Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

Ask Me My Race ONE MORE TIME!

| 9 Comments

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The Caucasian race (also Caucasoid,[1] or Europid[2]) is a grouping of human beings historically regarded as a biological taxon, including some or all of the populations of EuropeNorth Africa, the Horn of AfricaWestern AsiaCentral Asia and South Asia.[3] 

That was from Wikipedia. Within the Caucasian race, there are 3 different subgroups apparently: Aryan, Semitic and Hamitic (the latter being most North Africans and Arabs in general).

“I think most people associate race with biology and ethnicity with culture. It’s important to stress the culture and language part of it. Ethnicity isn’t just a question of affiliation; it’s also a question of choice. It’s also a question of group membership. And it’s usually associated with a geographic region. It’s also often confused or conflated with nationality, but that’s not the same thing.” – John Cheng

I don’t know if I have ever written about this before, but I hate filling the race/ethnicity field and most Egyptians find them confusing if not completely frustrating.

We know. We know you see us as people of color. And I don’t mind that I’m browner than you. Really. I don’t MIND. I just mind that my category of brownness has no space in your f#@ng forms!

Especially UK forms.

I am not F#%g white British or white Irish or White F#*g “other”.

I am not Asian. I am from Africa.

I am not black. But I am from Africa. What do you want? No, not  black Caribbean either. 

What do you waaaaant?

And so I am an othered other. I always then have to explain what f#*g other I am. So I have to either say Caucasian…Or sometimes I just get annoyed and say Arab or Egyptian which technically aren’t races, but what the heck, you know? Ethnicities? I suppose Arab would be an ethnicity like Hispanic? Except it’s never on any f#@g forms. 

I have seen the expression BAME (Black/brown, Asian, Middle Eastern I think it stands for). So if it exists, why isn’t there a category for Indian Asians (whose race I don’t know but who aren’t white or black or yellow so i don’t know) or for Arab “types”?

Don’t even get me started on mixed race. Really don’t. I understand why you need those categories. Kinda. But what I cannot understand is why, to this day, I have no box to tick on your forms, even though I am clearly a significant enough category within your population, BRITAIN. 

Thank you

9 Comments

  1. I simply do not understand why you would have to be anything other than the nationality your passport says. They have photos on passports why can’t they judge skîn tone themselves if that amuses them (Michael Jackson?) Not racist nah! No systemic racism nah! Not even if they ask for a f***ing race. Howabout boat-race? I could just about understand being asked for a passport even if it’s like being asked for a number on a lottery ticket.

    • Honestly I don’t think they ask that question on visa applications and situations where they have access to forms. They have it on all kinds of other forms and surveys in the UK

  2. I agree, it’s a rude and pointless question. I never answer, I just leave it blank.

  3. I have often found it very difficult to move from a context where I am just me to race-obsessed South Africa where I forced to be White and take on all the conotations of being White. I know the rational argument of keeping ‘race’ as a way to redress past injustices but still I wish I could just be me. In the same forms I am mostly ‘other’ and sometimes I just give up..

  4. I share your anger Maha. Fwiw BAME in the UK stands for Black and Minority Ethnic – also stupid category but a catch all category for anyone not white British. I didn’t think we used ‘race’ as acategory any more.

    • Lol. And I totally thought the AME in BAME meant Asian/Middle Eastern lol becoz first exposure was in context of Indian/Pakistani and Arab ppl!

  5. I think it has to do interesting things too:
    Are you classifiable?
    Are you a hybrid? If so:
    Did the combination result in something new and interesting?
    Are there enough of you that it’s worth our while to start counting and create a new profile category?
    Is there a loyalty issue here that we need to know about?
    Where have you been to come back different from us?

    • I take it ur being sarcastic 🙂
      In Britain there are quite a lot of people of Indian or Arab origin. In general. I don’t think they have percentages because they don’t have the categories on the forms! Some Egyptians identify as white (really because in our own culture we are white even people who are darker) and I usually identify as “other” because I know they don’t mean me.

      I was saying on Twitter that it’s so easy for Westerners to identify Muslim criminals and yet there’s no category for those populations (many of whom are neither white nor black)

  6. Yes, I was being sarcastic Maha. It’s frightening how there’s a need to identify each of us. Imagine that somewhere in our brains we have a need to explain the possibility of ‘others’. How is it that we are not all the same?

    Mostly though, categorization is aggression. It declares to us our non-belonging and our precarious position as people existing at the pleasure of others. As Americans, Leslie and I are noted as people who chose to live in Canada. Going south into the States we are a category within a category that requires a tiny bit of being reminded about who is authorized to say who we are. It hurts even though we say it doesn’t.

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