It was a tough question, in all it’s apparent simplicity. “Race”. That’s what the Brunei immigration authorities wanted to know, in the arrival card.
We were 3 women, with Finnish, Australian and English passports. All of us were first rolling our eyes on this question, then laughing it off, before moving on to philosophizing on the need of the immigration in Brunei to know our race. One of my friends wrote down “white?”. Another wanted to write “I’m not competitive” and hope the joke gets understood. Me, I was just confused and anxious.
Honestly I’m not even sure what my race is. More importantly, why should I know what race I’m of and why should I care? Nationality makes practical sense but race? In an arrival card, even if it’s only for statistical purposes, shouldn’t the nationality suffice? The more I think of this the more questions come up in my head.
I can’t think of one good reason for that question and I’m juggling between being anxious, mad and sad. Classifying people with such definitions means dividing us, because a word as race has automatically a negative connotation to it. It doesn’t indicate an interest to understand one’s background or heritage, but a category one should “belong to”. But people can’t be categorized by qualities which we have no control over. Neither is there any point in dividing people into some invisible boxes and expecting them to fit in.
No one needs to know what race I’m of. Not even me. And I’m not going to ask you for yours because I don’t care. There are many things I’m interested in learning about other people, and there are many things I’m happy to share about me. Race, that’s not one of them.