Today in 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. May he rest peacefully in the arms of the ancestors. In his honor and in the name of love, I am writing today about a tiny anti-racism action I’ve been taking for years. But before I share, let me give you some background.
I am a Caucasian woman, almost thirty-nine years old. I am adopted, so for most of my life I was raised as a mix of French Huguenot, Irish, Hungarian and Scandinavian. When I met my birth family in my late twenties I learned that my blood lines are English, Scottish, Italian, and Scandinavian.
My family is inter-racial. My younger sister was adopted from Korea. My Aunt and some cousins are African-American. I was raised to ignore race. No, ignore isn’t right, because to ignore you have to notice first, then discard; and while I do still notice skin color, I do so in the same spirit that I notice hair color. My folks taught us instead to engage with the content of a person’s character, and in our interactions with others to come from a place of congruence. We are, after all, each and every one of us, human.
Which brings me to my tiny action: When asked to provide my “race” or “racial background” I simply respond, “Other — Human.”
I do this on surveys I answer, on the U.S. Census, on anything that asks me this question. At a minimum I’m hoping my action will make some graduate student deep in Census statistics smile; and I do intend to do my research and see if others have responded similarly. But when I am honest with myself, it’s a maximum hope I’m after. What if we all simply refused to be self-categorized by race? What if slowly, grassroots style, we removed race as a distinguishing classification in government studies, in university studies, in marketing studies?
Yes, this may be naive. And perhaps it is important to still make these distinctions for various enterprises. In my doctor’s office, for example, I’m guessing blood lines may matter. Perhaps we do need to isolate racial groups in some studies to identify disparities. And I am not suggesting that we let go of rich cultural heritages — only that we no longer allow an outward entity to pigeon-hole us by this absurd classification. After all, my sister is racially Korean, but culturally, she’s a melting pot. In the end, it seems simple to me — we overcome the detriments of parsing out race by refusing to do that parsing.
But, as I’ve said, I’m Caucasian. I am also a woman, so I have an inkling of what it’s like to be in a minority, but in America skin color still trumps all. So this means that no matter the anti-racial views held by me or my family, I have enjoyed privilege in America. Because of this, and because we can’t often see through our own hegemony, I am curious to know what others think of this idea. Is it important to classify by race or is this classification part of the problem? Has anyone else responded to the racial question with the classification: “Other — Human?”
Finally, because WordPress makes it so easy and because it’s Poetry Month and for my two cents lyrics count, I’m going to close by sharing a Buju Banton tune. After Jerry Garcia died and The Dead stopped touring, my best friend and I found solace in live reggae shows. Often we were the only Caucasians present and we’d always get some looks until, that is, the music started. Then everyone could see we were dancing from within.
There is something about music that makes me believe tiny actions such as refusing to be classified by race do matter and can make a difference. Whether you agree or not, please do take a moment today to listen to the music you love. That action will most certainly add to the good, the peace and the understanding in our world.
© Jennifer S. and harvestliberty.net, 2012.