'What is your race?'---check '???'

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By Terry Dean

Staff reporter


In a story in this week’s Wednesday Journal, Lynn Allen, director of Dist. 97’s Multicultural Department was interviewed. It’s not the first conversation she’s had with our paper. Diversity, acknowledging all races, and making sure all kids feel like they are “relevant” sometimes come up in those conservations. That reminded this reporter of a Dist. 97 board discussion recently where the topic of multiracial families came up.  

The idea that many Americans for as long as we can remember are of mixed races is not a new one. But until the 1980s, various forms—such as enrollment documents, among others—asking kids to identify their race didn’t have a “multiracial” box to check. That point came up during a discussion by the board about the district’s all-day kindergarten program. There was a time in Dist. 97 not too long ago, a board member noted, that students filling out certain forms didn’t have the multiracial category to choose from. So, when a student was asked to identify their race, it often caused some angst if, say, mom was white and dad was black; or if dad were and mom were Native American. That, the Dist. 97 board member noted, could also skew certain data. Some school districts, though, are still a little slow to this change. Washington D.C. school districts this year reportedly finally made the change by giving students to identify and black and white or Native American and Asian. More and more kids are coming from multiracial families. Having the option to identify all of one’s races and cultures ought not to be seen as a “feel-good, politically correct thing to do.” Whoever thought it was a good idea to add a multiracial category has actually helped, in this instance, kids better explain who they are. And it helps districts and parents to better know what their school communities really look like with respect to accurate data.

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john murtagh from Oak Park  

Posted: January 13th, 2011 2:36 PM

At a meeting a few years ago ex-Village Clerk Sandra Sokel said that she wondered if we should do away completely with the race component on village forms. At the time I thought that was a bad idea. I was wrong. The primary use of the information is the government and maybe business. If they really need it, there are other ways to collect it. Weight, sexual preference, or whether we have freckles are not collected. It is irrelevant. Race should also be irrelevant.

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