No one gets to decide what “race” they’re born as, but a lot of people have the privilege of being able to say “I’m black,” or “I’m white,” or “I’m native American,” etc, without anyone questioning or refuting the statement, based on what *they* think you’re allowed to call yourself. Which is why I think we should stop talking about race. A new sort of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Ethnicity is more important than race, anyway, so let’s start asking about that, instead, if we’re just so curious that we can’t contain the question.
Race was made up a few centuries ago so people could make broad decisions about which people to dehumanize and enslave. Ethnicity is about culture, traditions, family, and community. And it’s so much more interesting. I’d rather hear about the village or tribe of a person’s ancestors than a robotic breakdown along the lines of, “I’m 42% white, 13% asian, etc…”
I grew up going to pow-wows and ceremonies and wearing my grandmother’s gorgeous beadwork. My great-grandfather was the eldest member of his tribe before he passed, he was a victim of the forced assimilation movement, and he was named in a Supreme Court case involving native American religious freedom. And we’re related to a man who led a revolt against the government on behalf of his people in the 19th century. And that’s so much more interesting to talk about than having to explain, “well, I’m only X% native, but that’s the family I was raised in.” And I’ve had people tell me I have to call myself white because my blood quantum is too low. No. Indigenous North Americans were nearly eradicated, and there are still people living who were sent to boarding schools to have the “Indian” beat out of them. If someone asks about my ancestry, they’re not getting a one-word answer. I won’t help erase the culture I was brought up in. So, my race doesn’t matter to me. My people do.