A friend calls me up: 1.) Ecstatic because her child has gotten early acceptance into kindergarten. 2.) She is thoroughly confused by the registration form. She is stumped on the question of her kid’s ethnicity and race.
A little background information about my friend. She comes from a country that was formerly part of the USSR block. I will refrain from naming it to protect her identity and to avoid Borat jokes. Her husband is US born with parents from Latin America.
So how do these parents label their child’s identity? Having to place the child in a neat little box, when their background is so rich and complex. The conversation devolves into a game of attrition, figuring out which boxes the child does not fit into and then picking the best option from what’s left.
But having to go through this exercise can be confusing, especially to somebody who is not from a country that so adamantly tracks race. Why this obsession with classification? It’s a discussion I am always interested in having because even in the Hispanic community, there is no homogenous consensus. I also enjoy using information acquired during my African American studies class to discuss such notions as the “one drop rule.” One drop of African American ancestry makes you Black in this country. If you follow the logic, then if my children marry white girls and my grandkids marry white girls, their kids should still be labeled Hispanic because of this one drop rule. (Assuming we still have the current race-ethnicity boxes in the future.)
It’s bewildering that in an age where a new generation seeks to redefine their sexual identities and political identities and quite possibly their racial identities, they are still being forced to start by checking one of a very limited list of choices.
Which leads me to state Richard’s box for race is White his ethnicity is Hispanic. And this is my way of announcing Richard is an official kindergartner. He passed his early entrance exam entrance exam. He will be joining his brother at our neighborhood public school come July.