I have been filling out forms, lately.
I am terrible at filling out forms. Especially important ones that relate to me. I am very good at filling out forms for other people. After all a lot of my daily work involves form filling. (The life of a lawyer is a glamorous one, my friends.) From when I was young, I filled out forms for my parents and translated for them: Social Security forms, mortgage forms, citizenship application forms, medical forms. You name it and I have probably filled it out.
The form currently occupying my time is my “Becoming a UK Lawyer” form. It has more illegible crossings out on it than any I have filled in so far. I peer at the question and think: What do you mean? Does that apply to me? I recall having similar difficulties when applying to become an Australian lawyer. Perhaps it is the last way the system can weed out the unsuitables: If you cannot fill out this form, buddy, you’re probably not cut out to be a lawyer.
The section on forms in the UK that bother me the most are the ‘diversity’ questions. A limp appendage to the rest of the form, this part comes last. There is a tick box (yes/no) for whether one has a disability and then a blank space where one can be artful in the description of one’s deviation from the able-bodied world. Next, is my favourite question:
Instead of a few blank lines, like the disability question, there are 8 or so tick boxes.
2. White / British
7. Mixed Race
8. White / Other
I am flummoxed by these choices. I am exceedingly reluctant to tick the “White / Other ” box. So I don’t. I’m not white. But I do fit into a lot of ‘Other’ categories. Instead, I write in the empty space: Vietnamese. There, I am recognised. That part of my form will probably just be discarded as it cannot be inputted into a database and will therefore count as “no response”.
I love the Mixed Race choice. You just tick it and then there’s nowhere for you to say what mixture. It is as if, once you are a mongrel, the ethnic heritages that go to make up YOU are irrelevant. Mixed Race is a category of itself. And perhaps it is: an additional layer that is more than its composite parts. Nevertheless, I expect the parts that make up the whole are important to the individual. Important enough to be put on a form, anyway.