Oh I think we’re both on the same page in terms of the need to fill it out and send it in. Have you sent yours in, btw?

Barack Obama, despite being raised by white people and having a white mother, indicated on his census form last week that he is “African-American” only even though he could have selected multiple categories. Even ultra-right crazy engine NewsMax had something to say about it:

He may be the world’s foremost mixed-race leader, but when it came to the official government head count, President Barack Obama gave only one answer to the question about his ethnic background: African-American.

The White House confirmed on Friday that Obama did not check multiple boxes on his U.S. Census form, or choose the option that allows him to elaborate on his racial heritage. He ticked the box that says “Black, African Am., or Negro.”

Obama filled out the form on Monday, supplying information for himself, first lady Michelle Obama and their daughters Malia and Sasha, as well as for Mrs. Obama’s mother, Marian Robinson, who lives with the family in the White House.

They’re not the only ones. Lots of folks made note of the President’s selection which raised a few eyebrows although interestingly there’s been little discussion about his choice. Well, until JJP that is.I think it’s worth a little exploration: there’s no growth without probing the boundaries, is there?

I actually made a very different choice for the Census than the Prez and checked off all the boxes of my actual ethnic makeup, which includes African-American, Native American and even some yes, some white. CNN invited me to write a lil sumthin’-sumthin’ about my thoughts on the census as part of a special feature they’re doing called “Census: Who Am I?“. Here’s a little taste below.

I have no earthly idea what [my maternal grandmother] and her parents and siblings put down on their census forms. My grandmother identifies publicly as African-American although she used to tell me that when people would challenge that and press her on her actual ethnicity, she would say: “I’m Heinz 57, baby … Baskin-Robbins 31 flavors!”

Ultimately the census is a private and conflicted choice for many people between ethnicity and identity.

The way the questions are structured today captures not your genetic makeup but what you tell society you are.

In the African-American community, traditionally, it’s often seen as a betrayal of your race to admit to being anything other than black since our society used the “one drop” rule anyway to discriminate — you once could be sold as a slave in Louisiana even if you were 1/32nd black.

I’m proud to be African-American — I’ve co-founded in my spare time one of the most popular and influential black blogs on the Internet: JackandJillPolitics.com. It doesn’t get much blacker than that!

Yet I long at times to find ways to honor my grandmothers’ heritages, too, and connect with the 25 percent of me that is Native American.

I’ve had many people who publicly identify as white tell me about their Native American great-grandparents. My college boyfriend and his family in West Virginia identified publicly as white — yet, like me, he knew he had Indian and black bloodlines and not far below the surface either. How would our viewpoint of Native Americans and their history in this country change if more people checked off all the boxes that describe them?

The story of America is so much richer than the census is capturing. My hope is that, as a culture, we can begin to transcend the simplistic and antagonistic categories that society and Jim Crow laws forced us to choose.

Rather than facing a census form and feeling pressured to choose, I’d like more Americans to expand their notion of who they are and embrace not “or’s” but “and’s”: I’m white … and black … and Native American … and Asian-American … and Hispanic.

Having a president who looks black and yet speaks in glowing terms of the white blood relations who nurtured him is an encouraging start. President Obama is a courageous example to us all of a blended and expanded concept of ethnicity and identity in America.

On my census form, I’ll be checking all the boxes that describe who I am this year. It’s a small step forward toward an America where your ethnicity is not destiny and truly something to celebrate.

Usually Barack Obama and I are on the same page, but here he zigged and I zagged. My issue with the census is that it currently forces  Americans to choose between their ethnicity and their identity. Both Barack Obama and I are ethnically multi-racial. Both Barack Obama and I identify in American society proudly as African-American. Yet when we both had to fill out the census — he took the road of expressing his identity and I chose the opportunity to reveal my ethnicity. Frankly, I think I made the tougher and braver choice.

I’ll go further — personally, I think Obama made the wrong choice. I think it’s a problem in America that we’ve traditionally been forced to deny parts of ourselves in public. During the election, Obama’s ability to express the complexity of his background as a way to tell people he wasn’t choosing sides — showing that he could speak to both black people and white people in an empathetic manner that made him different from many African-American politicians of the past. He took what might have been a weakness (as perceived in our society) — being multi-racial — and made it a strength.

It’s not unusual in America for people to be multi-racial — many white people have whispered to me about their Native American great-great grandmother or what-have-you. It’s common among black folks to be a little mixed — that’s how our beautiful rainbow of complexions came to be. Why should we keep who we really are a secret, even from ourselves?

My point is that I believe that the road to really becoming “post-racial” in America is when we can begin to move beyond the narrow concept of simplified identity and embrace our full ethnicity. When we can all comfortably be all the things we are all the time — that’s when we can truly start to break down the artificial barriers that have kept us apart.

BUT…maybe you disagree. I mean, the current way the census asks about race is completely, utterly ridiculous and wack — no doubt. That’s a given in this conversation. That said — what do you think of Obama’s choice vs my decision? And what did you choose for yourself?

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