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.