Americans are Tired of Racial Boxes

Americans are Tired of Racial Boxes:
Vast Majority Want Government to
“Leave My Race Alone!”

by M. Royce Van Tassell
August/September 2000

A new Zogby poll finds that a commanding majority of Americans are tired of the government’s silly little race boxes. Nearly 65 percent of the 1000 people surveyed felt the government should simply eliminate the racial boxes on government forms altogether.

Commissioned by the American Civil Rights Institute, as part of its on-going “Race Has No Place” project, the survey queried more than 1000 likely voters across the country on the need for racial boxes on government forms, the uses to which the data collected from these boxes is put, how often racial data should be gathered, how race is determined, and who should determine a person’s race.

The survey asked people about the need for the government’s race boxes at several points during the interview. Seventy-seven percent believe the government should not require Americans to disclose their “race”. Similarly, nearly 82 percent of Americans believe we have a right to racial privacy. When asked whether the government should collect race data on certain policy issues such as bank loans, college admissions, health care and people stopped by the police, 53 percent oppose collecting the data at all.

In perhaps the most striking finding of the entire poll, 58 percent want to get rid of the boxes, despite the fact that getting rid of such boxes might eliminate some evidence of discrimination. Surprisingly, a majority of all racial subgroups surveyed support the elimination of these boxes.1

Other findings in the survey include evidence that the nation’s commitment to the “One Drop Rule” is finally waning. According to the “One Drop Rule,” anyone with just a drop of “black blood” or “any known black ancestry” was black. However, nearly 83 percent of those responding to the Zogby poll said that the child of a black and white parent is mult-racial. Under the One Drop rule, of course, she would be black.

In a similar vein, and in keeping with the respondents’ belief in racial privacy, 85 percent believe that either you or your family decide your race. A mere 4 percent believe that this decision is the government’s prerogative. When asked how often the government should query about race, 58 percent believed it should only be on the Census. Another 19 percent would only allow such a query as part of an investigation into an act of discrimination.

In summary, Americans want to reclaim their racial privacy, and they are tired of the government’s intrusive race questions.

M. Royce Van Tassell is Director of Research for the American Civil Rights Institute.


(1) Because the number of minorities in this survey sample is so low, the exact percentages are unreliable.

Also by M. Royce Van Tassell

  • The Abolitionist Examiner – The Death of The One-Drop Rule: R.I.P.

    Copyright © 2000 ACRI. All rights reserved.

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