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What to Say to the Census about 'Race'

If only I hadn't been so quick to complete my Census questionnaire the other day, I'd have had this to work from. Too late. But I can share with you. It's from my uncle, Harrell Fuller.
I must admit to having staged my own small act of civil disobedience in responding to the Census section on racial identification. I marked "other" and wrote in "human."

Isn't it about time to recognize that the concept of race, while having some recent historical significance on this continent, has neither scientific validity nor a firm cultural basis?

The best scientific evidence suggests that all my ancestors came out of Africa about 50,000 years ago after having lived on that continent for about 1.5 million years. Does that make me an African American?

They tarried for a few thousand years on the land mass we call Asia before some of them moved on to the area we know as Europe. Does that make me Asian? Or European?

A few hundred years ago some of them migrated from Europe to North America. The color of their skins probably ranged from pink to brown. Does that make me White?

Others moved across Asia in the other direction, crossed over into North America, migrated southeast and eventually settled in the Chesapeake Bay area. One of their descendants married one of the early European immigrants, eventually resulting in me. Does that make me American-Indian? Or maybe Indo-European?

As far as I can discover, I and all my ancestors for the past 10 generations or so have been conceived and born on this continent. Does this make me Native American?

As far as I know, I can claim no genetic ties to Latin America, yet I speak better Spanish than some people who do. I grew up eating "Mexican" food, and I love mariachi music. Does that make me Hispanic? Or Latino?

As for the next generation, my daughter was conceived in Africa and born in Boston of a Canadian mother. What does that make her?

Isn't it time we moved on?

Humanity needs to do all it can to break away from the myopic race-centric view of identity if we are going to evolve towards a more positive, enlightened and inclusive frame of reference so together we can make progress on some of the vexing issues facing all of us.

-- Hal (very confused) Fuller

8 comments:

  1. Kel, so glad you posted this. I'm starting to see where this contrarian gene comes from.
    -Jas.

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  2. I do the same thing... we are all Human!

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  3. Beautifully expressed. I've always picked "other" because I'm not Anglo, Latina, Native American, Pacific Islander or black. I'm not Basque either, but that's not one of the choices. Joanne Lobeski Snyder

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  4. Is Hal spoken for?

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  5. 'Wish I'd been more thoughtful when filling out my form. Well said, Hal! Thank you!
    Kathy

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  6. I'll let Hal answer whether he's spoken for. (If he's not, believe me, he's a catch.)

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  7. Well, I guess when we put everyone from the entire racial spectrum in our personal dating and marriage pool we will have entirely arrived. Hal? anyone? anyone? America?

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