But I’m European American NOT white.

K. Lynn
Santa Barbara, CA

I do national survey work. I read the question: Are you latino or of hispanic origin? A respondent will say, “Yes, I’m Mexican American.” And then I read: “For this survey, hispanic origins are not races. What is your race?” They are asked to choose from a printed list of options: white, black, asian, pacific islander, native american. Often, a respondent will look irritated or puzzled or just tired and say something like, “Well, white I guess.” On my computer screen, there is a check box for Other and a place to write in an alternative race. I’m not supposed to share this with respondents unless they voluntarily offer an unlisted response. But sometimes as they are pondering over the list, clearly in discomfort, I’ll say, “I can also record an answer that isn’t on the list, if you’d like. Or you don’t have to answer.” Very often when I ask about ethnic origin people will respond quickly and with pride. They may choose many different origins to reflect their heritage. But often when I ask about race that wonderful sharing of identity stops. I wish I didn’t have to record race, and that government could help lead the way toward a new way of relating to each other by not politicizing race through it’s many policies, though it’s official language, through it’s survey questions. The census did try to remove race and replace it with ethnic origin a couple decades back, but race means votes and power to Washington politicians. If we stopped describing people in terms of color or appearance, what might change from that?


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