Squirming in a cold plastic chair, I became engaged in a staring contest with the item before me. I was armed with nothing but a number two pencil to defeat the endless expanse of fill-in bubbles that mocked me from the desktop. A few classmates were fainting at the mere sight of just the information query. One wrong mark and your name could forever be known to colleges as SamaMtha San-Hez, instead of Samantha Sanchez. I was not going to let that happen. Not again. I began filling each bubble with the care and agility of a crocodile tooth-brusher.
Everything was flying along smoothly; I knew my name, age and date of birth. Suddenly, though, I came to a question that stumped me. After reading and re-reading the selections, my answer bubbles were still blank.
It seemed like such an easy question, but none of the answers seemed to fit. What could I base my ethnicity on? One of the bubbles was labeled White. Am I White? I suppose the answer could be yes. My skin is very light. But is this because of my ethnicity or my acute paranoia of sun-related skin damage? But then again what is White? I’ve never seen anyone the color of paper, and I consider that white. On people I’ve seen tan, beige and olive, but not white. Caramel, espresso, peaches and cream, I’ve seen all these colors. I could have sure used some Sherwin-Williams paint chips to match my skin tone to the corresponding answers. But since the California Standardized Testing questionnaire didn’t offer this, I decided that the least time-consuming option was just to bubble in White.
I was painstakingly shading in my selection when I noticed the words in parentheses: White (not Hispanic). I couldn’t be White and Hispanic? I began scrubbing at my paper with my eraser. Is it possible to fill in half a bubble? I just stared at my doodle-inscribed desk looking for the answer. Other than finding out that Becca loves Steve, it was completely useless.
I am Hispanic. But that’s not all I am. I am Croatian, Mexican, Irish, Italian, Spanish, Hungarian and most likely, other things that I don’t even know about. I’m as diverse as the smorgasbord at my school’s Multicultural Night, but there wasn’t a bubble labeled Smorgasbord. I was beginning to envy the girl next to me who had transferred from Cambodia - she had her very own bubble.
If stating my ethnicity were as easy as saying where I came from, I would have been done faster than I could devour a box of Cheez-Its. I’m from America. It’s the only country I’ve ever been in. It’s my culture and my home. Classifying me as White just lumps together my diverse European ancestry and ignores my Hispanic heritage altogether.
I glanced down at my answer sheet. I had torn a hole clear through because of my erasing. Too bad. I wanted the California Standardized testing people to know that I’m Spanish-Irish-Mexican-Croatian-Italian-Hungarian-Eskimo-whatever I am. I wanted them to know that I’m unique and I’m proud. But what does it matter? We are all just statistics in the Board of Education’s eyes.
I wiped eraser shavings off my desk as I decided on an answer. After depositing my questionnaire at the teacher’s desk, I made my way, smiling, back to my desk. I’m sure that the Board of Education will be happy to know I’ve made a lovely addition to their bubbles labeled Me.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.