07 August 2008

Race Labelling.

I always love chatting with people on controversial subjects when the tone is friendly! Dana has me thinking about how we should be ABLE to chat about races and statistics.

Mmm...

I guess it really goes against the grain with me. I want everyone to be able to say whatever they want to say about anyone or any group so long as that "line" of privacy or threats isn't crossed. But on a personal note, I don't want people knowing what race I am for their little forms. And I so very much *want* to be able to treat people pretty well the same that I hate categorizing people too rigidly. If you think about it, have you ever wondered if there might be some secrets in your family tree? Wouldn't that change your racial designation on a form somewhere? And who really gets to decide who's black and who isn't? Maybe I'm black and don't know it!! Yet another reason to do unto others as we'd want done unto ourselves... it might just be "us."

That's the sort of thing that steams me at my local Health Department. Seeing as how our last doctor kicked us out, probably for not vaccinating on *his* schedule, and our new doctor doesn't vaccinate at *all,* if I want vaccinations for my children this is where I'm headed. But they're federally-funded (um, I still pay a good-size copay for "shot administration," thanks!!) and like to classify people. THEY marked me down as "white" and wouldn't listen to me argue that we should be creative and list "Pacific Islander" on the form because I'd once been to Hawaii. And argue as I might, they refused to put "Displaced Edenic Peoples" on the form for me. I look white to them, and so do my children, so some *bureaucrat* gets to decide that my whole family is white. Aargh. I keep thinking that with affirmative action and whatnot, that I will get very BAD service if I'm listed as white on the forms. And sure enough, we do! A two-hour wait for shots is a bit ridiculous. I'll just *bet* that I would get much better treatment if I were black.

THAT'S the sort of thing that feeds the racist ideas in people. If we keep comparing and tabulating, and figure out that one group has a little larger slice of a pie than another, it must therefore be unfair. I don't mind someone answering an *optional* question on race on a form, but I do mind being pidgeonholed for purposes unknown. Then my "data" gets lumped into everyone else's without my consent.

You can use statistics to prove just about anything. Currently I wonder if keeping statistics on black, American Indian and other races isn't just the new paternalism. I have to admit that when I hear terms like, "mostly black school district," I think it's code for, "bad school district where most of the whites moved out for good reason." But I've also noticed that some of the politicians who scream the loudest about a quality education for all children regardless of colour are the ones who will NOT send their children to any "mostly black school." Even if they're black themselves. In all fairness, there are many white rural schools my children will never attend as well, and for good reason! I'll have to post on that some other time.

But I guess I see a lot of racial posturing so that educational administrators can look all non-racist and benevolent ... Oh, NO! Our district is 96% white but only a few "African-American" children are posted on our school district website!?? We have to fix that!! (Ok, wouldn't you think that only in about four pictures of students in every hundred, there would be a black student? Not good enough!) Now the children who happen to be the designated proper colour are front and center on the website. And the district *used* to have a boy and girl designated as representative students from each school for a local bond issue, but now, we need to be sure to include "students of colour" so 50% of the representatives in this ad campaign are now some other colour besides white. But our district is about 96% white... but the kids who aren't white are somehow not tokens but have really earned their spots as "representative" students... Yeah.

Oh, see the sarcasm there? By the way, that's a reason I think affirmative action ought to be stopped. It really cheapens the educational achievement of those black folks who do make it through college. I guess I really wonder, with such a structure in place, who's really the racist: the poor white who thinks this is unfair because it takes spots he might have had a *chance* for before, or the paternalistic person rigging the colleges so that they accept X number of black applicants? I'm voting the latter.

But I think *ideally* we wouldn't be keeping track of this sort of thing at all. I shouldn't have to tell you what race I am; maybe you can guess but it shouldn't be your BZ. I don't like information about me plugged into some system so that I, The White Demographic, am the gold standard by which all other races are compared. Actually, I think it's a moral travesty. I know "bad stuff" happened in the past, and I understand why people do this tracking, but I don't want to be a part of it. I'd like to opt out, please. I'd like to really TRY to be race-neutral. It's an effort all of us should strive for, don't you think? Hey, we do fail sometimes. I'm going to be honest here.

But I respect the decision of others to talk about problems in the black, Hispanic or white community. I just feel as though over-emphasis tells your racist "Uncle Stan" that them blacks really aren't biologically as good as he is when yet again "they" don't do as well on standardized tests. Or "Uncle Stan" gives you a website address so you can "find out the truth," and it's full of statistics about the blacks in jail and how they're racially inferior, and BRETHREN, we need your donations to keep the Aryan pride of our nation PURE and undefiled...

OK, and what's even harder... agreeing with "Uncle Stan" on immigration reform, but for different reasons. Thinking the educational system should be changed, but for different reasons. Finding yourself trying to figure out what on earth the "there's blacks and then there's niggers" argument means. (??? Someone clue me in on that one. What could you say besides, "That's really stupid!!") Wishing you had people besides "Uncle Stan" to talk about race with, but you're really scared to ask the nice black lady up the street to chat for fear she's going to think you're picking on her because she's black, which yes, you would be... but you wonder if everyone is really like "Uncle Stan" when you get deep enough into things. You wonder how much of "Uncle Stan" has rubbed off on you. You wonder if she has an "Uncle Stan," too.

4 comments:

  1. Malcolm Gladwell's "Blink" presents some really good arguments for why we should reconsider race labeling on tests. Very, very interesting!

    And, yes, my University is very guilty of trying to increase "diversity" through their propaganda... even though the student populace is largely white. In fact, far too many chapels were devoted to "diversity" that both my wife and I have a great aversion to the topic today.

    But one great story from college: In class, one of my professors started a discussion about discrimination. "I'm sure you have seen discrimination on campus," he said. Then, turning to the sole "black" girl in the class, asked, "I'm sure you have experienced discrimination. Would you share about one of those experiences?"

    Without skipping a beat, she said, "You just discriminated against my race for picking on me because I'm black."

    Bingo. It was beautiful, especially my professor's "red" face which used to be "white."

    ~Luke

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  2. I agree with this, it does need to go away--we see it in our schools in LS too. It's a fear, everyone fears being labeled racist. So we overcompensate. However, on the flip side, I empathize for those who ARE discriminiated against.

    My sister, Antoinette, couldn't get a job as a dental assistant when she sent out apps all over town. But after changing after I suggested putting Toni as her name instead of Antoinette, bam! The phone calls started coming in. Antoinette is considered a predominantly black name in KC, so sad to me that this is what folks go through. What is the answer? What a mess we've made.

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  3. Wow, Stacey! And I thought the name was French and would have expected someone white!

    I agree that racism is VERY REAL and I'll have to post on my experiences on that sometime. I don't want to get too heavy with it *this* week though. Whew.

    PS. So, if you were black would you name your children Harold and Robert if you liked a "black" name like D'Shawn better? I would hate to have to choose something like that to please an employer. So I have saddled my children with extremely **OLD** names, mostly that nobody else has LOL! Emperor's is the "worst" and one lady asked me right in front of him why I ever did that to my child.

    Um, she's right, but whatever.

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  4. "I have to admit that when I hear terms like, "mostly black school district," I think it's code for, "bad school district where most of the whites moved out for good reason."

    And your thinking would be absolutely right! Which is why every black family I know (mine included) works overtime to move into a better school district and double overtime to transfer their kids out if they can't afford to move.

    I tend to skip the boxes that ask the race question because...why does it matter?

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Non-troll comments always welcome! :)