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Tuesday, August 16, 2005

what race is pink?

izzy at her country house

lately i have been thinking a lot about race and ethnicity. one reason is that i am working on our annual progress report which requires us to calculate how many study participants we've had, stratifying them by race and ethnicity. (since our project is government sponsored, we have to prove that our participants are racially and ethnically diverse.) this report often proves challenging because we always lump hispanic/latino in with race, not ethnicity, when we ask the study participants. the gov't., however, wants to know how many white hispanic/latinos we have versus black or asian (?) or native american hispanic/latinos. what's interesting to me is that hispanic vs. not hispanic is the only ethnic category requested. when i look at wikipedia to figure out exactly what it means to be "white", it lumps together all people of european, middle eastern, and north african descent. it also describes it as an ethnicity versus a race. but if "white" isn't a race, what is? well, it seems we're not quite sure. wikipedia does its best to explain here. i'm still not convinced. which leads me to the other reason i was thinking about race and ethnicity...

i was reading middlesex this past weekend, and i noticed that the central character did not think of herself/himself as american in the traditional sense because of her/his greek background. (i'll just refer to her as a "she" from now on since that's what she was thought to be at that point in the book, and it's just a pain in the *ss to keep writin "she/he.") she hung out with the other outsiders -- the indian girl, the asian girl, and the jewish girl. this struck a chord with me because i realized that that configuration mapped almost precisely onto my experience growing up in houston (through the murkiness or memory i see my lunch table: three indian girls, two asian girls, a jewish girl, a sri lankan, a unitarian, and a lesbian). i put that together with my social work professors remark on my genogram assignment that i am not "white," and i finally realized at age 28 that i am not the plain-jane, all-american girl that i always thought i was. i realized that all of the popular girls in my private school were of the freckly, protestant variety. my half-jewish, half-catholic, mostly agnostic background put me into my own category or "otherness." i guess what's so strange about this is not that i'm "other" -- h*ll, most of us are, aren't we? it's that i didn't realize it until now.

anyway, that's my revelation for the week. anyone else have any dramatic self-discoveries that didn't occur until adulthood?

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