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AIBU?

To let my kids define their own ethnicity?

84 replies

Whatareweanyway · 07/09/2022 21:20

As a child of parents with a range of ethnicities - some of which are unknown, forms that ask for ethnicity can be quite annoying. The question is normally 'Are you x, are you y, are you x + y'?

To be fair the forms have got a lot more varied than when I was a kid, but they still separate ethnicities quite rigidly. Obviously alot of forms ask for ethnicity to gather statistics, so fully understand why the questions are asked.

Filling in forms for my kids normally involves a required question about ethnicity. I raised this with a cousin and they said 'Well they're black, aren't they? Why would you put anything else?! Are you denying that you are black?'.

Obviously black isn't an ethnicity and as my kids are a mix of African, Asian and european and have fairish to brownish skin, black doesn't seem to be a very good description. They arent even teenagers yet, so I don't think it's right to tell them that they're 'black' and ignore their other origins. I have a majority African heritage as far as I know and I'm proud and happy with that. My kids father has European heritage.

I am perfectly open with the kids that they are a mix of multiple origins and they can 'identify' however they want and they are perfectly happy with this and enjoy learning about the history of different countries.

The problem is with family who insist they are black and insist I put them down as black British on forms because that is how they identify. I have never judged or questioned how individuals in my family identity and as far I'm concerned they can identify however they like, but aibu to tell them that they can't tell me and my kids how we should define ourselves?

OP posts:
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Am I being unreasonable?

249 votes. Final results.

POLL
You are being unreasonable
23%
You are NOT being unreasonable
77%
Luredbyapomegranate · 07/09/2022 21:51

How can your family insist you write anything on a form?

Of course they should decide for themselves.

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Whatareweanyway · 07/09/2022 21:51

Magnanimouse · 07/09/2022 21:42

You can't "define" ethnicity as a choice. They are "a mix of African, Asian and european". And, actually, to attempt to identify as one of those versus any other is to minimise the one you've left off - your children should be equally proud of all their heritage.

What you really mean, is "there isn't a box for that, so what do I tick?". Either mixed race or "other", and fill in exactly what you wrote here. All that assuming that we're talking about parents and grandparents, not some random ancestors in the family tree!

Good point that ethnicity is a factual definition instead of a choice. The problem is that a lot of people enforce the black ethnicity on myself and my kids because we have some African heritage and curly hair.

Obviously that's something other people have decided and isn't a factual description but it is still how both myself and my kids have been 'checked off' quite a few times.

Being equally proud of our heritage is definitely best, the issue is that the only heritage we've ever had to publicly be proud of is the black/African one. The others don't seem to be acknowledged.

OP posts:
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ZeroFuchsGiven · 07/09/2022 21:51

sst1234 · 07/09/2022 21:23

You sound like you are big on identity politics. You could just chill out a bit and not give this nonsense topic so much headspace.

Perfect response.

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Whatareweanyway · 07/09/2022 21:53

KittenKong · 07/09/2022 21:45

Try finding the box for Persian.

I have never seen a box for Persian on a form actually. It must be annoying not having that option

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Keroppi · 07/09/2022 21:54

Well as someone mixed race I usually tick from the mixed section or skip/no answer if that's an option. However it is difficult as to some white English/British people you are just othered, so I doubt it would help to be wishy washy and say "uh I actually identify as mixed/pan asian/3/4 black and 1 qarter pakistani" if someone is being bigoted towards me.

There is a black mumsnetter section which is quite good as you will get goady people on here who don't get it. Super important for them to embrace and feel included in all their cultures imo

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Tierne · 07/09/2022 21:54

Being equally proud of our heritage is definitely best, the issue is that the only heritage we've ever had to publicly be proud of is the black/African one. The others don't seem to be acknowledged

Well maybe a good place to start in countering that is within your own family and their reluctance to acknowledge your kids full heritage

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bellac11 · 07/09/2022 21:54

lovelilies · 07/09/2022 21:39

Those who think it's no big deal and are so blasé are probably Caucasian yes?
Because it IS a bloody big deal to those with other heritage(s) actually.

What ethnicity and heritage is Caucasian?

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BryceQuinlanTheFirst · 07/09/2022 21:56

My son is mixed ethnicity, carribean and white British. I just put mixed ethnicity black and white on form. When he is older he can define himself.

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starbaby858 · 07/09/2022 22:00

lovelilies · 07/09/2022 21:39

Those who think it's no big deal and are so blasé are probably Caucasian yes?
Because it IS a bloody big deal to those with other heritage(s) actually.

Really?

I’m black, as said above both of my kids are West Indian AND African. These tick boxes on applications or paperwork really is not that serious at all. If you were from multiple countries, you tick a different box everytime. It really doesn’t matter

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Whatareweanyway · 07/09/2022 22:00

Lunar270 · 07/09/2022 21:49

Interesting.

My kids are mixed race and one thing that never occurred to me (or my OH) was how they feel about being neither one or the other. Sometimes it's fine, sometimes it's a curse. It's complex.

Technically they are of course mixed race but they identify more as the non white side.

Forms are always a bit rubbish really so just let them put down whatever they're most comfortable with.

I agree that it's complex and the question isn't really and probably doesn't need to be discussed until they start to get older. The topic that started this thread first came up the other day when I asked my eldest DS what ethnicity he would say he was and he just said 'English'. My cousin was horrified, although obviously I don't need to pay much attention to that.
Going with what they are comfortable with sounds like the right approach

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silentpool · 07/09/2022 22:01

I'm White African and have had to tick White - other or similar for years. They can't capture everything.

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PremiumPiglet · 07/09/2022 22:02

My father is 85 and for the 1st time I helped him do the census on line
The ethnicity he chose really surprised me as not one `I would identify with.
It wasn't inaccurate- just not the obvious choice.

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HikingforScenery · 07/09/2022 22:02

Is mixed not the obvious answer? Why would they be black if they’re mixed with European genes?

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RichardMarxisinnocent · 07/09/2022 22:02

KittenKong · 07/09/2022 21:45

Try finding the box for Persian.

It does miss out whole swathes of ethnicities. My DP can never accurately tick a box on these forms. He's indo caribbean. Not Indian. Not Black Caribbean. He's never been to India, had no ties to India, his culture isn't in any way Indian or Asian. His culture is Jamaican (and British as he's lived here a while). But the only way he can record himself as being caribbean is by ticking black Caribbean which is obviously not right.

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PremiumPiglet · 07/09/2022 22:02

silentpool · 07/09/2022 22:01

I'm White African and have had to tick White - other or similar for years. They can't capture everything.

White African is on the census.

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ElvisLeftTheBuilding · 07/09/2022 22:03

sst1234 · 07/09/2022 21:23

You sound like you are big on identity politics. You could just chill out a bit and not give this nonsense topic so much headspace.

This comment is very much
"This is not a problem because it's not a problem for me."
It clearly is something the OP wants to spend time reflecting on.

OP, I think it's fine to let your children define their own identity. But perhaps give them some knowledge and context about the difference between biological race (which sounds like for them will be "mixed") and personal identity, which they may choose to be only one or mixed.

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saleorbouy · 07/09/2022 22:06

I always tick other since I find it a daft question. My ethnicity has no relevance to others just like my religious beliefs.
What is ethnicity? It's certainly not defined by colour and the selection of boxes are very narrow in their coverage of the multitude of possibilities regardless of skin colour.

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bellac11 · 07/09/2022 22:10

saleorbouy · 07/09/2022 22:06

I always tick other since I find it a daft question. My ethnicity has no relevance to others just like my religious beliefs.
What is ethnicity? It's certainly not defined by colour and the selection of boxes are very narrow in their coverage of the multitude of possibilities regardless of skin colour.

Absolutely which is why in this day and age I cannot believe someone has used the word Caucasian as if it has meaning and relevance to this discussion!!!!

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ItsJustLittleOlMe · 07/09/2022 22:11

lovelilies · 07/09/2022 21:39

Those who think it's no big deal and are so blasé are probably Caucasian yes?
Because it IS a bloody big deal to those with other heritage(s) actually.

Wrong. I don't think it's a big deal and no, I'm not Caucasian.

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titchy · 07/09/2022 22:22

Those of you who are not white, and ignore such boxes, do you not take Tierne's point that by collecting ethnicity data is one of the easiest ways to identify inequality and do something about it? Why wouldn't you want to do that?

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Lunar270 · 07/09/2022 22:23

Whatareweanyway · 07/09/2022 22:00

I agree that it's complex and the question isn't really and probably doesn't need to be discussed until they start to get older. The topic that started this thread first came up the other day when I asked my eldest DS what ethnicity he would say he was and he just said 'English'. My cousin was horrified, although obviously I don't need to pay much attention to that.
Going with what they are comfortable with sounds like the right approach

Yes, I think so.

I admit to being completely ignorant of the fact that they have felt lost at times. Not being white enough to fully connect with white friends and not East Asian enough to connect with Asian friends.

I've been colour blind most of my life and have just integrated with anyone and everyone. I couldn't understand at first and kick myself for not seeing it until they expressed their angst.

Their experience is so much different to mine so the right thing for me is to let them choose. That they identify more as East Asian is nice in some ways but this has always bugged me as 'mixed race' is a relatively new thing and Asian was often the only option. However, in the UK, Asian almost always means Indian or Pakistani. In the US, Asian covers East Asian too. Nowadays there's a Chinese box but what if you're Japanese, Korean etc 😂

There's no wonder people hate boxes and leave them blank!

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FarFromHome2 · 07/09/2022 22:26

I think it’s fair enough. Our children are blonde, blue-eyed Europeans but identify as Afro-Caribbean. They have an uncle (by marriage) from Jamaica who they adore so they want to be like him.

It also really helped with entry to their very selective school, which is a nice bonus.

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emergencyblimp · 07/09/2022 22:27

I’m a very mixed person but I’ve never put such deep thought into it. My dad was black and from Africa and I’ve never had anything to do with him. I’m from an E.European country (born there, raised in the culture, speak the language fluently) but obviously I can’t put down that I’m White European because I’m simply not.

For me it’s hard to understand why other mixed people would put down just black, or whatever other ethnicity when they’re mixed. Surely we should all just base it on where our parents are from and not put it down to feelings?

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Johnnysgirl · 07/09/2022 22:28

FarFromHome2 · 07/09/2022 22:26

I think it’s fair enough. Our children are blonde, blue-eyed Europeans but identify as Afro-Caribbean. They have an uncle (by marriage) from Jamaica who they adore so they want to be like him.

It also really helped with entry to their very selective school, which is a nice bonus.

Sorry, indentify as? As in, just choose a heritage they don't actually have because their non blood relative is a cool dude? 😳
Or have I misunderstood?

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Lunar270 · 07/09/2022 22:30

Sorry, I was going to add that I think your cousin was unreasonable for being horrified.

Irrespective of my ethnicity, I was born in England and am therefore English, as I suspect are your kids. Ethnically they may be African (or Asian/European) and whilst your cousin might want them to be staunchly something else, we don't really get to dictate this as they have their own identity.

Either way I hope you manage to resolve this.

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