Name Calling

Whenever I’ve completed an online job application in recent years, I’ve tended to leave the “race / ethnicity” category blank, or select “Choose not to disclose.”  This modern American society isn’t supposed to care about such matters anymore, as long as the applicant has the right qualifications and – most importantly – can end up doing the job.  So, I’m just sort of helping to see that utopian vision come to fruition.  As I state on my “About” page, I’m of Spanish, Mexican Indian and German descent – and tell people exactly that.  It often throws more than a few folks for a loop, especially when they want so badly to put me in a little ethnic box.  I love pissing people off like that!  Then, they get upset and start calling me names, but I still don’t care about their feelings.  I am what I am.

Increasingly, it seems, many of my fellow Americans are following suit.  The 2010 census produced some curious results in the race category.  More than 21.7 million people described themselves outside of the standard labels; using such terms as “Arab,” “Haitian,” “Mexican” and – my personal favorite – “multiracial.”

The government has 4 racial categories:

  • White,
  • Black,
  • Asian / Pacific Islander,
  • American Indian / Alaska Native.

Here’s where it gets confusing – and sometimes ugly.  If you’re ‘White,’ that means Caucasian, which generally means you trace your ancestry to Europe.  If you’re ‘Black,’ that means Negro, which generally means you trace your ancestry to Africa.  If you’re ‘Asian / Pacific Islander,’ that means you’re Asian Mongoloid, which means you trace your ancestry to Asia, the Orient and / or one or more of the thousands of Pacific islands.  If you’re ‘American Indian / Alaska Native,’ that means you’re American mongoloid and your people didn’t come over here on the Mayflower; they met the damn boat.

In recent years, some “Blacks” have referred to themselves as “African-American,” meaning they trace their ancestry to the African continent – which, according to the Human Genome Project, we all do anyway – but they’re also Americans.  Since I’m mostly “White” (Spanish and German), I guess I could classify myself as European-American – hopefully without sounding like a David Duke protégé.  But, if I do that, then I’d be neglecting the Mexican Indian part of me.  Since Mexican Indians are indigenous to what is now México and south Texas, that would also make them “American Indian,” so I guess I’m still very much an American – and not just by birth.  So, the “European-American” label would, in a sense, be all-encompassing, but still not clear enough.

Lately, though, I’ve seen these 2 categories: “White (non-Hispanic)” and “Hispanic (non-White).”  Damn!  If I select the “White (non-Hispanic)” group, that would indicate I have no Spanish or Indian blood, which simply isn’t true.  My Spanish and Indian ancestors would rise from their graves and haunt me until I repent and correct the form.  But, if I choose “Hispanic (non-White),” then that implies I’m strictly of Spanish and Mexican Indian extraction – which also isn’t true.  My Teutonic relatives up in Michigan (and the Bavarian heartland) would disown me, if they knew me that well.  I normally don’t care how others feel about me, but this is too important.

I don’t know when the U.S. government decided people from the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal) aren’t considered “White,” or why, but it upsets the natural balance of Caucasianism.  From what I understand, Portuguese folks don’t like to be called “Hispanic” because that puts them in the same category as Mexicans, Cubans and Puerto Ricans; and Spaniards don’t like to be grouped with people from Latin America because the latter often have too much Indian and Negro in them.  But apparently, that Indian and Negro blood is what generated the “Hispanic (non-White)” box in the first place!  And, that’s another thing – what if you have Negro blood in you, like a lot of people from the Caribbean islands and many parts of Brazil?  In that case, you’ll check every damn box on that application and really throw the computers out of whack!

Back in 2000, the subject of race came up at my work, as everyone discussed the ongoing census.  One woman said to me, “But, you’re Mexican!”  My manager (a Negro) laughed at the way she just blurted that out, as if she was trying to put me in my place; that properly-designated box.  But, I wasn’t smiling.  “Do you even know what that means?” I asked her.  She looked at me – this little woman who was part “White” and part “Cherokee” – and couldn’t answer.  The 2000 census allowed Americans to classify themselves as “multiracial” for the first time.  I’d like to hope the 2020 census will be the last time the race category is listed at all, but I guess I’m still trying to achieve that elusive utopia.  I stared hard at that one little mixed-race woman and said, “I’m not Mexican.  I’m American.”

That pretty much ended that particular conversation – and more than a decade into the 21st century, others are still having it.

1 Comment

Filed under Essays

One response to “Name Calling

  1. Thanks for sharing your view on this ongoing debate. No matter which side you defend, you are bound to offend someone. Euro Americans devised the racial classifications you describe, but the fact that they have changed them lets you know that even they realize the flaws. So, as this effort to protect the Euro gene pool continues, the question becomes: why do the rest of us feel we have to buy into such flawed logic?

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