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June 24, 2003
My ethnic group is

Today I finally got around to ringing these people, to offer my services as a reading helper. The application form will be in the post to me tomorrow.

The only thing of note about the conversation, which was otherwise most informative and definitely made we want to press ahead, was that they wanted to know or warned me that they were going to want to know, I forget which my ethnic group. Those, I suppose, are the times we live in.

I told them I was "white", the word "Caucasian" not being ready at the top of my brain. Just in case you were wondering.

Does this mean I'll be helping only white children?

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 09:47 PM
Category: Brian's brilliant teaching career

"It is some sort of a federal regulation that nascent high-tech companies must not hire pudgy fifty-year-old support staff, the way big established companies do. They must hire topologically enhanced twenty-year-olds with names that sound like new models of cars. Since most hackers are white males, their companies are disaster areas when it comes to diversity, and it follows that all of the diversity must be concentrated in the one or two employees who are not hackers. In the part of a federal equal-opportunity form where Randy would simply check a box labeled CAUCASIAN, Kia would have to attach multiple sheets on which her family tree would be ramified backwards through time ten or twelve generations until reaching ancestors who could actually be pegged to one specific ethnic group without glossing anything over, and those ethnic groups would be intimidatingly hip ones - not Swedes, let's say, but Lapps, and not Chinese but Hakka, and not Spanish but Basque. Instead of doing this, on her job app for Epiphyte she simply checked "other" and then wrote in TRANS-ETHNIC. In fact, Kia is trans-just about every system of human categorisation, and what she isn't trans- she is post-".

-- Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon

Since reading this book, I have taken to writing "post-ethnic" on forms that ask me about my ethnicity.

Comment by: Michael Jennings on June 25, 2003 12:31 AM

I would have thought "Native English-Speaker" would do, Brian.

Comment by: Guessedworker on July 3, 2003 09:36 AM
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