It DOES matter if you’re black or white. For our reports.

Had to fill out a survey last week and it asked me to divide people into categories. The categories offered:
– African American
– Asian American
– Caucasian
– Hispanic
– Native American
– Other

So I looked at the report from which I had to pull this information. On it, the categories were:
– Asian American
– American Indian
– Black / African Am.
– Hispanic / Latino
– International
– White
– Unknown

Okay, first, side note, “international” is now an ethnicity? Could we also have “local” as an ethnicity?

It bugs me SOOO much when I’m asked to report how people fall into race/ethnicity categories because the reason folks usually ask for these categories in the first place is to showcase how diverse they are in hopes to impress someone. And usually they don’t REALLY care where you’re from as much as what you look like.

What if I’m African or Asian but not American? (I guess I check “international”…)

What if I’m black but only “African American” is offered? e.g., Jamaican, Aboriginee

What if I’m African but not black? (e.g., Charlize Theron or Egyptian – the former is white South African and many of the latter appear more Middle Eastern) Do you want me to check African? Really, do you?

If I’m Middle Eastern, do I check white/caucasian or Asian?

If I’m from eastern Russia or Armenia, can I check Asian?

And heaven forbid I have a black father and a Japanese mother like my next-door neighbors – I don’t know what I’d do. It’s enough to make your head spin! Trying to fit people into neat little boxes doesn’t work so well. Especially when the genetic differences between them are so tiny – really it’s how much melanin your body produces. I’m not a geneticist, but a quick Google and Washington Post reports that it’s ONE base pair in your genome that determines if you’re black or white! At least when we’re putting people in gender boxes we’re talking whole chromosomes.

But, while we’re at it, why not ask people on application materials like this where they fall in other protected classes? What’s your religion? What’s your sexual orientation? Come on, we need to know so we can showcase how diverse we are! And maybe we should include other discrimination factors that aren’t formal protected classes though research shows they play a factor in situations like hiring. What’s your height? Or what’s your weight? Weight discrimination is RAMPANT but we don’t check to see that we have a myriad of weights represented in any specific population.

Was chatting soapboxing at one of my [very patient and understanding] friends about this situation, and he said, “I’m being convinced more and more that the vast majority of the things that suck about our world is about control. Everyone wants it, and not everyone can have it. When people are labeled by whatever reason (sex, religion, race, etc), the labeller FEELS better. They FEEL like they have control over something they don’t understand. That’s why ANY kind of stereotype exists. So the stereotyper has some basis on which to assess something they don’t understand.”

So anyway, some time ago I stopped reporting my race, gender, age, and all that “optional” stuff when they ask for it. The entire process offends me. And as much as I can avoid it I don’t want to be a part of it.

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