Friday, August 27, 2004

What race are you?

Last week, our little family expanded as we celebrated the birth of our daughter. The birth certificate application and several medical files required us to categorize her heritage. Is she black, caucasian, hispanic (if so, from where), indian or asian? We didn't know how to answer this question. I am not even sure I understand the definitions of each category. I am Belgian. My wife is from Argentina. And as for many Argentineans, her family tree extends to Europe. So, is my daughter caucasian, hispanic or both? Or, will she, as many Americans I met, go through live as a "percentage person": x% caucasian and y%hispanic? I suspect she won't be a percentage person, as she isn't part of the perfect 3-I's: she is neither Irish, nor Italian, nor Indian. The American Uber-person is 45% Italian, 45% Irish and 10% Cherokee, Apachian or any other native American nomad. Sure a little German sprinkled here or there doesn't hurt either. But Belgian or Argentinean? Unless it is a world cup soccer year, or you are sitting at a bbq table drinking beer, it doesn't count for any brownie points. We decided to enroll her into the caucasian program. I can't remember what we decided for my son, more than two years ago. Opportunisticaly, he might have been categorized as being hispanic. Even though California prohibited affirmative action in 1996, many other states and universities still favour affirmative action [1] [2]. In such case, we probably wanted to keep the door at least half open for him. I can not remember. Nevertheless, I feel strongly opposed to affirmative action (or any form of discrimination). The fact that such laws are still around in many states just shows that the United States are not the perfect melting pot we were taught about in secondary school. And that race is still a huge deal in day to day life of many Americans. I hope that neither my son nor daughter will ever have to pull out the race card.

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