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Race: Are we so different

A blog looking at the changing face of race around our region, created in cooperation with Pacific Science Center, the University of Washington Department of Communication and the City of Seattle Race and Justice Initiative

November 6, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Race project | Yes, it is okay to talk about race.

Nick HernandezIt is never easy talking about race. It is especially hard talking about race to someone during your first interview. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to interview someone working in a public school in Southwest Seattle as he emphasized the importance of self-identification as the first step in talking about race.

Nick Hernandez, 26, identified himself as someone who is of mixed race; his mother’s side consists of members from Western Europe and his father’s side is from Mexico.

Initially, Hernandez had thought that a mixed-race person would not experience the same type of racism that happens typically to a person of color. However, one exhibit changed his assumption when it explains the biracial couple living in Minneapolis who was told to fill out a form for their daughter during her doctor’s appointment. Putting down her race was a problem because the option for her ethnicity was not included. This came as a shock to her parents, especially when the nurse urged them to pick just one of the options.

Of course, nowadays, it is different as we have the choice to include mixed race, or our different ethnicities, as an option in forms that are to be filled out. We no longer need to  limit ourselves by ticking one box when answering what our race is. Hernandez sees this as a step in the right direction because it was impossible to identify yourself as a mixed race in the past.

Being part of a public school in Southwest Seattle, it helped him think about his role in the institution on how to help children learn about this issue and to be more open-minded of our society.

“Working in a public environment, it’s definitely something that comes up a lot,” Hernandez explained. “I think what struck me here is the connection with the institutions and the human experience and how casually at times we sort of ask people to self-report ways that aren’t representative of things that they feel or who they are.”

Not only did he think that it reiterates the urgency to identify this problem occurring on a daily basis, it will also make sure that students see the humanity in not judging someone by his or her race. He encourages people to ask questions instead of making assumptions of others and of themselves. Perhaps there have been too few questions being brought up and more judgments that have been passed on people that may appear or look different from us.

Acknowledging separate group identities and breaking down assumptions by seeking commonality and understanding are the first few steps he would advise someone to take to overcome this problem in them. In my opinion, talking about race should be highly urged, contrary to popular belief, as race is a part of one’s self-identity and urges identification in this society. It is clear that Hernandez thinks so too.

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