Floor Statement by Rep Newt Gingrich regarding H.R. 830

21 October 1997

 Floor statement by Rep Newt Gingrich regarding H.R. 830

 

[Extensions of Remarks]
[Pages E2016-E2017]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]


                          A COMPELLING ARTICLE

                                 ______
                                 

                           HON. NEWT GINGRICH

                               of georgia

                    in the house of representatives

                       Tuesday, October 21, 1997

  Mr. GINGRICH. Mr. Speaker, today I call attention to a recent 
editorial in the Washington Post by George F. Will, entitled ``Melding 
in America.''
  Mr. Will eloquently encourages the Office of Management and Budget 
[OMB] to add a sixth racial category to the next census form: 
multiracial. Not only would such a designation be more accurate, it 
would also represent society's acknowledgment that a child should never 
be forced to choose between maternal and paternal heritages.
  Additionally, creating such a category would serve to diffuse the 
politics of grievance groups that use membership in a particular race 
to claim victim status and thus recompensation for wrongs real or 
imagined. America is a country founded upon the idea of individual 
rights--not rights determined by one's skin pigmentation.
  I encourage all of my colleagues to read Mr. Will's compelling 
article.

                [From the Washington Post, Oct. 5, 1997]

                           Melding In America

                          (By George F. Will)

       An enormous number of people--perhaps you--are descended, 
     albeit very indirectly, from Charlemagne. And an enormous 
     number are descended from Charlemagne's groom. Trace our 
     pedigree back far enough, you may find that you are an omelet 
     of surprising ingredients.
       Booker T. Washington, Frederick Douglass, Jesse Owens and 
     Roy Campanella each had a white parent. Martin Luther King, 
     Jr. (who had an Irish grandmother and some Indian ancestry), 
     W.E.B. DuBois and Malcolm X had some Caucasian ancestry. The 
     NAACP estimates that 70 percent of those who identify 
     themselves as African American are of mixed racial heritage. 
     And then there is Tiger Woods, who calls himself 
     ``Cablinasian''--Caucasian, black, Indian, Asian. Bear such 
     things in mind as the Office of Management and Budget decides 
     whether to make a small but consequential change in the 
     census form.
       The 1790 census classified Americans in three categories--
     free white male, free white female, slave. In 1850 ``free 
     colored`` was added. Then came mulatto, octoroon and quadroon 
     (one-eighth and one-quarter black). In 1890 Chinese and 
     Japanese were included as distinct races. Today there are 
     five categories--white, black, Asian/Pacific Islander, 
     American Indian/Native Alaskan and other.
       Now there is a rapidly spreading belief that the ``other'' 
     category is unsatisfactory, because it does not contribute to 
     an accurate snapshot of the population, and it offends 
     sensibilities: Why should a child of a white-black marriage 
     be required to identify with one parent, or as an ``other''? 
     So OMB is considering adding a sixth category--
     ``multiracial.''
       This would serve the accuracy of the census in a nation 
     experiencing a rapid surge in interracial marriages, which 
     increased about 550 percent between 1960 and 1990. The number 
     of children in interracial families rose from 500,000 in 1970 
     to 2 million in 1990. Between 1960 and 1990 the percentage of 
     African American marriages involving a white spouse more 
     than tripled, from 1.7 percent to 6 percent. Sixty-five 
     percent of Japanese-Americans marry someone of another 
     race.
       The multiracial category would serve civic health by 
     undermining the obsession with race and ethnicity that fuels 
     identity politics. Such politics proceed on the assumption 
     that individuals are defined by their membership in this or 
     that racial or ethnic group, often a group that cultivates 
     its sense of solidarity by nurturing its grievances. The 
     multiracial category is opposed by many who have a stake in 
     today's racial spoils system, and thus favor maintaining the 
     categories that help Balkanize America.
       It is estimated--probably too conservatively--that 10 
     percent of blacks would check a ``multiracial'' box on the 
     census form. As more and more people accurately identify 
     themselves as ``multiracial,'' the artificial clarity of 
     identity politics will blur. The more blurring the better, 
     because it will impede application of the principle of 
     categorical representation--the principle that people of a 
     particular group can only be understood, empathized with and 
     represented by members of that group.
       Today some native Hawaiians want out of the Asian/Pacific 
     Islander category, and some Indian and native Alaskans do not 
     want the native Hawaiians included in their category. Some 
     Creoles, Americans of Middle Eastern descent (there are 2 
     million of them), and others want their own categories. Such 
     elbow-throwing prickliness is one consequence of government 
     making membership in distinct grievance-groups advantageous.
       Race and ethnicity are not fixed, easily definable 
     scientific categories. The law once regarded the Irish 
     ``race'' as nonwhite. Today, ethnicity and race can be, to 
     some degree, matters of choice. Many Hispanics regard 
     ``Hispanicity'' as an attribute of race, others are more 
     inclined to identify themselves as Hispanic when it is not 
     presented as a racial category.
       OMB's decision will follow last week's report from the 
     Commission on Immigration

[[Page E2017]]

     Reform, which recommends a ``new Americanization movement'' 
     emphasizing the melding of individuals rather than the 
     accommodation of groups. It argues that national unity should 
     be built upon a shared belief in constitutional values, and 
     that the nation ``admits immigrants as individuals'' and must 
     ``emphasize the rights of individuals over those of groups.''
       Today the government concocts ``race-conscious remedies'' 
     such as racial preferences for conditions it disapproves. 
     This encourages Americans to aggregate into groups jockeying 
     for social space. Perhaps it would be best to promote the 
     desegregation of Americans by abolishing the existing five 
     census categories, rather than adding a sixth.
       However, the ``multiracial'' category could speed the 
     dilution of racial consciousness. One criticism of this 
     category is that ``multiracial'' does not denote a protected 
     class under the law and therefore gathering data about those 
     who think of themselves as ``multiracial'' serves no 
     statutory purpose. To which the sensible response is: good.

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