March 17, 2004
Joint Letter to University of California Board of Regents
March 17, 2004
Ms. Leigh Trivette
Secretary of the Regents
1111 Franklin Street, 12th Floor
Oakland, CA 94607
Dear Ms. Trivette:
We the undersigned wish to express our support for Item RE-42, proposed by Regent Ward Connerly on March 4, 2004.
RE-42 requests that the University of California “collect data from potential students” in the form of a “multi-racial” or “multi-ethnic” classification check box. RE-42 further suggests that the Board of Regents “President should request that the OMB revise its guidelines to permit” such classifications.
We, the undersigned, believe that individuals who perceive themselves to be either “biracial” or “multiracial” should be afforded the option of declaring themselves as such through a separate category. Further, if such individuals are not going to be afforded this opportunity, then the current classification tabulation method, which mimics the classic one-drop rule of the Jim Crow past, should be abolished.
Currently, individuals of multiple “race” backgrounds, who designate themselves as such on applications, forms, tests and other documents by checking more than one “racial” classification box are not documented by the University. Multiple box-checkers are instead reassigned into one “racial” classification and the rest of their self-designation is disregarded. By changing their self-designation, the University is essentially voiding their right to self-identification in the University environment. Such changing of an individual’s self-designation is a de facto endorsement of the one-drop rule that plagued the Jim Crow era of American history. While this tabulation scheme is not the fault of the University, through RE-42 the Board would be in the position to effect positive change on the behalf of its “biracial” and “multiracial” student population.
Clearly, the demographics of this nation are rapidly changing, as evidenced by this very issue being brought before the Board. It is far past time to abandon the routines and practices of the past, which were based on Jim Crow era beliefs and subjugation based on “racial” classification. If the University is going to collect “racial” data, then the self-identification rights of those who perceive themselves to be “biracial” or “multiracial” must be respected.
Two other observations are appropriate: First, it is often argued by those who oppose the acknowledgement of a “multiracial” identity that the number of such individuals is statistically too small to worry about. In reality, however, the number of multiracial individuals is often greater than the number of “Native Americans” or “Black/African Americans” at many institutions. Therefore, if there is justification to count and tabulate these individuals, why not a group that is even larger, namely, the “multiracial” population?
Second, allowing individuals to check more than one box does not capture those individuals who perceive themselves to be “multiracial.” They are not “part” this or “part” that; they are “multiracial.” That is their identity. They have their own communities, their own websites, publications and support groups. In this regard, they deserve the same recognition as groups that represent single “races.”
We applaud the Board for taking the time to consider this request and urge it to act on behalf of the self-identification rights of its rapidly growing “biracial” and “multiracial” student population.
The Multiracial Activist
Charles Michael Byrd
National American Metis Association
Founder and President
Interracial Women’s Political Consortium
Multi-Ethnic Women for Media Fairness