Outside the Box – “What Are You, Anyway?”

Society loves boxes. There are boxes for race, their are boxes for culture, there are boxes for gender, ability, nationality, parenthood, skin color, hair color…. if there is an “identifier” there is a box for it. Once upon a time, I imagine these boxes were relevant. They somewhat accurately could capture an identity. I imagine that most people go through life simply checking boxes that they “fit” into, without much thought. You see, however…. not everyone fits into those boxes. I, for example, have never seemed to be able to make myself fit into any of those proverbial boxes.

Great article “Multiracial Identity at Institutions of Higher Education” at: http://amst130.wordpress.com/marisa/

This is what I would hear throughout my childhood. Not “Gee, what is your background?”… or “Where does that natural golden tan come from?”… but instead… I was thingified as a “what”. Yes… I said thingified.  You may wonder… what does thingify mean?  To me, it is how people would make me something less than human, a “thing”… a “what” instead of a “who”.

You see, I never had a good answer to this question. Maybe it’s my “aspie” brain that kept me from being able to answer (because I am not a “What” I am a “Who”), however this does exemplify how I would walk through the world for all of my life. I have tried to no avail to fit into a box, to answer the question that was intended… “what is your race?”.

For most people I imagine this is an easy answer. The boxes on the forms are basic enough…

Check One Box (imagine there are boxes…):

Let’s see… if you have this combination of family origin, what one box do you check…. (and yes I know “other” is an option, but that doesn’t say anything does it)

English: Computer generated single branch of a...

English: Computer generated single branch of a family tree extending 350+ generations. Shows inheritance of skin, hair, color. “the descent from Adam” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  1. German (Pennsylvania Dutch)
  2. English
  3. Welsh
  4. Scottish
  5. Norwegian
  6. Portuguese
  7. Tlingit (Alaska Native)
  8. Hawaiian
  9. Samoan
  10. Unknown Native American (Lenape  or Powhatan likely – due to early pre-revolutionary war settler family in NY & New Jersey)
If you are counting…. “White” – yes.  ”Asian/Pacific Islander” – yes. “Native American/Alaska Native” – yes.  Other…. sure. Now you probably are saying “why don’t you just check other?”  But, you might not understand the politics behind checking those boxes.  The Native American community wants me to check their box, because census numbers matter tremendously to tribes. BUT, my own tribe won’t even accept me. The Asian/Pacific Islander box could be a good choice, however I’m not “Asian” at all, and I’m only like 1/8 Hawaiian even though by appearance sake I look very Hawaiian.  I’m probably the most percentage “White”, so yes, I could choose that box, but if I were to be found dead on a mountainside, the rescuers wouldn’t even think I was me, because face it… my skin, not white.   I’ve been mistaken for “Black” and “Hispanic”, so if I chose one of those boxes… people would believe me.
So society at large, can’t you see that your boxes don’t pertain to me? How about letting me check as many boxes as apply, and counting them accordingly?  I don’t fit neatly in your little boxes, and the thing you need to realize is that over time….neither will many of us. United States society is morphing. For my whole life I have been identified as a silent minority, however that is changing. More and more people are marrying the person they love, having children with the person they adore, and creating families not based on finding a partner within their own ethnic community, but by finding a match in the whole rainbow of society…. whether that person is black, white, pink, green, or chartreuse.

In the 2010 census,the number of people who identified themselves as both white and black soared by 134 percent since 2000 to 1.8 million people, according to the NY Times. The U.S. Census reported a 50% increase in the multiracial youth population (4.2 million) since the 2000 census, and was identified as the fastest growing youth group in the country.

So, “What Are You, Anyway?” -

I’m a mother.

I’m an aspie.

I’m a woman.

I’m a professional.

I’m Tlingit

I’m Hawaiian

I’m European.

I’m Portuguese.

I’m a dog mommy.

I’m a blogger.

I’m a genius.

I’m beautiful.

I’m anxious.

I’m not alone.

I’m…. a million different things, and most importantly…. I am me.

I am Rachelle Pavao Goldenberg.
Society is changing. It’s time to make some new boxes…. or maybe ditch the boxes all together.

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