Saturday, December 31, 2005

Black Irish, Affirm!

Race. Several times a year I fill out a fingerprint card for various forms of background checks or every once in a while a mortgage application. Each time, I've entered for "Race?" the correct answer, "Black Irish." First, by oral family tradition it's true. Second, it's a small tweak to the system of race counters who want to divide us into buckets of diverse common identities.

The last time, the deputy sheriff doing the fingerprinting, who has done mine for at least ten years, called me on it, explaining that the FBI, who processes such things, found little humor in my humor. The second cause of my rethinking is new knowledge that the federal mortgage overseers count any response on their forms that is out of the box as "Black" or "African American," depending on the age of the form. While I'm not opposed to being Black and am actually indifferent as to what I am if I am not what I am, I affirmatively prefer to continue to be one in a line of what our family likes to think we are, descendants of the interned and impounded Spanish sailors landed by chance (or English skullduggery) on the Emerald Island in 1588.

The realization dawns that I've mislabeled myself for decades in a way not helpful to the system and not as productive to my offspring as might be. If the millions of Americans of African descent whose ancestors stopped for centuries first in the Caribbean, Mexico, and Central or South America before continuing on their journey to this great country are still to be called "African American" despite 300 or 400 years intervening residence elsewhere, shouldn't my ancestors be accorded the same treatment, if only for consistency?

So, from 2006 forward, I shall answer Race? with "Hispanic" and let that be that.

And in the new year just hours away, Vaya con Dios!

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