A few days after T. was born we had to visit an audiologist to have his hearing tested (he’s fine; the equipment in the hospital wasn’t working so he couldn’t get his routine infant hearing test until after we were discharged). As I was filling out his patient information questionnaire in all its Scantron glory, something hit me. No, not the absurdity of some of the questions (why yes he does smoke and chew tobacco, doesn’t every baby?). There on the sheet was a question asking about his race. All the standard options were there – “Caucasian, Black/African American, Hispanic, Asian, or Prefer Not to Answer”. For me it was always easy; I just marked “Caucasian” and go about my business. But what do I mark for him? I’m not so sure now.
You see, T. is biracial. I am caucasian and his mother is black. Should I fill in both on his form? In truth I want to jot down a paragraph about how “race” is purely a social construct with no genetic basis and how I don’t want him to be defined by bubbles on a Scantron form. But I have neither the time or the space for that so I just marked “Prefer Not to Answer”.
This experience got the wheels turning in my head. How will he identify himself (ideally he’s just a boy)? How do I want to present the idea of race to him? I certainly want to instill the thought that race is just one of many social phenomena used to classify different groups of people. But today’s society places far more importance on race (usually in a negative way) than I want. This is all a new experience for me being the “normal everyday white dude”. What racial challenges will he face as he grows up? Am I prepared to handle them?
If anyone has any experiences or advice please share in the comments!