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“What Are You, Anyway?” by Amy DuBois Barnett ’91 is either the wrong title for the article or the wrong article for the title (September/October). While Barnett happens to be biologically multiracial, she affirms throughout the article that she identifies as black. The titular question mark suggests ambiguity where, for the author personally, there is none. Perhaps we should be asking “the small, sad group of biracial kids” (a glaringly insensitive phrase) for their perspective on identifying as multiracial. Then we might begin to shed light on an experience that “What Are You, Anyway?” purports to, but ultimately fails to, illuminate.

Derek Bangle ’11
Naomi Kuromiya ’12
New York City

 

Barnett tells us that Brown students and others have asked her “What are you?” which in context means “What is your race?” If Barnett answers, “I am black,” what has the student learned that is of interest? Nothing. The so-called black “race” is the most genetically diverse population on the face of the earth. And since people like Barack Obama and Amy DuBois Barnett have one “white” parent and one “black” parent, their identifying themselves simply as black—which is clearly their prerogative—tells us little.

In my view, asking the question “What are you?” or “What is your race?” reflects badly on the person asking. I meet new refugees every time I am at the Red Cross in Linköping, Sweden. I can guarantee that no one would dream of saying “What are you?” And if someone did ask what race a person belonged to they would be told, “We do not ask racist questions here.”                      

Lawrence Lundgren ’53
Linköping, Sweden
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Comments (2)
12/02/14
 
I first want to note that I also submitted a Point of View manuscript (750 words) that was not accepted for publication. I have been citing the original What Are You Anyway column in my New York Times comments at Blow, Kristof, Brooks and I may want to cite my POV text. 
 
Therefore tomorrow I will post that - as submitted - at my blog Only-NeverInSweden.blogspot.com 
 
I also report that I have posed a simple question in comments at Blow, Kristof, and Brooks and encourage any of the alumni to answer directly. I have sent a request to Charles Blow to take up this subject that Professor Dorothy Roberts, author of my "bible" Fatal Invention called "...the most pivotal question facing America..." 
 
Here is the Brooks column version of the question: 
 
"Do you, David Brooks, support the continued classification of Americans by “race” as formalized by the U.S. Census Bureau?” 
 
In closing I am happy to report that I was led to BAM OnLine by an Email from Lyle Bourne, 1953, childhood friend and fine musician, which I read when I came home from playing trumpet in AM Blås tonight where it is now "Round Midnight" 
 
Larry
 
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12/03/14
 
http://only-neverinsweden.blogspot.se/2014/12/to-ask-what-are-you-anyway-only-in.html 
 
Is the URL to my Point of View essay on "What Are You, Anyway?" which is now at my blog - but never in BAM. 
 
I also note that there are some more comments at the original essay by ADB '91.
 
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