Black or white

Standardized testing disregards gray area in ethnicity question

Juliana Discher | Staff Writer

biracial1Photo by Photo Editor Madison Krell

For biracial students, filling out the racial category on a standardized test isn’t always black and white.

Many high stakes standardized tests, such as the SAT and ACT, ask students to identify their ethnicities. According to USA Today, test makers ask this question to compare the scores of different races and see how the scores of a particular racial group change over time. And while the answer to this question doesn’t affect the test taker’s score, the pressure to paint an accurate picture for test makers and also stay true to individuality can be a dilemma for students of mixed backgrounds. Before the test questions are even revealed, these students can sometimes face an internal identity crisis.

Sophomore Jonathan Mccollough, who is half Chinese and half Caucasian, said he has undergone that exact confusion of having to identify his race on a test.

“When I took the PSAT this year, I had trouble filling out the race portion at the beginning of the test,” Mccollough said. “There was an ‘other’ option, which is what I chose, but I wasn’t sure if that was right.”

According to The Cincinnati Enquirer, by the year 2060, 1/7 of Cincinnatians will be biracial. Mccollough said that this makes it even more important for these individuals to be recognized on standardized tests.

“Biracial students should be accounted for because they’re a growing population,” Mccollough said. “It’s becoming more common, so they should have something to identify themselves on tests.”

Junior Ri Moodie, who is half African American and half Caucasian, said that the ‘other’ option is the best selection for biracial students, but there should be a better choice.

“Mixed races have been around for so long, but they’re still not included,” Moodie said. “The tests have Native American and everything else listed, but they don’t have mixed race or an option to choose multiple races. I think it should be its own category instead of ‘other’.”

According to Mccollough, the ‘other’ option undermines his identity.

“In a way, ‘other’ does have a negative connotation,” Mccollough said. “It’s like you’re not included with everyone else.”

Rather than feel that isolation, sophomore Jay Singh, who is half African American and half Indian, said he chooses the ethnicity he feels more connected to.

“I think I share more of my mom’s side, so I just put black,” Singh said.

Picking between one of your racial makeups can be emotionally exasperating for biracial students, according to Singh. He said that essentially they have to decide between two very distinct cultures that are a part of them.

“Your racial identity is who you are,” Singh said. “When a biracial student is taking a standardized test and they’re forced to select one race, (the test makers) may not realize it, but they’re making the kid neglect an important part of who they are. It just doesn’t
feel right.”