No – Sesame Street is not in danger of becoming political (to my knowledge). But, politics sure could use a dose of same basic, elementary schooling in the English language, especially when it comes to understanding “like terms”. On most government applications (which has now trickled over to public-use surveys, job applications, and other such documents), there is a small section reserved for people to identify their racial background. The choices offered are not only blatantly offensive, but also intellectually offensive as they borderline on failing second grade English and literary comprehension. So, today, we’re going to address this issue …
Now, many of you may have seen a form with a section similar to the one above. Some forms choose to keep it simple and show: 1) Hispanic or Latino or 2) Non-Hispanic or Latino. While those more simpler forms are somewhat offensive, at least they’re correct in regard to literary comprehension. As for racial heritage, it’s clear that there’s a literary disconnect between the people that make up these forms and the basics of the English language and it’s called, “like terms.” For example, “Asian” is not the same category as “White“. While the pervasiveness of laziness in speech has infiltrated the entire American culture, basic common sense dictates that these two terms do NOT belong together. It’s like asking you if your car is a Ford, or red. W … T … F??
Some terms on the form are more well stated than others. For example, a lot of forms won’t include “Black” along with the term “White” and expect people to select from “White” or “African-American“. That’s wholly inappropriate. On the other hand, not only are these forms absolutely racially biased just beyond the required identification of racial background (as if it’s okay to discriminate on such matters and this applies to EVERY race because ALL lives matter), but it groups people together in inappropriate ways. For example, how does a person from the Middle East answer this form? Does “Black or African American” provide the justification for checking that box? If so, why isn’t “White” accompanied by “European“, or “Russian” (which is especially funny as the above pictured SNAP/TANF form is available to download and read in Russian), or some other ethnicity? And, if we’re going to get down to brass tacks, even though Asia is defined by world maps it does not mean that people from China like being thrown into the boiling pot with people from Korea or vice versa (as an example). To make this whole matter even more ridiculous:
Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander vs. American Indian/Alaskan Native.
How does that work? Isn’t the point of this essentially the same? Yes, the American Republic conquered and overtook both territories – but do we really need a separate classification? Would it be better to just write: “Stepped On Natives?” But – isn’t that excessively discriminatory (and a painful reminder that perpetuates racial bias)? Don’t American Indian/Natives, Alaskans, and Hawaiians enjoy and share (and deserve) the same benefit of being American as everyone else (such as, for example, the benefits from the SNAP/TANF form pictured above)?
And, doesn’t “Pacific Islander” justifiably include Japan? Oh, and while we’re on the topic, what about:
I can appreciate people wanting to hold on to their heritage. Our culture, background, and identity are of extreme importance. As one who has done a lot of genealogy as far back as a couple thousand years ago, I definitely put priority on these matters. However, the term “African American“, implies dual citizenship. If you do not have, will not have, or do not get dual citizenship in both Africa and America, then you are not “African American“. A lot of folks who call themselves African American might be incredibly shocked just how many white “African Americans” (folks who hold dual citizenship) there are, and that these people, who spent half their life in Africa and half in America, don’t like the term for a wide variety of unpleasant reasons (and in some circumstances, black folks might find the “African American” heritage term rather offensive if they knew those reasons). The supporting example: just because an individual’s ancestors were from Ireland, or China, and were brought to America as indentured servants and/or slaves (especially the Chinese who were among the most brutally mistreated captives in all of history that were sold into slavery, tortured as slaves, and brutalized beyond comprehension), does not make their great, great-grandchildren “Chinese Americans“, or “Celtic Americans“, nor do they go by these titles because it’s MISLEADING. It’s not insensitive to call an individual an American (and those individuals DESERVE the RIGHT to be called American), when they were born in America, live in America, work hard and deserve respect and recognition for their struggles as an American, and enjoy the privileges and rights of living in America. The same is true for the residents of ANY nation;(that is to say, they deserve to be addressed by their nationality)! Black residents of England, who were born and live there, do not call themselves “African British“. So, even the term African American is wrong and is being misapplied – and the consequences are clear: a nation that’s still racially divided because the racial stereotypes continue to be perpetuated in the mainstream culture. (Please note – I’m not trying to focus on just the term “African American“, just giving it additional clarification as it’s one of the most widely recognized, misappropriated terms, the same holds true for all other racial terminology).
The point is: forms that not only propagate a continuation of racial segregation and bias, but also dumb down the English language and thinking of Americans to accept less than second grade English as a satisfactory means of communication, hurt Americans. What people don’t need, or deserve, is to be treated like idiots and steered into an ever-declining downward spiral of intelligence, especially when it comes to such sensitive matters as racial heritage. It’s fun to know your ancestral heritage. However, let’s be clear: without dual citizenship, if you’re born in America, you live by American laws, and you benefit from living in America, then you are American. The same holds true for every other country in the world. Besides, with a world-population that is already so diverse and intermixed, racial backgrounds are just that – backgrounds. Except for the specific purpose of identifying foreigners in a country, racial background belongs to individuals, families, and their children, so they may celebrate that heritage on their own time. When it comes to living and working together with each other – common ground should be the ruling factor that joins people. More to the original topic of this article, it’s not: “White vs. Australian,” or “Black vs. South American,” or even “Christian vs. Korean.” Those comparisons are illogical, misleading, confusing, and according to Cookie Monster’s picture above … stupid.
We need to clean up our English and the English our government uses. If they can’t fix the matter, then it needs to go away (disappear from forms entirely). This article is not intended to lessen the heartache, struggle, or difficulties that our ancestors had, or that we continue to have to this day. Each person is individual and unique, responsible for their own actions and decisions, and are the ones who have the privilege of enjoying their ancestry – not others. The fight for freedom and acceptance goes on – for all races and all cultures. And, depending on where you are in the world, it’s more difficult for some than others, but at some point – everyone will be challenged. When we do make this change, and we bring up our interactions beyond second grade comprehension where an Apple, a bicycle, and the number L, do not belong together (and yes, I wrote the number “L” on purpose), then we can start to use our brains. And, when we do that, we can see the futility of discrimination because racial prejudices are the products of ignorance. By lifting the veil and removing the blinders so that we can see the world as a whole, suddenly, we all start to look a lot more alike ….
A small group of people trapped on a small, blue planet, floating around in the farthest reaches of the universe, trying against all odds, to survive … to evolve … and to live together in harmony.