Should Your Multiracial Children go back to School?

The emotions are running high with Covid-19. We see data published every day warning us about children broken down by ages, areas, sexes, ethnicities, and races. If you are White or Black, you have probably seen video interviews with medical professionals on how statistics affect your children’s chances of getting Covil-19. Doctors, nurses, and medical professionals have joined others across the country to warn us our children may get sick based on certain criteria. They can tell us down to a simple graph that Black children can contract the virus more than White children. We can use that kind of data in our decisions, like whether we should send our multiracial children back to school.

But wait! What about our multiracial children? We know, for example, that Black and Latino children are impacted more severely than children of other races. You may make your decision as  parent of Black, Latino, Asian, White, or Native American children. However, you do not have what you need as the parent of a multiracial child. You need data.

The disparities of widespread racism on healthcare stretch back centuries and take different concerns, one being how a person’s data affects their health and healthcare. “Health disparities still exist because nothing has truly changed,” said Ashley McMullen, and assistant professor of internal medicine at University of California, San Francisco.

The U.S. government has faced intense criticism for failing to gather the data we need on a timely basis. “The requirement to include demographic data like race, ethnicity, age, and sex will enable us to ensure that all groups have equitable access to testing and allow us to accurately determine the burden of infection on vulnerable groups,” said Adm Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for health in the Department of Health and Human serves. But that does not help us make a decision about if it is wise to put our multiracial children back in the classrooms in just a few weeks.

Government agencies, medical facilities, schools, the U. S. Census, and many other places would not bother to gather racial and ethnic data if it was not important. If it’s important to know the statistics about monoracial children, it has to be just as important to collect this information on multiracial children.

In 1997 we persuaded the government to address adding multiracial children to government forms by allowing people to choose to be two or more races. The changes have come slowly. We know that the Census Bureau has made some progress, and the medical outlets have not. We are talking about life and death here! Think about the need for biracial donors for biracial people who need bone marrow transplants. Think about whether different drugs have different prescribing needs for multiracial people. Think of the things we need to investigate in the medical arena.

What can we do? How do we make important healthcare decisions without the data? When my son was young, he had a sports injury. When we got to the premier children’s hospital in the Southeast (also the closest hospital), we found they asked for race, but had no way to capture a child’s multiracial background. As soon as we knew our son was OK, I secured a meeting with the head of the hospital the next week. They turned out to be the first hospital in the country to capture the data on our multiracial children. When your child has a health concern, you are usually given heaps of paperwork. At least one form will ask for race. If you do not see “multiracial,” “biracial,” or a way to tabulate your child’s races, ask. Be an advocate for your children. Or contact Project RACE and we will help you.

Should your multiracial children go back to school? I wish I could answer that for you, but I know no more than the data I see. Still, we can do this together if we stand together and insist loudly enough. We just don’t have the luxury of waiting.

Susan Graham for Project RACE