The Count Day race box is limiting


The struggle of knowing which box to check when asked the race question on a survey or a school census card is known to many who don’t fit into any box. Many people aren’t just “Caucasian” or “African American” or “Asian,” but a combination of many things or none of those things. Many have a box for “Native American,” but not “Middle Eastern” or “Latino” or “Oceanic” or often times “Mixed Race” or even “Other.” People under these “other” options are forced to pick the best suited option out of those listed, and there’s nothing worse than having to select a race that one doesn’t identify with.

The reason for the race box is to get an accurate census of the diversity of a group, whether it be students, workers or citizens. However, the limited choices really affect the outcome of the data, not providing all other options, therefore corrupting the information. If these boxes were absolutely necessary to the data collector, he or she should have all possible race options or a fill in the blank box, making the data more accurate and putting people at ease.

The often required question of “Which race are you?” really limits the value of a person by forcing them into a box. Minority groups are not typically represented, causing people to pick an identity they don’t belong to. A Middle Eastern person is not Caucasian, but it is the default choice for that person. A child of a Caucasian mother and African father is neither all white nor all black, but a mix of the two, and they should not be forced to pick one side of their identity or culture. Someone native to New Zealand or Australia or Malaysia doesn’t even get a box, and has to choose between choices that do not accurately represent him or her at all whatsoever. There are too many different types of people out there to narrow down race to just four choices and sometimes an “other.”

While this issue does not affect many people who are comfortable with their options, those who are represented by the choices given to them, not all types of people are given a real choice when this question is asked. Often times, it is an easy choice and then forgotten about, but for many people it’s difficult to choose. There’s been many people who say “I guess I’m Caucasian” or “I guess I’m Asian” and too often a choice to the “most similar” box.

All races should be represented by this question, not only for the benefit of the people being asked but to those collecting the data as well. Without representation of all races, the data is simply wrong and people are forced to undermine their cultural and racial identity to fit into a box. Race is much more than just a box.