November 10, 1999
The Multiracial Activist and INTERRACIAL VOICE
Comment Letter to Federal Reserve
Regarding Changes to Regulation B
PO Box 8208
Alexandria, VA 22306-8208
P.O. Box 560185
College Point, NY 11356-0185
November 10, 1999
Ms. Jennifer J. Johnson
Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
20th Street and Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20551
re: Equal Credit Opportunity Act – 64 FR 44582 (August 16, 1999) Docket No. R-1008
Dear Ms. Johnson:
Speaking for The Multiracial Activist, an activist journal covering civil rights issues of interest to biracial/multiracial individuals, interracial couples/families and transracial adoptees and INTERRACIAL VOICE, the voice of conscience of the global mixed-race/interracial movement, we are happy to comment on the proposal issued by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System to revise Regulation B, the implementing regulation for the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA).
This proposal, while obviously introduced with the best of intentions could not have come at a worse time. Our nation, with its tortured history of race relations, is currently in a state of dismantling the way we view race. Much of this change has been facilitated by the rising numbers of interracial marriages and the growing population of multiracial adults and children resulting from the United States Supreme Court decision Loving vs. Virginia of 1967, which dismantled the final vestiges of Jim Crow in America.
Further, as has been published before in a policy statement by the American Anthropological Association (AAA), there is no scientific basis for the concept of race. According to the AAA, race is purely a sociological and cultural creation with no basis in science. This proposal, sadly, would only serve to further the myth of racial classifications which currently divide people along racial lines. If race doesn't exist, how do you continue to count it? This proposal, while well-intentioned would harm more than help our constituencies by furthering the concept of race as credible and necessary. As stated on the White House's One America website, the goal of the President's Initiative on Race, launched in 1997, was to strengthen our shared foundation as Americans so that we can live in an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect. The best way to do this is by abandoning the concept of racial categorization altogether.
The good that is believed to be accomplished through racial classification is far outweighed by its toll on our nation's communities. The constituencies we represent consist of people who already have a heightened awareness of the concept of race and how they are viewed by society in general. This proposal will only intensify that feeling of dread that occurs when they are confronted with invasive racial classification questions while filling out school, medical and other types of forms. We would personally be loath to honestly answer any question regarding race on any form related to financial services. The only color that should matter with regard to financial transactions is green. As our constituencies have rebelled against Census classifications, so shall it against these types of invasive classification questions.
The ECOA, as currently enacted makes it unlawful for creditors to discriminate against an applicant in any aspect of a credit transaction on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, marital status, sex, age, and other specified bases. Adding race back into the process only heightens the possibility of discrimination. As more and more people move to the internet to conduct their financial transactions, racial discrimination in financial services should become even less of an issue. Electronic banking has considerably minimized the possibility of racial discrimination. If a financial institution's employees can't see you and you don't volunteer your race, color, religion or national origin, how can they discriminate against you based on those factors? The same argument applies to applications completed by mail, fax or over the phone. Each year, more and more people are using those routes rather than visiting their local bank, lessening the prospect of racial discrimination.
This proposal, which would eliminate the prohibition on the voluntary collection of racial information by financial institutions could also create some serious side effects. Specifically, the possibility of misuse of this voluntarily collected data is enormous. Lawsuits, filed by organizations falsely alleging racism with the sole purpose of creating big settlements for their members or clients are of considerable concern. These lawsuits could easily create serious racial tensions in communities already struggling to cope with the changing demographics resulting from the Loving vs. Virginia decision among other factors. The backlash from these lawsuits would be directed at those perceived to be responsible in those communities, which would include our constituencies, a most unsettling prospect.
We, as representatives of constituencies this proposal is designed to protect, urge you not to implement it. The drawbacks of this proposal far outweigh the benefits. It’s time to move on from the box-checking that has divided our nation for far too long.
We thank you for your consideration of our views on this proposal. Any questions may be directed to James Landrith at 760-875-8547 or Charles Byrd at 212-539-3872.