I'll Race You

I just filled out the U.S. Census and I have never felt so white in my life.

Who knew that the Census was all about race, raise your hand. I didn’t. I thought they were going to ask what we did for a living. I had my answers all ready. (Dog walker, daytime TV critic, Internet conspirator, person who complains about the air conditioning blowing directly on her in restaurants no matter where she’s seated . . . There are more but I didn’t think the federal government could handle it.)

So I got the Census and it was all “What is Person 1‘s race? What is Person 2’s race?”

The choices are so exotic, I felt bad having to check “White,” clearly the most boring of all the races. If you haven’t received your Census form yet or are protesting something or another and following the misguided notion that you can stick it to the man by refusing to fill it out, here are the Census’ choices for race:

Black, African Am., or Negro
American Indian or Alaska Native
(with blanks to fill in the name of your tribe.)
Asian Indian
Other Asian
(with blanks for specific Other Asian race; examples listed are Hmong, Laotian, Thai, Pakistani, Cambodian and so on.)
Native Hawaiian
Guamanian or Chamorro
Other Pacific Islander
(with blanks for races; for example Fijian, Tongan and so on.)
Some Other Race

After reading through the list, by the time I got to Guamanian, I had created a We Are the World video in my head, with all these mysterious, flamboyant, interesting-skin-colored people, some with fruit on their heads and flowers around their necks. Being white felt pasty and very German. I think I know how the nougat in the box of chocolate feels like.

Some people have been complaining that a) there are no “mixed race” options, where you could say I’m half Chamorro and half Hmong, which, if it were a new race, could have a deadly number of consonants in it, and b) the N word is on the U.S. Census. Not exactly the N word, but close enough that I winced when I got to it. (When my kids were little I used to read to all of them aloud at night, and once I was reading The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and I got to the first N word and stopped and stuttered for a few minutes while I decided whether I should skip over it or say it and then explain why Mark Twain wrote the way he did. I chose the latter, but I can still see the shock on their little faces - and my face - every time I said it. I cursed myself for letting them talk me out of Little Women.)

I haven’t heard anyone complain that the phrase “American Indian” is on there instead of Native American. And I haven’t heard anyone complain that the Hispanic origins are not even considered a race. Apparently, you can have an origin but not race if you’re of Hispanic, Latino or Spanish descent.

At least being White, I have no reason to complain about how I’m portrayed on the Census form. Even though we’re really more of a Cream or a Beige, we are listed first and it’s an easy question to answer. Easier than “What do you do for a living?”

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