‘Other’ by Ashley Marshall

Description for all images on this post: check-boxes similar to those one might find on registration forms, with ‘Caucasion’, ‘Black/African American,’ ‘Hispanic,’ and ‘Other’ options. Image of one of “The Mixer” cast under “Other.’ Photo credit: all images by Ashley Marshall of @piratesiren

While there are quite a few things that can make a person of mixed race’s daily life a bit different than someone who identifies as a singular race, I find it’s the mundane things, the every day boring bits that most of my friends had no idea were a constant struggle for someone like me.

Let me say that I have wonderful friends. Friends that I truly consider my family, but for whom these minute daily trials are not commonplace. I am happy for them. I truly am. That kind of peaceful ignorance is what I hope for all of us one day. That these niggling details of routine tasks that one person can pass over without batting a lash, or can cause such frustration and anxiety in another that it ruins their day…

Only when these daily 3 second existential crises are eliminated, will we feel truly equal.

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So having explained my love for my friends it should make sense to you that when a truly life-changing moment happened for me, the first person I called was my best friend.

“Kristina”, I said, “guess what?!”
“What?” she said cautiously as she has been well trained by my antics to be wary of excitement in my voice.
“I had to fill out yet another government form for my disability paperwork, and you know how much I love doing that…”
“Of course.”
“Well I was filling it out and I got to the demographics section and the best thing happened.”
“What happened?” she giggled.
“The instructions said ‘Check All That Apply’! I didn’t have to check the ‘Other’ box!” I screamed.
“Oh awesome!” she said. “How cool! I never really thought about how annoying that must be for you.”

It is…….truly…….annoying. Almost always when you fill out any type of form that has a demographics section you are required to select only one box and check it. Regardless if that choice represents the whole truth. Regardless of whether or not your selected answer will later confuse the person to whom you return this document. And regardless of whether or not, despite your internal struggle for 45 minutes to determine which box you should check, the person who receives the form takes one look at you and takes it upon themselves to correct your ‘obvious mistake.’ (Yes, this happened to my sister.) You can only ever choose one. So imagine, the people like me, who are almost always relegated to the evil box. The throwaway box. The bottom box. The we-can’t-care-hard-enough-to-try box. The ‘Other’ box.

I have checked ‘Other’ so many times in my lifetime. There were moments where I actually forgot I was ‘mixed race’ and started to actually identify as ‘other’. The throwaway. The bottom. The we-can’t-care-hard-enough-to-try. So when the moment came when amongst the sea of usual questions my eyes first caught a glimpse of those few simple words, they seemed to sparkle. ‘Check All That Apply.’

I checked all the boxes just because I could. Then I erased all the ones that weren’t true because I have a conscience. Then I checked them all again out of spite! It was such a little thing, but it’s those little things that wear on you. It’s the little things every day that make you an ‘other’. Those little things that when they come en mass can weigh you down so quickly. It was a little thing, but on that one piece of paper, I was me.

Not an ‘Other.’

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