This I Believe

Keisha - Syracuse, New York
Entered on September 4, 2007

I Don’t Check the Box

I am a California native. A place that is not only home to the movie stars and sunshine, but it is also one of the most diverse states in America. Growing up, I never paid attention to color or race. I never had to. No one ever asked me why my eyes were slanted, why I only washed my hair once a week, or why my skin color is so fair.

But, it seems as if ever since I hit my junior year of high school, I started taking standardized tests and applying to colleges and universities, all of which asked me to check the box that corresponds with my race/ethnicity. This simple question has always posed as a challenge for me being that I am equally Irish, African American, Filipino and Mexican American.

I was born in 1986 to a couple who both happened to be mixed. My mother is half Black and half Irish, while my father is Filipino and Mexican. I always laugh because my family reunions and gatherings look like a diversity summit or a multicultural fair. My parents are wonderful because they have allowed my siblings and me to embrace each of our cultures. My parents never made me feel as though one race was superior to another. I associate with all kinds of people. I spent six years learning Spanish so I would be able to communicate with my Nana. I love Filipino cuisine and tried very hard to pick up bits of the Tagalog language.

Last fall, I was in a NCAA Compliance meeting at my university. I started rushing through all the paperwork as I always do, when I came across the question and paused for a second. The form asked me to “Select One” from the choices below:

? Black/African American ? White/Caucasian

? Asian ? Indian/Native

? Pacific Islander ? Hispanic/Latino

? Other

I had a defining moment right there in that room on that August day. All of my college sociology courses had impacted me in that instant. The issue I had with this all too common question became real. I decided not to check a box. How could they ask me to choose one, when I am not solely just Black, or just White. I also refuse to check “Other” because that suggests that I am some type of alien or something.

My name is Keisha Townsend. I don’t check the box that asks me to disregard part of who I am. This I believe.