Thursday, October 8, 2009

Coloring Inside the Lines

So it is the actions of my sister that have me thinking today. Now, you've got to know my sister to understand why I find this so funny and why it's got me thinking. She is a very free spirit and is very comfortable telling you exactly what she is thinking at any given moment. She doesn't dig process for process sake and she despises labeling. She recently was asked to fill out a form for a background check (don't worry, she's a teacher, it wasn't for anything super top-secret or James Bond-like). One of the questions on the form was "Ethnicity".

She skimmed through the choices, "White, Black, Hispanic, Native-American, Other" before making her selection. She, of course, selected "Other" and then wrote "ochre peach" in the line to the side.

Her answer, aside from cracking me up, got me thinking. Why is it that we have bucks on forms that still silo us and why, in the name of Binney and Smith*, do we actually call groups white and black. Have you ever really seen a "white" person? Honestly, look at white crayon....go ahead and grab one, I'll wait......and then hold it up next to a "white person". Do you see a match? For the sake of my argument, go ahead and try the same exercise with a black crayon and a "black person". Doesn't match, does it? Yeah, didn’t think it would.

See, this bugs me on several levels. First, if we're trying to teach kids colors, then let's not muddy the waters with white and black when it comes to people because clearly, people are neither white nor black. Crayola has finally figured that out and now has a line of flesh colored crayons for children's coloring pleasure. True story!

Secondly, why is it that we often see “white and black” as choices next to “Native-American and Hispanic”? If we’re all so hot and bothered about calling people by colors then shouldn’t it say “white, black, beige, somewhat beige and tan?” I mean, come on, if we’re going to do it, then let’s be consistent, shall we?

Third, so many have worked tirelessly to change the mindset that we are not separate races; we are all one human race, so why all the hubbub about what color bucket we can each drop ourselves into? And just because they call it "ethnicity" on forms now doesn't mask it for me because honestly, it is still the same "which bucket do you belong in" question. Why does it matter? Why does it matter what color my skin is or what my gender happens to be? And if we're being honest, my background is so mixed I, like many people I'm guessing, could honestly check almost every one of there little buckets.

Look, if I am filling out an application for a job or a back-ground check, why not just base it on something silly like my credentials or my back-ground? I know, silly me (hang on while I crawl back into my box that I cannot help but to continually attempt to think outside of).

I get that we want equality, but if we're going to continue to ask for and track based upon our differences, how is the mindset every going to change? And riddle me this Census Bureau, how does my sister's ethnicity help her background check and clearance for teaching? Wouldn't it be more important to verify that she, oh I don't know, has an actual teaching degree and hasn't run any children over lately? See to me, those would be more prudent points upon which to verify and track.

The same question was asked of me when I submitted my annual PTA application this week. Apparently the Texas PTA isn't as evolved as the Government (insert giggle here) as they still posed the question as "Race". In honor of my big sister, you'll be happy to know that I responded to their question with "Other - Human Race."

....I believe my application is still pending approval.

* Note: Binney and Smith were the creators of Crayola Crayons back in 1903. See, you even learned something in today's session. Well done all!

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