December 15, 2004


My first contact with the confusions of race and ethnicity in the US: A., B., and I each had to fill out an employment form here in the late 1980's. At the foot of the form it asked us for our "race". The choices were: Caucasian, African-American, Asian, Latino, Pacific Islander, Native American, and "other" (or some such typical collection). All three of us were baffled: me, I knew I wasn’t from the Caucases (I didn’t know Americans mean "white" when they use the term "Caucasian" -- I was still a while away from learning that oddity), but I wasn’t anything else there either except perhaps "other" (I wondered whether they were implying that white anglos like me had no race...). A., a black Londoner born in the Caribbean but as English as they come, obviously wasn’t anything other than "other", either. B. -- London-born, with Bengali parents -- felt "Asian" (covering a very diverse 2/3 of humanity in this usage) wasn’t quite the ticket either.... In the end we all three put down "other" in bewildered exasperation.


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