Reading this story reminded me of my own school days, when I was known to check “American Indian/Alaskan Native” in addition to “Caucasian” on demographic surveys to emphasize my own thinly multi-racial background. (I am 1/32nd Mohawk; the rest is white European.) I thought my speck of minority heritage made me more interesting. I wanted to stand out against all the other Sex: Male, Race: White students, if only to myself. By my senior year of high school I had decided that checking both boxes was disrespectful to people who are actually part of a Native American culture and live somewhere outside of white privilege.
I still feel that, for myself, when I checked two boxes, I wasn’t being completely honest. But, in general, it seems that America needs to get with the multi-racial program. The controversy of how a student identifies racially stems largely from our seeming inability to view race as other than a discrete value. Perhaps there are students who need to work on owning their multi-ethnic backgrounds day-to-day, but society needs to allow space for that and relent with the endless sorting of people into categories. The fact is that we are a mixed-race nation, but we are oddly disinclined to acknowledge it. Our president is a prime example of our strange hang up. How often have you heard Barack Obama referred to as the first bi-racial president? What gives?