Which Box To Check?

Here is an interesting example of the craziness of the whole racial labelling stupidity and how it just no longer makes sense, if it ever did. My daughter is in Girl Scouts and my wife is her troop’s leader. In preparing for one of their annual events, she was presented by the group’s regional leadership a form that they request each troop fills out. It is a form that Girl Scouts then passes on to the United Way, which is one of their funding organizations and is clearly used to keep track of race for some purpose that has to do with receiving money.

Well it was in a way a simple form. The troop leader is supposed to check off the “racial” breakdown of her group of girls. Here are the choices presented: White, Asian, Black, and a category called “ASHO,” which was the abbreviation for “also some Hispanic origin.” In many places I guess that would make sense that people could so easily fall into one of those categories. But here were our questions to the regional leader: What was my wife supposed to check off for the girl who was part Lebanese and part Kuwaiti? What about the child who was mixed with Asian and White? What was the correct choice for the child who was full Mexican in descent, since ASHO meant “ALSO of Hispanic origin” and in this child’s case there is no “also.” And of course she asked, what about black and Mexican, though we knew that was easier.

The leader’s answers were kind of amusing, not because she said anything particularly funny, but because it so stumped her on a few of those. In a couple of cases, her initial response was simply a drawn out “uhhhhhhhh.” Finally she answered that the Kuwaiti-Lebanese girl should elect white, something that we know would have been a revelation to her parents. Asian and White drew another hesitation, but finally she just relented and said for all the others to just go ahead and check multiple boxes. Which in the end was the only solution possible. To the leader’s defense, she pointed out that this wasn’t a Girl Scouts’ form or requirement, but something they get from The United Way. But it was still interesting for us to have an opportunity to demonstrate to people that these racial boxes must go and that increasingly they are useless.

By the way, the picture accompanying this post is of our daughter’s cheerleading squad. As an example of how normal mixed kids are in our area, note that of the four girls on the squad, chosen randomly, one is Black-Mexican-American, one is Asian-White-Hispanic, one is Black-White (Romanian), and the other White-White. Kind of cool I think.

2 thoughts on “Which Box To Check?

  1. Will says:

    Just as our progeny are increasingly going to reflect an array of ethnic/racial heritages, virtually all of us, whether we realize it or not, are ALREADY reflective of heritages that cannot be squeezed into a box marked white or black or even a combination of three or four ethnic heritages. For example, many (if not most) of us in the United States, Canada and Mexico have great or great great grandparents that were members of one of the many groupings of indigenous peoples that were established in the Americas when people from the “old world” came to these shores. The indigenous people were, in turn, the result of waves of immigrants coming from Asia or the Pacific islands, or from Africa, over long periods of time. Someone whose ancestors came from England might conclude that “I’m English and nothing else. I’m pure English.” However, just a cursory examination of the population of the British Isles over just the past two thousand years reveals that these islands were populated by successive waves of Celts, Anglo-Saxons, Normans, etc., etc., people from points far and wide. The same is true for all the regions of Europe, with waves of people arriving at various points in time from as far as India and Mongolia and Africa to establish themselves on the banks of the Danube or the Seine. Similarly, in Africa, recent DNA testing of people who have lived for centuries in southern Africa have shown these people to have a genetic makeup akin to people with a Jewish heritage in Poland and Russia, probably the result of the dispersal of the Jewish people by the Romans in the 1st Century. The bottom line is that the people of this planet have for millennia been constantly on the move from region to region, intermarrying and producing “new” ethnic groupings, to the point that there really exist nothing like a “pure” ethnic or racial group that does not in fact have roots extending to literally the four corners of the planet. Trying to pigeonhole individuals into four or five boxes is to ignore the facts of the anthropological history of the world. If there must be a “box” to be checked with reference to someone’s ethnic/racial identity, it should seek to determine if you are or are not a “citizen of the world.” Will

  2. Earnest says:

    Well said. I don’t think anyone can put it better than the way you did with that last line.

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