Monday, April 19, 2010

Getting a Little Heavy for a minute.

So, while filling out MAT's school paperwork, we signed him up for Kindergarten last week, I stumbled upon a conundrum when it asked his race. Clearly he Caucasian, descended of MANY European countries on my side alone. And on is fathers side he is Hungarian and Italian, that comes from Mr. T's Mother. Mr. T's father is Puerto Rican. This made Mr. T's forms very easy to fill out, says Grandma T. "He was always marked Hispanic, or I wrote in Puerto Rican. He was more Puerto Rican than any percentage of any other ethnicity." Simple enough, it really that simple?

Enter the now present "multiracial" box. Perfect! A box I can check, my children are in fact multiracial. Funnily enough until I got married I never thought of our relationship as being interracial. Mr. T was just a really cool guy who I fell in love with and wanted to marry and spend the rest of my life with. His race never even came into my thinking, though it did come into others minds and out of their mouths, but we wont go into that here. That is not what this is about. I have noticed, in most cases, "multiracial" is associated with people of strictly 1 black and 1 white parent.  Or I suppose it is associated with couples who look "more different" than my  husband and I do. Is it correct for me to check the "multiracial" box for my children? I think I should, so I do. And I am not going to lie, it gots a strange look from the woman who took my paperwork at the school, from the speech therapist who MAT sees once a week on his first day, even the receptionist at the doctors office. Clearly they see "multiracial" marked they expect something much different than my children.

So what is the rule? My children are 3/4 various European descents, and 1/4 Puerto Rican which puts them in the Hispanic realm. This, and I could be wrong though I don't think I am, to me says they are multiracial. Honestly they are probably more Puerto Rican, percentage wise, than they are of any other single European descent.  But we don't count the Scotch, Irish, Italian, Hungarian, German, French, English, whatever independently by percentage. They are all Caucasian so they are counted together and thusly Caucasian is the higher percentage. BUT What % does one have to be to claim themselves as any specific race or ethnicity? Is it a personal choice? Is it your outward appearance?

 If it were based solely on appearance, they would both be categorized as Caucasian. There is no doubt in my mind. They have blue eyes and are fair skinned. One has brown hair and the other has blond. They are "average white kids" by most anyone's standards. But the question of  percentage still looms. I mark them as multiracial and Hispanic and Caucasian whenever I can, but when only given one choice I pick multiracial, and when that isn't an option I usually leave it blank, but I want to mark Hispanic.

Might seem silly to many people, but it is a very real question for me...for us. How I answer this question could have very real repercussions down the road. Say for scholarships, grants, college applications, these are very real situations where I do not want to have answered this question wrong and cost my children funds for education. Not to mention the irrational fear that some form of segregation might someday return and how i marked a box when my children were little could take them way from me. I understand that it is irrational and HIGHLY unlikely, I REALLY get that.  But I bet Americans of Japanese descent never thought their country would imprison them for their ethnic heritage during war time either.

It is so silly, one would think the boxes wouldn't and shouldn't matter, but when you are talking about the future of your children, it makes a big difference. I normally do not speak so much on race, because honestly I don't think about it that often, but with the school sign up and the census, I have been thinking on it often. I suppose I will have to contact a government office to hear how they would label my children. Because we all know what a headache improperly filling out government paperwork can be and they ALWAYS have the right answer. That is sarcasm people, but in all honesty I bet someone will have the answer, somewhere, I just have to find them.


  1. When we filled out PR's birth cert paperwork race and ethnicity were considered two separate questions. So SR's grandmother was considered 100% Hispanic/Latina because she was born & raised in Panama --even though she is 1/2 Asian and 1/2 White race-wise. Curiously, PR was considered "Asian" on her chart --a tie goes to the mother?

  2. You could always pull some social justice badassery like writing "Human" into the "Other" box.

  3. I'm all for the social justice badassery like NJ said and writing HUMAN. (or maybe I just wanted an excuse to use the word "badassery")