A New Jewish Question: Is My Daughter Asian?

June 20th, 2012  |  by  |  Published in Uncategorized  |  12 Comments

The US Census form—if only NYC DoE would follow suit!

This morning I registered Sasha for pre-K—partly as a hedge, since we’re still somewhat on the fence about her going there—and among the many, many forms I had to fill out was one that asked about her race. That’s a pretty normal thing, I suppose, but I was disappointed to see that I was only allowed to pick one option.

So, what was it to be, White or Asian/Pacific Islander? I’d never realized what a strange choice that is to make, since she’s exactly 50 percent one, and 50 percent the other. How do you weigh those things? And what difference does it make?

There in the school office, I called Jean to ask her thoughts. “Asian,” she said, “in case there’s any kind of affirmative action she can get.”

That, I guess, was good enough for me: Sure, we’ll take affirmative action. Does that come with a lollipop? I checked the box. My daughter is now, officially, in the eyes of the New York City Department of Education, an Asian/Pacific Islander. (I’m glad I don’t have to choose which of those two categories this half-Taiwanese kid falls into!)

Did I feel like I was slighting my ancestral contributions? Not really. “White” always reminds me that for centuries it did not include Jews, so I wouldn’t be that jazzed to check it anyway. (Incidentally, you should read this Times story on Asian-Jewish intermarriage.) And actually, once I’d declared Sasha to be an Asian/Pacific Islander, it wasn’t she who suddenly seemed more Asian, but me. I’m married to an Asian woman, I have an Asian kid, hence I must be Asian, too. Not that the Department of Education cares about that.


  1. DadWagon via Facebook says:

    June 20th, 2012at 12:51 pm(#)

    Hey Ted Ross & Nathan Thornburgh: Does the city consider your kids Asian, too?

  2. Jason Sperber via Facebook says:

    June 20th, 2012at 1:01 pm(#)

    I’m surprised that the NYCDoE is still doing “check one only,” 12 years after OMB Directive 15 was revised to “check all that apply.” And this is for when the kids are older: http://www.drmariaroot.com/doc/BillOfRights.pdf

  3. Gregor says:

    June 20th, 2012at 1:04 pm(#)

    The form quite clearly states “Mark x in one or more boxes”

    I guess that’s why your not an editor!

  4. Matt says:

    June 20th, 2012at 1:05 pm(#)

    @Gregor: The photo I included above is from the US Census. WordPress crashed when I was first publishing it and lost the caption. I’m reinserting it now.

  5. Jean says:

    June 20th, 2012at 1:51 pm(#)

    When she applies for college, she can check “white”


  6. Jean says:

    June 20th, 2012at 2:14 pm(#)

    or, rather:


  7. DadCAMP says:

    June 20th, 2012at 3:24 pm(#)

    “And what difference does it make?”

    Exactly. Why does it matter? America, your racial issues will never be solved until you stop trying to find a way to make race an issue in everything, including PreK registration.

  8. Matt says:

    June 20th, 2012at 3:28 pm(#)

    Well, DadCAMP, yes and no. I actually approve of this sort of form, in the sense that the city should track race, ethnicity, etc., in its schools. (We were, fyi, registering for a confirmed pre-K seat, not applying for one.) If you don’t keep track of these kinds of stats, you end up like France, deep in denial about its racial inequality, and with no way of actually measuring that inequality.

  9. DadWagon via Facebook says:

    June 20th, 2012at 9:07 pm(#)

    Matt-I don’t remember. Aren’t those part of the forms voluntary? I never fill anything out unless I have to.

  10. Tim says:

    June 21st, 2012at 10:40 am(#)

    There ought to have been a ‘multi-racial’ category available; if not, there will be when you fill out paperwork for kindergarten: http://schools.nyc.gov/SchoolPortals/15/K038/AboutUs/Statistics/register.htm

  11. DadWagon via Facebook says:

    June 22nd, 2012at 2:01 pm(#)

    I (Nathan) was able to put multiracial on my form. I could only check one, but if one of those options is “multiracial”, then that’s getting us somewhere…

  12. Jason says:

    June 28th, 2012at 9:35 pm(#)

    Be grateful that was the only thing. We just filled out the questionnaire for my son’s kindergarten. One of the questions was, “Where does the child live?” The possible choices were “RV (power/no power)”, “tent”, “barn”, “room in a building”, “orphanage”, “halfway house”, and “shed.” There was no choice for “apartment” or “house.” We were “OTHER!”

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