Race: Who Gets to Choose?
Self identifying race has never been more important to Americans than it is now because it is more than a source of pride in ones’ history and family – it is a choice that allows people to access more opportunities in society. Censuses, college forms, and any other events with the option to choose which race applicants identify as such as job applications, causes confusion. The main reason for this confusion would be: How do people know what race they are? Race can be based on whether a man looks African American or on the blood of his African American ancestors. According to D’vera Cohn’s article, “Millions of Americans changed their racial or ethnic identity from one census to the next,” applicants tend to change the race they identify as such as Americans who identified as Hispanic and “some other race” in the 2000 census, who then identified as Hispanic and white in the 2010 census. America’s diversity explains the reason for the 2010 census including an option to check multiple races and a final option for “some other race” if some one couldn’t choose one of the listed races. The fact is, race can’t be defined as easily as black and white because our nation is filled with so many colors. By solving this dilemma of racial identification, proper respect toward one’s race can be given and exploitation of racial benefits can be prevented.
Mixed-race college applicants face the moral dilemma of selecting the race most likely to get them accepted. Natasha Scott, the child of an African-American father and an Asian mother, applied to the University of Virginia in 2011 as African-American to improve her odds, but feels guilty about it. When posting her dilemma on College Confidential, none of the commenters mentioned putting only Asian yet many either said to choose African American and Asian or just African American. She is both races, but in this case, chose to be the one most beneficial to her.
Because the rules for determining race are fuzzy, institutions can dispute applicants’ choices. 27-year-old Afro-Brazilian diplomatic applicant Lucas Siqueira was denied a Brazilian diplomatic position because the government “race commission” decided his looks made him White. Regardless of how he self-identifies, others will determine how he is treated in his neighborhood, at his school, and by prospective employers.
Similarly, in American history a man was deemed Black by society if they had even a drop of Black blood in them. This was called the “one-drop rule.” Even if a man had White parents, White grandparents, and White great-grandparents, if his great-great-grandmother or grandfather was African American, he was considered Black. Institutions such as schools or factories during this time of segregation had the power to identify applicants’ races despite the wishes or appearance of the applicants.
The “one-drop rule” however, in Elise Hu’s article “Minority Rules: Who Gets To Claim Status As A Person Of Color?” can also be applied by applicants to gain the societal benefits as a person of color in scholarships, college admissions, or work institutions. Massachusetts Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren claimed to be Cherokee Indian which in some cases would allow her to have the same health care and education benefits Native American tribe members have. Despite her claim, her self-identification doesn’t match her white looks.
Self-identifying race is important to Americans more than ever because of the benefits and opportunities in school or in the workplace that are more accessible to certain races. Clarifying what and who makes applicants Caucasian, or African American, or Asian is only the beginning to defining race.
“For Affirmative Action, Brazil Sets Up Controversial Boards To Determine Race.” NPR. 29 September 2016. Web. 31 October 2016.
“Millions of Americans changed their racial or ethnic identity from one census to the next.” Pew Research Center. 5 May 2014. Web. 31 October 2016.
“Minority Rules: Who Gets To Claim Status As A Person Of Color?” NPR. 16 May 2012. Web. 31 October 2016.
“On College Forms a Question of Race, or Races, Can Perplex.” The New York Times. 13 June 2011. Web. 31 October 2016.