Wilbur marked a big black X in the box on the census form. It was the box marked “OTHER”. The question was to do with Ethnic Origin. Was he black, turquoise, white, green, pink, yellow, fuchsia, purple… ? Actually, the census form never asked that. It asked if he was European? Or Native American and if so was he Haudenosaunee or what? Or was he a …?
Wilbur was irritated. His maternal grandmother’s ancestors emigrated from The Netherlands eleven generations back, before The Netherlands was even a country. He didn’t regard himself as a European. His maternal grandfather’s ancestors crossed the Bering Strait (apparently) in the last ice age.
His paternal grandmother was born in Nukuʻalofa in Tonga. He didn’t have a clue about his paternal grandfather’s side. But he knew he was born in New York of American parents.
Wilbur was now infuriated. He put a cross next to “OTHER” for the ethnic question and then scribbled notes of annoyance all over the page. I don’t know. I don’t care. It’s none of your business. Why do you want to know? He had to get a new clean census form after that and start again, lest he got thrown in prison for defacing the official document. The British census equivalent didn’t ask if the ancestors came from the Norman or Viking invasion.
He finally put himself down as an American American. He still got an eventual letter from the census people pointing out his flippancy in a serious matter. He was asked to redo the form or face a fine. He put himself down as African. All humans, after all, had originated in Africa.