Saturday, July 18, 2009

Check ONLY One Box.......

After Dance Recital ....
When our daughter was getting ready to go into Kindergarten there were many forms to fill out when registering for school. One of the forms asked for ethnic background. On this particular form there were multiple boxes to choose from....white, black, Asian, Hispanic, and so on...but you were only allowed to choose one. Well, Tatiana is half black and half white so I wasn't about to choose only one for her. I chose box one, white, and box two, black. I turned in the forms and went on about my merry way. A few days later I got a phone call from the school district. The poor girl on the phone sounded like she was about to cry. Seriously. She said, "I am so sorry to have to call about this but you chose both black and white on your daughter's registration." I said, "Yes I did, she is half black and half white, what seems to be the problem?" The girl apologized again and said, "You can only choose one or she can't start school." I literally laughed and said, "You are not serious?" She said, "Unfortunately I am, and I feel terrible, but that is the way the form works." So I went on to say, "So you are telling me that I basically have to choose one parent over the other?" I told her that I wouldn't because then the form would not have the correct information for my daughter, and I refused to have to choose one race when she is both black AND white! She said she hated having to make the call but those were the rules and if I didn't choose then Tatiana literally could not start school. At that point I could picture her on the other end of the phone just "crawling under a table" because she felt so bad. They probably drew straws at the district office to see who would have to make THE call, and she got the short one! I went on to tell her the form needed to be changed and to go back to the administration and make it clear that I was not happy that I had to choose one parent over the other, but since I had no choice, I chose black for her Dad. Me...I was left out, and I was not happy. =( That was back in 1999, and now here we are in 2009 and the forms now allow for the choice of multiple ethnicity's. It took time, awareness and complaints, but some things do actually change for the better. Now we are BOTH her parents again! =)

18 comments:

Erika H. said...

I always had the same issue! In college, my parents told me to choose black if I had to choose one race, because it might help with scholarships and placement (which it did, from time to time). But I hated to leave out the other half of me- it was like I was dismissing my dad. In the end, I got to the point where I checked the box for "other". They don't typically ask that question on forms that you fill out as an adult, but you reminded me of how it used to bother me. I'm glad they show more tact now- about time!

Amy said...

Erika,

It drove me crazy to have leave out one of us! I am so glad that has changed. It seems so trivial but I agree with you it really does feel like you are dismissing one parent. I have marked other before for Tatiana as well but I never liked that choice either..."other"....that just sounds alien! Thanks so much for reading!

Amy

Anonymous said...

Wow Amy,your blog is off the charts! Maybe you should write a book. You have a great blog. Not just good...GREAT!

Lawrence

Amélie said...

I agree with Lawrence, you should really consider publishing some of stories.

Anonymous said...

The tick-boxes shouldn't be there at all! hey are ridiculous to the umpteenth degree. I find them rather symptomatic for the whole race-issue in The USA, and a bit insulting too. What does race matter in intelligence&education...?
My Mom studied in The States (hence my relative ease in typing/speaking English) She had to fill the form for her high-school application....She blatantly refused filling the tick-box. Why? because her ancestry was (here we go) : Dutch;Portuguese;Indonesian;Martinique "Cafe au lait"(=mixed). She looked only vaguely South-European..(I wonder where that leaves me..totally white looking) She could have gone for "white" ,but she too refused to ignore her heritage.
See the problem? It gave a riot You wouldn't believe(It was the 60's after all). Finally the school-board intervened. While she was an exchange-student, and they didn't want this sort of bad publicity, It was somehow settled. I still do not know what they did. Mom never told.. Couldn't find it in her yearbooks or scrapbooks. those simply stated "Dutch Exchange student.." Go figure..

Keep up the blog. I love reading about your family's "troubles&tribulations"

"J"

Anonymous said...

PS,

Your daughter is Utterly, Utterly gorgeous. Now excuse me while I go in search of a nice, big, brown paper bag to put over my head....

"J"

Amy said...

Lawerence and Amelie thank you so much for the support! I would love to publish the blog in some format down the road. I truly appreciate the comments and the fact that you are taking the time to read the blog! I am enjoying the writing more and more with each post. Thank you!

J.....I agree about getting rid of the check boxes. What is the point? Does it really matter what race somebody is to get into school or to do anything else for that matter. We were filling out a return form at an electronics shop the other day and it asked for race! I said, "Why on earth do you need this information?" The answer was, "We like to know our demographics"....ridiculous. Again...does it matter. PEOPLE shop at the store period.

By the way thank you for the wonderful compliments about our daughter. She will appreciate that. Bag over your head?! I think not! We are all beautiful! That is what this blog is all about...thank you for reading! =)

Anonymous said...

I already know what check one box is about and I haven't even read it yet:) I always check two anyway:) Such a rebel:)

Nicole =)

"J" said...

(..) We were filling out a return form at an electronics shop the other day and it asked for race! (..) :-O

Oohkay. That really takes the biscuit. Demographics? My hairy b...
They are already moot in Your situation. Hah! Oh how they love their neat little boxes to put PEOPLE in, don't they?

If You have the stomach for some serious studying ,You should read "Racial and Ethnic groups" by Richard T. Schaefer. (If possible,The International version! It differs a bit from the standard American version. It is actually illegal to import the international version in The States, while it stepped on some toes in the establishment, makes You wonder huh?)

That (well written) study of race(or better, the genetic non-existence of race!!) and the implications of the ever-increasing mixed populace (already 45% of s.c. Demographicly appointed "blacks" call themselves "mixed") in today's America is a real eye-opener. It was for me. It also makes the link between women's rights and racial relations, i.e. the role of Black Women as the really institunionally discriminated "class"

Mind You, although being widely used in international universities, it is far from "a dry learning book". .

Amy said...

Nicole...so funny that you knew what the post was about before you even read it! Thanks for continuing to read the blog!!! A.

J....I will definitely check out the book you are referring to. I am currently reading Sarah's Key (fictional characters based on history) about the Vel' D'Hiv...the "round up of Jewish families, mostly women and children in Paris in 1942. I just started it yesterday and am half way through it already. It is gripping. So sad, and such a commentary on just how horrible humans can be to one another strictly due to ignorance. Thank you for the book suggestion and again thank you for reading! May I ask what part of the world you are in and how you came about my blog? Amy

Amy said...

PS

Is this Jay Steffers or a different "J" =)

"J" said...

Long post in 3 parts. My story so to speak

1

it's still "Jay" (real name close, but only on request..don' wanna slam me' name all over them Webs Ya'know?), but I am lazy, so "J" it is ;-)

Having had only "colored" GF's (just a preference, like blond hair or red hair, I am not colorblind so I do see color, I am not gonna say "No dear, I see only Your beautiful soul" That would be a stupid nonsensical "PC" remark. Instead I'll feel:" You're beautiful, and your dark skin is part of what makes me see the whole of you as beautiful..)

I am intrigued how and why things can be so problematic at times in The States. Intrigued, yet hopeful, because I see fast changes, and that is always interesting and hopegiving. And Hope is what we all need in these "crisis-times". Same goes for You I guess after Your "livelyhood-destroying sewage disaster".(I do hope You will get a nice judicial settlement(?) out of it)

I got really interested/involved in the social-political implications of race/fenotype issues after a fairly small incident in my teens. My dad blurted out a remark to my then-girlfriend, who was blue/black(sigh..soooo beautiful..). It went a bit like this:" Hey Lelane, could You please smile, because You're dissappearing against the stove.." My dad meant no harm, he had even commented on her beauty, yet, the poor child hunched back in her chair and just gave a trembling little embarrassed smile(it broke my heart..). However, my mom, bless her soul, well eeh "She blew a gasket" Chastizing my dad in no uncertain terms for that utter stupid, inconsiderate, remark. She knew lelani considered herself "too black" to ever be looked upon as beautiful (She was from Curacao, and they had hammered that into her..The carribbean is a fairly racist place..been there, seen it..). anyways, I never thought about skintone much aside from the beauty of it and the fact that I tended to fall for colored girls (and they for me..crazy huh?), let alone the cultural implications up to that little row. (sheesh..this is turning in a complete Blog)

After that my dad bowed his head in shame and admitted it was stupid. He learned from it and never, ever blurted things like that out again towards my following GF's

"J" said...

Later I learned that he was only unfamiliar and curious, and never linked skintone to any standard/stereotypical culture or anything.(not too strange since my mom was basically a quarter-Latina)

In the Netherlands race/fenotype is still an issue here and there, but not to the magnitude it seems to be in the States.

Let me give sort of an illustration.

My neighbour is a single, Indonesian/surinam woman with a son that is half black. Really handsome little 12/13-year old. One day, two very shy teengirls(est. 13? 14? ) rang my door, all pretty blonde/blue eyed. "If I knew the boy next door?" Yeah, sure...One girl began stammering, all flushed red. "Was his name XXXX?" Yeah, that too.. and he is home.... then it suddenly dawned on me, she was smitten completely (kid had guts though, ringing the door of a stranger to find something out..). They obviously did not see a "black" kid, but just a handsome boy..Great thing about it?
No-one in my, mainly blue-collar, neighbourhood batted an eye when they subsequently ended up hanging out together. No-one(thank-God!)seemed to realize this could be, and has been problematic in other societies...

"J" said...

Last bit (again, sorry for the verbal Diarh... eeh..You get my drift)

3

children, the next generation, were already way beyond that...As it should be!

My generation (and Yours I guess..the whole 30-something breed)
could be the last to see institutional racism in it's complete utter "disgustyness" -if that's even a word- before it starts its slow, but hopegiving decline towards the complete "fall of the fallacy" of race.


I am an incorrigible optimist :-) To me, despite fall-backs, the signs are irrefutable.

YouSHOULD visit the Netherlands some time and just sit, like I have done, in a shopping centre ,in a bus-stop, in a park, and look at the mingling, mixing people overhere. The latte kid with the blonde frizz, the dark daddy with the light-skinned curly toddler, The blonde mum with the chocolate, frizzy kid in the buggie..the sheer amount of mixed teen-couples....It is quite remarkable how fast it has gone, and still is going, overhere. From 3 colored girls on my High-school in the 80's to the almost 50/50 mixed classes of today. The multitude of hues, fairly harmonious interacting, despite failed tries by right-wing politicians to flame hatred, despite some malcontents trying to fuel racial/religious tension. Despite dumb rows over veils. It is a true miracle. It is a peek at what can be possible, if given time.

"J" said...

BUGGER..missed a bit on post 3:

Having read several studies about Race&Culture, done by "old generation people" I realized, kids were more and more oblivious to Race and stuff, even young teens did only see beauty/attractiveness, and not "race" (Which is a stupid social construct anyway) while Media and Elders still tried imprinting that "skin color" made someone "different"

Amy said...

Wow Jay thank you for the wonderful stories. I didn't realize it was "Netherlands" J. =) Your new nickname! I should have gathered that after reading the reference to your Mom's Dutch exchange story but I still was not quite sure. The internet is such a BIG place ya know. I do love your outlook on race....this is my hope for everyone one day. It all goes back to being taught to think one way over the other when growing up. My daughter and her group of friends are such a mix of everything from black, white, hispanic, filipino, asian, mixed, and so on...I love it! Her life is a rainbow not only at home but with her friends as well. Children ARE oblivious to race if that is how they are raised. They can be bigoted as well if that is what Mom and Dad teach them. There are many places in the U.S. that I would not even think to live because of our mixed family but fortunately California (at least most parts of it), is quite the melting pot. I wouldn't live anywhere that wasn't a melting pot. I need a mix of people, of food, of culture, everything. It is too boring otherwise. I would love to visit the Netherlands one day. I lived in Paris for a time and have traveled all over Europe and Great Britain but haven't made it to your home yet. My brother lived in Amsterdam and is planning one day to move there. It is his favorite place on earth! =) Thank you again for sharing some of your stories and for continully reading my blog. I truly love that our story is resonating with people from all over! =) Happy Monday! Amy

Anonymous said...

I love your most recent blog..I always check both boxes even if its not the option...lol!

Alex

Amy said...

Alex you go! Keep checking BOTH boxes! That is the way it should be! Hopefully your Mom never got the phone call I did...I still can't believe it to this day and it is 10 years later!

=) Amy