The Asian/Pacific Islander category is very enticing.

momCheryl Mercado Arnedt,
West Orange, NJ.

My grandmother and her sister — red-headed daughters of NYC cops — both married full Filipino men and were disowned. There was no race in our family – just rice AND potatoes at every meal. My grandfather “Pupa” intentionally didn’t pass down his Asian-ness or his language Tagalog so his children would fit in. It wasn’t until decades later, when my father went to a racial sensitivity class at work, did he/we realize we were considered “a minority”. He called me, “Hey, Cher. Did you know we are what they call Asian/Pacific Islander?” He was shocked, and so was I. The dilemma a few years later was whether to check that box when applying to colleges. Since I hadn’t grown up embracing that identity, I chose not to and when I went into the workforce, the issue came up again in another form of “quota”. By now I knew the history of my maiden name Mercado – a common Filipino surname from Spanish days – which added another layer of ethnic confusion. Many times I walked into a job interview and saw the same crestfallen look which I could recognize as the “I thought you were Hispanic and you’re not and now I can’t fill my quota damn it!” To which I would offer, “No, I’m not Hispanic. But I am Filipino so you can check me off in your Asian/Pacific Islander quota”. That always produced a smile of relief.


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