Interracial Voice Census 2000 Protest

Interracial-Voice

Census 2000 Protest:
Check American Indian!
(Posted 01-01-98)


By Charles Michael Byrd
(Photo by Lynn Goldsmith)

An integral being knows without going, sees without looking, and accomplishes without doing.

The Tao Te Ching
Lao Tzu

Barring Divine Intervention, there will be no multiracial Census category come 2000; in fact, my sources tell me that the Big Guy hates involving Himself in Earth’s “race business” anymore. What we will have is the “politically correct” version of the old “one drop rule.” The “politically correct” version goes by the name: check all that apply. Individuals who can claim African heritage and who check the “black” or “African-American” box on the 2000 Census — even if they also check a second or third box — will be reported solely as “black” or “African-American.” So much for not being monoracially pigeonholed.

We owe all of this to the freshly-minted AMEA/Hapa Forum/NAACP federación socialista and to the Office of Management and Budget. Sadly, we now realize that the OMB has absorbed the propaganda of black “leaders” who contend that if the former counts “multiple checkers” separately, that action would eviscerate all civil rights protections. What to do for those who deem this scheme unacceptable? (Those thoroughly delighted with check all that apply can “Page Down” to the second part of this essay and pick it up from there. I’ll understand.)

There have been various suggestions of “civil disobedience” and protest that are worth considering, and we present them to you:

1-) “Check White!”
Black politicians insist we’re just trying to be white anyway — running away from our “blackness” — so why not make that a self-fulfilling prophecy by “turning white” for 2000? On the other hand, William Javier Nelson is correct when he says that “Check White!” would do little to mitigate the appalling bi-polarity of the awful terms: “black” and “white.”

A.D. Powell adds: “The white protest would be invisible unless we were dealing with a concentrated population group. For example, if every non-black Creole in Louisiana checked white, the black population would go down significantly, especially in Southwest Louisiana. That would send a message.”

2-) “Check Anything But Black!”
This obviously sounds anti-black. We have to not confuse the black political elite with the general black population, which does not as rigidly oppose a separate category as do the so-called leaders. In fact, the average black isn’t nearly as concerned about suppressing a mixed-race identifier or about, say, reparations for slavery as are the Mfumes, Conyers and Jacksons of the world.

3-) “Check Every Box On The Form!”
This is the suggestion of the Jacksonville (NC) Daily News. The problem with this is that a Census bureaucrat would record “black” as the official designation for any individual who checked every box.

4-) “Don’t Return A Census Form At All!”
This is the Libertarian Party’s position, and if I was sure that the Census Bureau would not dispatch enumerators to my home to find out why I didn’t return a form, I’d jump on this one. Nelson also points out that it would be like “not voting,” and isn’t that what this really boils down to — voting for racial parties? Powell adds: “We know from past practice that the Census Bureau will allocate non-replies to the official categories. For example, if 10% of the people in an area are black and 90% are white, the Census will give 10% of the non-replies to the black category and the rest to the white category or vice versa.”

5-) “Check Hispanic!”
The reasoning here is that protesters should check “Hispanic,” since it is the de facto “multiracial” category on the Census. No group other than the NAACP, however, was as doggedly averse to the multiracial option as the National Council of La Raza.

6-) “Check American Indian!”
Why not gives our “votes” to the Indian Party, since many of us, myself included, can claim Indian heritage? Hell, they were here before anyone else, and the success of their gaming casinos notwithstanding, they need as much if not more help than anybody else.

Nathan Douglas views “Check American Indian!” thus:

“The logic behind it is that the resultant increase in the Native population would be a direct measurement of both multiracials and those racial progressives who see the need to end categories altogether. I prefer the latter tack for the following three reasons.

“One, it is a mild form of civil disobedience which directly challenges the notion of the census categories being political rather than biological. In other words, if we are supposedly voting our group allegiance rather than our physical identity, then our physical identity should have no bearing on our choice.

“Two, it is a ploy to force the Census Bureau to enforce an Indian one-drop rule. It would seem that the only way they could straighten out the mess would be to challenge every person choosing ‘American Indian’ who had not done so in the past. That would mean harder lines of racial demarcation would need to be established. In so doing, they would set themselves up for a challenge regarding any-and-all other categories: i.e., where do they begin; where do they end?

“Three, it is a national means to express one’s frustration and indignation about our government’s continuing racial fixation.”

(Although those of you who may elect to “Check American Indian” probably couldn’t prove in a court of law that you are a member of a U.S. federally recognized tribe, your choice would nevertheless be a noble gesture of civil disobedience aimed at the current practice of dividing our population by race. In this sense, “Check American Indian” is a political act borne of true consciousness.)

So, if OMB does not either scrap all racial classifications or establish a separate multiracial identifier — with optional sub-identifiers for those who need them — by 2000, those who are dissatisfied with the check all that apply scheme (those whom society construes to be of mixed-race, yet who, of his or her own free will and volition, chooses to self-identify other than monoracially, other than with the despised “other” category and other than as some combination of monoracial boxes) and all who see the need to end categories altogether should “Check American Indian!” That just might warp the government’s precious “racial” data.

(Item from the I-Pride — Interracial/Intercultural Pride of Berkeley, CA — November/December 1997 newsletter:

Thanks to the many long hours spent by members of AMEA, I-Pride and multiracial organizations across the country, people of multiracial heritage can now identify themselves as more than one race on federal forms. All of the implications of this change will not be known for years but it is certainly cause for celebration…
All of the “implications” of this change will not be known for “years”?! Good Lord.)

Race is Fiction, Mr. President

Media accounts of President Clinton’s national town meeting on race last month in Akron, Ohio focused largely on the short and confrontational exchange between Clinton and writer Abigail Thernstrom over the issues of affirmative action and racial preferences. Surely these are valid topics to debate, but most individuals, both in and out of government, ignore the “Genesis Issue” from which these and other disagreements flow: Race is an artificial construct, not a biological reality at all.

If the definition of reality is that which we agree upon, then yes race is a social reality in that we agree it exists. Race has no basis in scientific fact, though, and when we all come to realize that, we will have effectively shattered the agreement. To this end, in September, the American Anthropological Association rejected race as a racist ranking system based on appearance. “Race has no scientific justification in human biology,” said the AAA. “There is as much genetic variability between two people from the same racial group as there are between two people from any two different racial groups.” The AAA even recommended that the Census Bureau eliminate the term “race” and replace it with “ethnic origins,” noting that many Americans confuse race, ethnicity and ancestry.

The problem, however, is that, while a majority of anthropologists support the proposition that race is nothing more than a social, cultural, and political invention, the American populace does not share the same certainty. After all, friends, relations, teachers and politicians have told us from day one that race is real, and we base many of our actions upon racial considerations: whom we date and marry, where we live, where we dine, even the music we listen to. It is such an ingrained part of our psyche that we resent the implication that we still cling to a lie.

In his national dialogue on race, the President has a golden opportunity that, sadly, he is blowing by not standing squarely in front of the television cameras and telling his fellow Americans what a great many don’t want to hear: “race” is a bogus concept that we’ve believed in far too long. Only when our leaders have the courage to utter these words can we hope for an end to racism, because when people fully understand that they have predicated their hatred and bigotry upon a false notion, then that hatred and bigotry will necessarily begin to dissipate. It will have no choice!

Beyond 2000

Hypodescent enthusiasts invariably refer to author Jean Toomer (1894-1967) as “black” or “African-American.” Toomer was, in reality, as are many of us, a blended or mixed-race individual who steadfastly did not identify monoracially. In fact, he considered classification the nemesis of mankind, a reflection of intellectual empty-headedness. As authors Cynthia Earl Kerman and Richard Eldridge write in “The Lives of Jean Toomer: A Hunger for Wholeness”:

“He believed that everyone’s physical, emotional, and mental development was narrowed by society’s labeling:

I would liberate myself and ourselves from the entire machinery of verbal hypnotism….I am simply of the human race….I am of the human nation….I am of Earth….I am of sex, with male differentiations….I eliminate the religions. I am religious.
“And he had lived among blacks, among whites, among Jews, and in groups organized without racial labels around a shared interest such as literature or psychology, moving freely from any one of these groups to any other. One mark of membership in the ‘colored’ group, he said, was acceptance of the ‘color line’ with its attendant expectations; neither his family nor he had ever been so bound. To be in the white group would also imply the exclusion of the other.
What then am I?
I am at once no one of the races and I am all of them.
I belong to no one of them and I belong to all.
I am, in a strict racial sense, a member of a new race.
“This new race of mixed people, now forming all over the world but especially in America,
may be the turning point for the return of mankind, now divided into hostile races, to one unified race, namely, to the human race.
“It was a new race, but also the oldest. The different racial and national groups could still contribute their distinctive richness:
I say to the colored group that, as a human being, I am one of them….I say to the white group that, as a human being, I am one of them. As a white man, I am not one of them….I am an American. As such, I invite them [both], not as [colored or] white people, but as Americans, to participate in whatever creative work I may be able to do.
“Thus Toomer propounded the rather unpopular view that the racial issue in America would be resolved only when white America could accept the fact that its racial ‘purity’ was a myth, that indeed its racial isolation produced blandness and lack of character. On the other hand, racial purity among blacks was just as much a myth and only encouraged defensiveness and unconscious imitation, like that of an adolescent who defines his revolt against his parents by the very values he is trying to renounce. Race, he said, was a fictional construct, of no use for understanding people:
Human blood is human blood. Human beings are human beings….No racial or social factors can adequately account for the uniqueness of each — or for the individual differences which people display concurrently with basic commonality.
In the poem Blue Meridian (1936), Toomer explores the definition of this new race, “a blend of all European, African, Asian, and American Indian cultures. Jean realized that racial conditioning would force most Americans to wear ‘queer bifocals’ that would prevent their accepting the concept of the American blend. Toomer recalled reading his poem to ‘a man of intellect’ who insisted afterward that he was black and Toomer was white, and any thought of a new blend was nonsense. Jean’s response to the man whose skin color was just a shade darker than his own discloses his early commitment to a supraracial identity:

So far as I knew, they never realized that racial strains do not exist separately in a man but blend to form a new product…. They never understood that the real factors operating in the United States…are creating a new people in this world, a people to whom all Americans, without exception, belong…. At one time they would live in the colored world, at another, in the white world. They were under the compulsion to be this or that. They could have been self-determined to be this and that.
Jean Toomer felt that he could not be located within traditional definitions and classifications, and this belief remained true for his entire life. Today in the “enlightened” 1990s, particularly in view of the seeming sole agenda item (read: sole obsession) of Bill Clinton’s “great dialogue on race,” some NAACP type would doubtless declare: “While we’re sensitive to Mr. Toomer’s right to not locate himself within traditional definitions and classifications, we feel that, if it became popular, his philosophy would have a deleterious effect on the black community in the aggregate and would signal the end of Affirmative Action!” Sweet Jesus.

Toomer, who also penned the classic work Cane (1923) — a collection of short stories, poems and sketches focusing on mulattoes and blacks in the South, believed that love for humanity transcended the highest possible level of affinity for any of the so-called “races.” His love for the life-force of the universe eclipsed that for any earthbound doctrine that would subordinate the will and aspirations of the individual to that of an artificial grouping. He might also agree with me that allowing, even encouraging, a “people” to wallow in their fear of change is no manifestation of love. It is, rather, evidence that the one professing this “love” has been so thoroughly indoctrinated in collectivist, identity politics dogma as to not even be aware.

My friends, we must work to shatter the agreement that sustains the artificial construct, the reality of “race.” After we do that, though, what next?

Sooner or later the race game will be played out and at that time the substitute word will probably be the word “ethnic” group, which is a term that is as ambiguous (and in reality) as dangerous to personal freedom and liberty as the term “race” is today. Culture is thrown about as a close relative to this term. Neither one makes sense as a collective grouping of individuals unless you are dealing with a social group that has an identical pattern of survival needs in an identical environmental setting. But, people will begin to assign and group individuals based on origin and/or skin color to achieve the same end that the term “race” does today. We must be vigilant against any threat to individual free will and choice. Beware. There will always be those who claim to be “our” people or say that they are part of our “community.” To be truly free, a person has to have the choice of which community is his or hers, which people are his or hers – and to decide where they wish to be – not the other way around! Where a community or a people can claim some kind of ownership over an individual free human being based upon some superficial skin pigmentation or common ancestral characteristic, there can be no freedom!

Vandon Jenerette in an IV “Letter to the Editor” from 21 July 1997

Jean Toomer also wondered how the human community could retain the strength of ethnic contributions without being destructively separated by the differences. This is why, for 2000 and beyond, we must protest and fight all forms of official classification, racial or ethnic. For an individual to express pride in his or her ethnic identity is one thing, but for any level of government to require listing same on official forms is quite another and we should not tolerate it. Such a requirement would produce a situation that is no less divisive and coercive as the current situation with “racial” categories.

PASS IT ON!



Also read the LatinoLink articles:

Defying the Census, by Roberto Rodriguez and Patrisia Gonzales
Census Should Eliminate Race, Ethnic Categories, by Raymond Rodriguez
Ethnicity Is Not The Only Thing That Matters, by Roger Hernandez

Plus…

Multiracial Americans deserve better than ‘other’, by Gregory Rodriguez, an associate editor at Pacific News Service.
Blurred Vision: Seeing beyond government racial categories, by Nick Gillespie of “Reason” magazine.
Focus on group identity fuels race politics, by Linda Bowles of the The Holland (MI) Sentinel



Also, visit: INTERRACIAL VOICE

©1999 all rights reserved.
Reproduction in whole or in part prohibited without
the express written consent of Interracial Voice. This
reprint, residing at The Multiracial Activist is done
with the kind permission of Charles Byrd,
editor and publisher of INTERRACIAL VOICE.

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