Statement of Representative John Conyers
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
25 July 1997
Chairman Horn, Ranking Member Maloney, I thank you for giving me the opportunity to testify before the subcommittee today. I applaud you for having this open and fair discussion on the issue of the inclusion of a "multiracial" category on Census 2000.
Mr. Chairman, what I am going to propose is a solution to this problem that is not going to be welcomed by all of my Congressional Black Caucus colleagues or by all of my friends on the other side of the aisle. Like my CBC colleagues, I am concerned that allowing people to identify themselves as "multiracial" could present some very difficult problems when trying to enforce civil rights laws, but I feel very strongly that people of mixed ancestry must have a way to identify themselves on the census if they desire to do so.
I would like to propose what I believe is a very simple solution for the OMB — we should include a "multiracial" category on the next census AND within the same question allow people to check all of the racial categories with which they identify. This way, people who wish to assert that they are indeed "multiracial" would be allowed to do so, while we could continue to keep careful track of the racial makeup of our nation.
For generations, African Americans have fought for their right to be accurately counted on the census and represented in the government. There are those who are concerned that if we allow a distinct "multiracial" category that we will undermine these rights for which so many battles have been fought. Indeed, if people were allowed to only pick one racial category, I agree that this is likely to be the case. However, my solution would allow both people to self-identify as "multiracial" and then identify more specifically the racial data which will help us to enforce civil rights laws. My solution will not only help individuals to identify themselves in the way they are most comfortable, but would also allow the government to continue to fight all discrimination.
I believe that we are becoming a more color-blind society, but we cannot guarantee equality for people of all races if we do not allow people to identify their complete racial background. We must not create a divide between multiracial people and other minority communities by denying multiracial people their right to stand up and be counted on the census.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to testify before you on this topic and I urge you and the OMB to consider my solution to this difficult problem.