Kindly Government Agents Want to Know: What Race are You?

Kindly Government Agents Want to Know: What Race are You?

by Chett
August/September 2003

Coming to America

We’ll begin with a few anecdotes from a teacher colleague of ours, who came to America from Great Britain.

In the offices of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, she and other incoming European citizens were given paperwork which asked them to check-off their race. The choices were Caucasian (non-Hispanic), Negro, Hispanic (not Negro), and Asian. The future Americans looked at each other and were very confused, since they didn’t know which to choose. To any European, Caucasian means “from the Caucasus region near the Caspian Sea” and none of these folks matched that description. So our friend asked the nice INS lady what they should check for “race.”

“You’re Caucasian!” she bellowed, annoyed at this group of immigrants that was obviously too dumb to follow simple instructions.

Our friend became an American nonetheless, met a wonderful man, got married, and had two children.

When the kids were young and needed medical care, they went to a clinic where the receptionist filled out an intake form for the children. When our friend took the kids, the nurse checked off the kids’ race as “White.” But when her husband took the kids to the clinic, the nurse would indicate the kids were “Black.”

This was a source of endless amusement between her and her husband, that their kids could magically morph from one race to another, depending on which parent was with them.

Not a Laughing Matter

While our friend and her family regarded the whole “race” issue with a healthy sense of humor, in many regions The State is not laughing. In progressive places like California, employees are compelled to gather racial information about their employees, with no option for politely declining.

Panel Discussion

The man shown here is busy trying to figure out what race to check off, for his state-mandated paperwork. What should he select?

“None of your business”

That’s the response by an increasing number of Americans when asked about race. And soon California voters may decide that the question doesn’t even need to be asked in the first place.

Nathan Masters for CNSnews that the Racial Privacy Initiative (Proposition 54) will appear on the same ballot as the Gray Davis recall.

“Racial classifications have no place in an equal and free society, and the whole racial classification system needs to come to an end,” said Diane Schachterle, initiative coordinator for the Proposition 54 campaign. “So the Racial Privacy Initiative is a measured step for the California government to begin to move away from the use of race.”

Schachterle also noted that since the 1996 passage of Proposition 209, the use of race in state university admissions or government hiring has been illegal in California.

“Since the process should be based on merit, there’s just no reason to keep [racial classifications],” Schachterle said.

The Racial Privacy Initiative has been proposed by the American Civil Rights Coalition, led by Ward Connerly. The goal? To eliminate racial and gender preferences and classifications.

But not everyone is thrilled about ending the check-off boxes. Some are personally offended by Ward Connerly’s thesis that the State does not need to be in the business of collecting racial data. The San Francisco Chronicle’s Tanya Schevitz reports on one such disenfranchised party:

“[Mr. Connerly] is trying to be the one-man anti-civil rights campaign. The new civil rights movement is going to take him on,” said Yvette Felarca, a UC Berkeley graduate student and a national organizer for the pro-affirmative action group, By Any Means Necessary.

The “new civil rights movement” is a euphemism for the drive to create special group privileges based on race, the exact opposite of the individual civil rights movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King in the 1960s. You can bet these race hustlers want to see Racial Privacy defeated, for their entire concept of group privileges collapses like a house of cards once you realize that racial “groups” are next to meaningless, as well as borderless.

Mulattos Need Not Apply

One especially onerous aspect of racial check-off boxes is that they pigeonhole people into arbitrary and inflexible categories, and have no easy way to deal with mixed-heritage folks. Like our friend’s two children in the introduction above, a rapidly-rising portion of the American population cannot be classified into one little box or another.

Groups like By Any Means Necessary have an easy answer: if you have a black parent, you’re considered black, period. “Don’t listen to what Tiger Woods says about being Cablinasian, he’s black.” In a perverse bit of irony, the “one drop rule” that was used for years to deny rights to Americans who had any “black blood” is now championed by those who claim to be civil rights leaders!

Wouldn’t it be nice to see racial check-off boxes go the way of anti-miscegenation laws. And about the man in the picture above? He decided to check the box marked human.


Copyright © 2003 The Multiracial Activist. All rights reserved.

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