Race – Now It’s Gone Too Far

Maybe it’s me but does anyone else feel like all the racial categorizing in this country has gone too far?  Yesterday I encountered another taste of what those who are biracial have to deal with in a world that is far too obsessed with labeling everyone according to the color of their skin or the shape of their eyes.

Shorty will be starting Kindergarten in the fall.  Our school system has its registration week coming up in early March.  I’ve begun filling out the pages and pages of information that the school requires so my son can sit in one of their classrooms and get his education.  Right there on page one I was faced with the most ridiculous question I have ever seen.  (Or at least it seems to me.)

It started out innocently enough.  The question had to do with race.  “Please check all that apply.”  Okay, I have no problem with that.  I’ll be checking Asian and White because, well, that’s what Shorty is.  I understand the logic behind allowing people to choose more than one race as we now have so many who come from more than one racial background.

But then I read this:  “Please number in the order you would like them entered.”  (Them being the race(s) checked off.)   So, I now have to choose whether I consider my son more Asian or more white.  Excuse my language but … WHAT THE FUCK?!!!  My son is 50% Asian and 50% white.  Do I toss a coin and place the number one next to the race that wins the coin toss?

I’m rather perplexed and offended by this part of the form.  How does one who is equally bi-racial choose which of their identity to place first?  My son is not even five.  He doesn’t really even understand race past the point that some people have darker skin than others.  He certainly shouldn’t have to choose which race he identifies with at this time in his life (or ever for that matter if he doesn’t want.)  As his mother I shouldn’t be forced to choose which of his racial backgrounds I want to be listed first on some stupid form.  If I put white in the number one position my husband could say he is offended.  If I put Asian in the first position then I might will be offended.  Besides why oh why (unless it’s for medical purposes) does anyone have to be labeled by their race?

I should think asking people to list all their racial categories would be sufficient enough.  Making people choose which of those categories they think comes first is insulting.  To me that’s like asking our family whether we think more highly of the Asian side or the white side of our families.  Yes, people may look at my child, especially white people, and think he looks more Asian than white but that does not mean his white side is any less on the number scale than his Asian side.  To mark Asian as the race that should be entered first on some form simply because some people might think my son looks more Asian is like saying my genes don’t count.  Besides, I’m sure if you were to ask any Asian person who saw my son and had no idea who his parents were they would easily tell you that this child is absolutely a mix because his hair, skin, and some of his features obviously have white genes in them.  But to mark white as the number one race would be equally ludicrous.  So, I guess one could say my son doesn’t fall more or less into either race depending on whom you ask.

Why this need then on this form to force parents to number the race they want to be listed first?  Is it because the computer program being used won’t make exceptions and insists on ordering things?  (Then change the program being used please.)  Is it because somewhere down the line if my child should qualify for scholarships or some other program he will only qualify if one or the other race is listed as his first race?  Or is it just that this stupid world of ours still can’t accept that people don’t always fit nicely into categories but some people can’t accept that and insist we choose a category anyway?

I’m so annoyed by this that I haven’t numbered either race.  I’m seriously considering calling the school to complain.  The only thing stopping me is because I don’t want my son to be known as the kid whose mom made a big stink about the Kindergarten registrations forms before he even has a chance to make his own impression and be known for something all his own.

Am I making a mountain out of a mole hill?  Should I just toss that coin and number the race categories?  As the mother of a child who is half another race am I the one who is just being sensitive?  Is it because deep in my heart I know that in our predominantly white district my kid is probably going to be seen by most as more Asian and maybe a part of me is feeling sad that others don’t identify the child I carried in my body the same as me?

This one stupid question has opened a whole can of worms for me.  It’s just another thing in my journey of motherhood that I never expected to have to think about.  I’m wondering if there are other mothers out their who are filling out forms just like this one and having the same negative reaction to being asked to number their child’s racial identity in this way.

I’ll put the question out there to all of you … do you think I’m crazy for getting so bent out of shape for being asked to number the order in which my son is racially categorized when he is 50% one race and 50% another race?  Do you feel asking parents to number the order in which they want their child’s race to be entered even necessary, especially since the form already asks us to check off all the races that apply?

This entry was posted in Children, Family, Multiculturalism, Parenting, Race, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Race – Now It’s Gone Too Far

  1. Jo-Lynne says:

    I think I’d leave it blank but not complain. I agree with you, it’s ridiculous. I get hot and bothered about all the medical info they require. I’m sick of the public schools but not sick enough to pay for an alternative.

    • incognitomom says:

      Thanks Jo-Lynne. I was hoping I wasn’t the only one who thought this was ridiculous. I tend to think you might be right about not complaining about this question even though it really irks me. Yes, I know how you feel about those medical forms too. In filling out this paper work I feel like I’m being interrogated. I’m actually pretty surprised they haven’t asked for our income level. Or perhaps those forms will be coming soon. ;-) By the way, I love your new ride!

  2. Natalie says:

    While I understand your position and agree that it’s pretty ridiculous, I would urge you to consider that this might be a way that the school is getting around making the decision of which to enter first. It sounds pretty inane, but it may be that they have faced this issue in the past and been confronted about which they enter first – even if it was alphabetical or whatever. Instead of taking either the complaining route or the sitting back route, you might try to ask what the deal is and make it known that it’s offensive. It is completely possible that the school is actually just trying to deal with an issue, but in a very poor way.

    • incognitomom says:

      good point. I hadn’t thought about it from the point of view that maybe this had been a problem in the past. I’m still not sure why there hasn’t been a system created that allows them to weigh race categories evenly or if in fact that is even the reason why numbering is required. I wonder if I could make a phone call asking about this question and manage not to leave my name so I could find out the reasoning behind it and mention that it is offensive without anyone knowing that my son’s mother was the inquiring one. LOL Thanks for offering your viewpoint. It makes me slightly less annoyed to think that maybe this numbering thing was their way of handling previous complaints about racial categorizing.

  3. Crissy says:

    It is possible that this is a way the school gets funding. I doubt it is a way to insult people and if it bothers you that much you can always leave it blank.

    • incognitomom says:

      I’m sure it does have something to do with funding and I’m sure they didn’t intend to insult anyone. However, this is the problem with building so much of our world around race. It is also something that most single race people never have to never have to think about. Before having my child I probably would not have blinked twice about numbering race because when your whole family is all the same race you only have one race to number. But people need to be aware that our world has changed. The lines between racial distinction have become very blurred (for lack of a better word) and asking biracial families to number their race on a form probably isn’t the best method of handling funding needs.

  4. TCP says:

    I would be outraged, too. As you know, I’m in the exact same situation and cannot imagine being forced to declare my boys as “more” Asian than white or vice versa. I’m sure that it has to do with federal reporting for funding (it’s a public school, yes?) and that’s why they ask. We haven’t ever had to choose one race for the boys yet, as their private school apparently doesn’t care, but I have wondered what we will do when eventually forced to make a choice. I think it’s so archaic and unnecessary.

  5. incognitomom says:

    TCP – I was hoping you would chime in since we are in the same situation. It is a public school and funding and reporting are probably the reasons for such a numbering system. This is the first time we’ve been asked to choose one race over another for our son. I guess it’s families like ours that will have to educate the rest of the country regarding how archaic these categorizations are.

  6. Lora says:

    I’m guessing it has something to do with demographics and funding and outdated database systems. Assuming, of course, that your schools do things the way Philadelphia social services does them! We used to have a field that was exactly like this for race in an old program I worked for. If people left them blank, we had to chose for them. I chose alphabetical order.
    The numbers weren’t used for any sort of equal opportunity or funding stuff, it was just a snapshot of who we were working with.

    In another program I worked for, race info was collected and in the event of Asian, Hispanic, or African clients who listed their non-white or black ethnicity first, we could get funding for translators if needed.

    It sucks, that in the year 2011 this still matters.

    I’m going through something similar, and would love to blog about it, provided I get an hour to myself! Basically, these charter schools I applied to- which are theoretically supposed to chose your child by lottery- request crazy amounts of personal information before your kid’s name even goes in the “hat”. Unbelievable.

    • incognitomom says:

      Lora – It does suck that in 2011 that these things still matter. I’ve always had some problems with the way certain programs are set up. While I know there are still disparities in economics and resources amongst the races I still feel like we’d be better off addressing some of these issues based on economic need rather than by racial background. It’s not as simple as all that but my thoughts on that whole issue are a whole other post and I’m sure there will be so many that won’t agree with me. I wonder if there will ever be a day when there won’t be a need to address these issues (and not because we just decided that we can’t afford to fund programs).

      I can only imagine what is being asked on those charter school applications. It has to be far more nerve wracking than these public school forms that I am dealing with. There just has to be a better way of getting our children good quality education than our current options, right? Lotteries, sub-par public schools, uber-expensive private schools that only a few can afford – makes my head hurt thinking of how unfair it all is. Good luck. I’m hoping your beautiful boy gets in to the school of your choice and that he loves it. He’s such an amazing child.

      I’ve been putting off my own post about this whole education thing and Shorty’s personality and how I am not sure public school and the preschool he is currently attending are the right place for a kid like him.

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