Hearing on Multiracial Identification

Statement of Representative Carolyn Maloney
U.S. House of Representatives

Before the Subcommittee on Government Management, Information and Technology
of the House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight

Hearing on Multiracial Identification
22 May 1997

 


Thank you Mr. Chairman. We are here today because 200 years ago, Black slaves were counted as three-fifths of a person. We are here today because 100 years ago a Black male could not buy a one way train ticket, and could not buy a round trip ticket without a note from his employer. We are here today because last weekend a church in Northeast Washington was painted with swastikas.

This is not just an arcane statistical issue. The measurement of race in this country is the story of discrimination — discrimination all too often condoned by the government.

It has been less than 50 years since the Supreme Court ruled that separate is not equal. It has been only 30 years since our country was torn apart by riots caused by hate and discrimination. Over the last two years we have seen an unprecedented number of Black churches burned to the ground.

Racial hatred and discrimination is as alive today as it ever was, and it is against that backdrop that we must have this discussion.

The interracial couples who have brought the measurement of race to national prominence are to be praised for that effort. We all know that the lens that the government puts on issues shapes the way all of us see it. All too often, however, we simply accept that lens as accurate. Their efforts have forced us to reexamine the lens we put on measuring race, and we are discovering just how pitted and scratched that lens is.

We can not deny the history of discrimination or its presence in our society today. Neither can we deny the progress our society has made that is symbolized by the interracial couples testifying before us today. Well into this century states had laws on the books that made interracial marriages illegal.

The pain caused forcing the children of an interracial couple to choose between the mother's race and father's race is very real. So is the pain caused by discrimination. A solution that eases one pain, while making the other worse is no solution at all.

I would like each of you today to help us in answering two questions that will be placed before us. First, do the categories as they are constituted today continue to serve the intended purpose of helping the government to fight discrimination? Second, how can we achieve that goal and simultaneously provide individuals with the opportunity to identify themselves in the way they are most comfortable?

If we can answer these questions we will have made significant progress in how we define race and ethnicity.

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