From a March 24th article on Huffington Post entitled, “Plato, Missouri Sits At Center of Nation’s Population”, comes this quote: “Meanwhile, more than 9 Million Americans checked two or more race categories on their 2010 census forms, up 32 percent from 2000, a sign of burgeoning multiracial growth in an increasingly minority nation.”
I remember a conversation with my son when he was quite young. We were watching something on TV and my son made a comment. When I asked him which character he meant, he said “The White lady.” I pointed to the screen and said “Who is that?” and he replied, “That’s a Black man.” “What am I,” I asked. “You’re White,” he replied. “And Daddy?” “He’s Black,” my son said. “What are you,” I asked him, to which he replied, “I’m White.” And I thought, this is it. This is the conversation you knew you were going to have someday.
So I took a deep breath and explained to him that he was neither Black nor White but biracial, the product of two racial heritages. He took it in calmly, and we talked a little about it, and things were fine.
I remember when my son went to Montessori School when he was going on four years old, and I remember the forms that came home for me to fill out. In those days, when you came to race there was very little choice. There were Caucasian, Black, Hispanic and Asian, and that was it. I checked the first two boxes and sent the form back to school. It was returned to me with a note – Please check only one box. I declined to do so, and when I was asked to fill it out their way, I refused. “Your form is what is wrong, not my son. Change your form.”
There was a similar conversation when he went into the public school system, and again I stood my ground. I checked both boxes and if there was a box for Native American I checked that too, since my son is part Cherokee on both sides of the family.
Now it’s a different story. The choices on the 2010 Census forms included the following: White, Black, Native American or Alaskan, Asian Indian, Chinese, Filipino, Other Asian, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Native Hawaiian, Guamanian or Chamorro, Samoan, Other Pacific Islander, or Some Other Race (print race). Something for everyone!
Did my actions have anything to do with these changes? I hope so. If you don’t like the way things are, remember what one of my heroes, Mahatma Gandhi, said: “Be the change you want to see.” One person really can make a difference.