsflash- find me someone with only one race in this lovely melting pot I call home and I will show you a person who has got a couple of secrets in their genetic closet.  We kinda did away with the acceptability of racial "purity" with Hitler. Or so one likes to convince one's self.  Nowadays we call it inbreeding.

Last year I get a notice home that since I checked "other" on my son's race - I was relegated to fill out this form to specify which races he is. It had more selections than before and a separate spot to check "primary" race. I refused, did not check any boxes and wrote that I was offended by the form and if they needed a box checked, check one themselves. Immature- sure. Did it make a difference? Apparently- this year I get the form- with a letter stating the reason for it- the McKinley-Vento Act. Well that makes no sense because the MV act is to ensure homeless kids can go to school wherever their parents/guardians choose. I returned the form that stated we in fact have an address- what's race got to do with that?  I also notice a new section on the survey that states " I understand that if I do not provide this information, a school representative will designate the ethnicity and race categories for my child".  Oh reeee-heeeee-heeee-heee ly?  GOOD. LUCK. WITH. THAT. Please make sure to compare my children side by side. And please let me know which day this will be done so I can dress them appropriately as to provide ethnic attire because ethnicity is pretty darn impossible to tell based on physical features.

I look up DOE Ethnicity/Race Surveys online and get a slew of hits from various(reputable) educational organizations explaining they are mandated by the federal government to perform this survey and it is unrelated to immigrational status and that there was an influx of people checking "other" which made demographic statistical analysis impossible. One site went so far as to claim the government wants to celebrate diversity by having people participate in this survey. I think the celebration lies in the fact that so many people are CHOOSING OTHER! That people are no longer seeing themselves as ONE race or ONE ethnicity. And why is this relevant to my child? SO the school can publish data on what percentage of white/black/asian/pacific islander/hispanic students go there? Why do that? So people can choose which public school to attend based on racial distribution? That's pretty forward thinking.

Race is a very useful identifier. Various races have unique features. Although in the melting pot of even my own little family- we have seen a wide range of features that can be attributed to the exact same racial make-up. As the pot gets even more melty- the lines will blur even more. But what does this have to do with my child's education? And who is this representative that is so skilled in distinguishing ethnicity and race? And how is that OK??? So after careful thought, I crumpled the paper up and threw it away.  Because after careful thought- that's exactly what I think it is- rubbish. 

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