When You're Mixed Race, Just One Box Is Not Enough
George Washington III and son Jordan. When George heard about The Race Card Project, he immediately thought of his children.
NPR continues a series of conversations about, where
thousands of people have submitted their thoughts on race and cultural
identity in six words. Every so often NPR Host/Special Correspondent
Michele Norris will dip into those six-word stories to explore issues
surrounding race and cultural identity for Morning Edition. You can find hundreds of six-word submissions and submit your own at .
The Race Card Project is about identity, it's not surprising that many
submissions deal with the question of how people choose to identify
themselves. That can be more complicated for those who have two parents
who do not share the same race — especially when asked to choose a
particular box for race or ethnicity on an application or government
The U.S. Census has allowed respondents to select multiple races since 2000.
George Washington III is familiar with this quandary. An
African-American voice-over artist, Washington has been married twice,
both times to women who are white. When he heard about The Race Card
Project, his thoughts went immediately to his children. His six words: "."
Washington is black, he assumed the world would also see his
olive-skinned children as black. But during a routine trip to the
doctor's office in Charlotte, N.C., he realized his son Jordan, 18, had
his own ideas about identity.
"It was an 'aha' and an awareness moment for me," Washington says. "[My kids] know that they don't exactly fit into the, 'They are black, they are white' ... way of thinking."
George Washington III: "My Mixed Kids Have It Differently"
An Inner Struggle Over 'One Box'
In 2000, the U.S. Census began allowing people of mixed race to to describe their racial makeup.
Kung of St. Mary's City, Md., was grateful for that policy change, and
his submission to The Race Card Project explains why.
a math professor, struggled for years over what box to check on
government forms and applications. His father is Chinese. His mother is
white. Picking just one box on a form, Dave says, meant choosing one
race over another — and that meant denying part of his ancestry. But checking "other" as an alternative choice was also unsatisfying, he says.
Many forms and questionnaires allow
respondents to check just one box to describe their racial identity.
That doesn't sit well with many people who have written to The Race Card
"Sometimes when I was applying for colleges I was just annoyed at
whoever was asking me. I was sort of picturing some bureaucrat forcing
me to check a box," Dave says. "And sometimes I would just check both
boxes and force them to deal with it."
Kung was in his late 20s
when his 2000 Census form arrived. He already knew, before opening it,
that the form would offer him a chance to check more than one "race"
Even so, he wasn't prepared for "how emotional that
experience was," Dave says. "When I filled out my census card and was
finally allowed to — correctly — check more than one box, I cried." Source: NPR