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Make Room for the Changing Face of America : Ethnicity: It is a form of discrimination to force children of mixed heritage to choose to identify with only one parent.

November 19, 1995|ROSEMARY JENKINS

There is an emerging new face in America's "traditional" family: the ethnically/racially mixed couple representing different backgrounds--white, black, Latino, Asian-Pacific and so forth. Many of these spousal unions produce children of mixed heritage.

These children are lucky because what has been handed down to them is the best of what two cultures has to offer. Nevertheless, much to the horror and chagrin of these children and their parents, they often face a new type of discrimination. The children are being asked to choose the parent with whom they most identify.

In California, state-mandated tests have asked the student to choose one parent over the other for demographic identification purposes. The highly touted magnet program in the Los Angeles Unified School District has since its inception required a child to do so, or the student's application is simply not processed.

Failure to include a multiethnic option will perpetuate the psychological and emotional damage that has been in evidence for so many years, engendered by a pernicious bureaucracy that is insensitive and indifferent to the needs of many of its students and their families. With such a revised application, children could become more sensitive to and understanding of the differences as well as similarities of others.

Although LAUSD may now be willing to add a "multiethnic" category to the magnet application form, that category will be virtually a meaningless one because children will still be asked to identify with one parent only, even after the multiethnic box has been checked.

Thousands of parents each year call the magnet offices asking, begging, cajoling officials to change the application's wording. Perhaps those same thousands and more can call their school board members to demand an immediate change that reflects the needs of today's children.

The face of America is changing. LAUSD should not be the last to realize it.

Rosemary Jenkins is state director of A Place for Us, an organization based in Gardena that is devoted to bringing about greater interracial understanding and legislative changes.

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