It’s about that time again. Soon, Uncle Sam’s minions will be knocking at your doors demanding all kinds of personal information (actually, these days they tend to mail out questionnaires instead). Big Brother wants to pry into your life to determine to the first decimal point how many children you have, if you rent or own, how much you make, your marital status (and by inference then, your sexual orientation perhaps), etc. Please, I beg of you, give him this information. Normally, I would never advocate letting the old man know anything personal without a warrant, but in this case, it serves a larger cause. Future historians rely on census data for a wealth of information for their research. On behalf of my successors, I ask for your cooperation. This will be of great assistance later, and I wouldn’t ask if it weren’t important.
I have another request too. When it comes time to identify your race, please consider your response carefully. Growing up in Oklahoma, I understood race as a very nuanced thing. Here, you get used to seeing black people who are tribal members and people with blond hair getting out of trucks with license plates from the various Indian nations. The intermixing is substantial here. Most of the white people I knew growing up weren’t really “white.” That was part of how I understood “white” — which was about the culture you identified with and your general appearance more so than any actual biological status. I was white but I wasn’t “all white,” and that was common in Oklahoma where there is such a large Indian population and inter-marriage/breeding was de rigueur. I always put “white” on paperwork asking for my race because that was the culture I identified with, even though I knew I was Native American too.
Back then, on census forms, you had to pick one race or another. That is no longer the case. Now, you can choose to identify as bi- or multi-racial. So, I am on a campaign to get people to consider carefully how they identify on the census paperwork. If you know you are mixed race, please put that down. Even if you are not a tribal member or aren’t active in a community with which you do share a blood connection, it’s honest to report your blended heritage. I think that if we all do so, the number of mixed-race people in this country will vastly increase. I think that the norm in our country *is* toward a blending of the races, but there’s no real evidence (beyond anecdotal) of this as long as people do not report their heritage properly. I think we are more of a melting pot than we often own up to, and I think it’s high time we did so.
Amusingly, since Barak Obama has become our president, there’s been all kinds of talk by the usual pontificators about his status as a person of mixed-race background. They act as if this is a bizarre or complicated thing. I think it’s not. I think it’s normal. I think most Americans do live a multi-cultural experience and we should celebrate that. We should talk about it. I don’t think Obama has done anything out of the ordinary “straddling two cultures.” Geez, they act like it’s a monstrous effort — or something worthy of the old freak shows. I think millions of American do it all the time. Most of them don’t probably do it as consciously as some, but I think it’s there and, for the most part, a piece of the mundanity of life in America.
So, on the upcoming census (2010), I intend to identify as a person of mixed race. If that applies to you and in the past you have identified with one dominant race or another, I urge you to consider selecting “mixed race” as well. The world will still spin on its axis and The End is not near, if we do. We’ll really be the same people we were yesterday, only more honest and statistically more interesting as well.