October 2, 2007 -- A 10th grader shares her frustrations of not being able to identify as bi-racial on school forms.
By Nya Reichley
Check one. These are the instructions given on forms and in surveys asking to check your race. I raise my hand and ask the teacher, "Can we check more than one box?" The teacher looks back, almost mockingly, and replies: "Nya, the directions are clear." How do they expect me to check only one box when I am more than one?
I sometimes have friends and classmates telling me, "just pick which one you consider yourself more of." The directions aren't to choose which one you want to be, it says choose what you ARE. I am two, and the form has clearly set a boundary for me expressing my mixed race. My mother is black, born in Jamaica, and my dad is white, born and raised in the United States. I deeply believe that there are no signs of different races in my house. It's not that we ignore it; it's just that we understand who we are. Our family is comprised of different races and this has helped us to become more accepting of different kinds of people and more open to different cultures. Being bi-racial makes me feel unique.
Some may not consider this a boundary that divides, for me it is. It is frustrating to me that I have to identify with only one race, and it frustrates me more to know the expectation is for me to only choose one race. Being bi-racial, I feel pressured to choose which race I should be, especially from friends. Oftentimes my friends attempt to help me decide. They think the decision should be based on the group you mostly hang out with and it shouldn't be this way.
Interracial couples aren't respected or even praised as much as they should be. My parents were able to look past the racial boundaries, and their love broke through that. Mixed couples are able to put aside the differences that make their races unique and focus on the important thing, their love for one another and their relationship.
I feel my community does absolutely nothing to help families who are bi-racial and it feels as if they encourage segregation within the community. I hardly ever hear of any racial problems or racial slurs from my friends or peers. In my school, holding events such as "Multicultural Week" and having multicultural clubs such as "Educate to Elevate," definitely encourage respecting and accepting an individual despite their differences. Mixing of cultures begins with understanding and being exposed to ideas and beliefs of different cultures. I smile when I see the couples of different skin colors walking down the hallway holding hands. It shows exactly how far we have come, but still have some ways to go. I will continue to check the "Other" box on forms until being bi-racial is included in the list.
Reichley, Nya. “Essay: 'Check One.'” Fight Hate and Promote Tolerance. 2 October 2007. Tolerance.org. 18 May 2008