March 25, 2004
Letter to Robert Dynes
President, University of California
25 March 2004
President Robert Dynes
University of California
Office of the President
1111 Franklin Street, 12th Floor
Oakland, CA 94607
Dear President Dynes,
It has come to my attention that Regent Ward Connerly will propose Item RE-42 before the Committee on Educational Policy in May of this year. As I have understood Mr. Connerly’s proposal, it calls for the University of California to “collect data from potential students” in the form of a “multi-racial” or “multi-ethnic” checkbox, and suggests that the “[Board of Regents’] President.request that the OMB revise its guidelines to permit” multi-racial categorization.
However, I also read recently that one of the criticisms aimed at Mr. Connerly’s proposal is that such a proposed change “would obfuscate racial data collection because someone who checked ‘multi-racial’ could have ancestors from any combination of races and it wouldn’t be clear which ones”.
It should be apparent to such an informed body as the U of C that times have changed. The old racial classifications that only permitted individuals to identify with a single race are antiquated curiosities in the new world of racial diversity and intermarriage in which we live today. Still worse, they are an atavistic throwback to the Jim Crow laws-in particular the so-called “one-drop rule” dictating that anyone with any known sub-Saharan ancestry is “a negro”-which in the past divided American citizens into a hierarchy based on notions of racial “superiority” and “inferiority”, racial “purity” and “miscegenation”, ideas that by right should be defunct in the Third Millennium.
It’s time to do away with this kind of thinking altogether. As Americans, we are each and all endowed with “certain inalienable rights” including “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. In particular, as regards “the pursuit of happiness” it should be crystal-clear that the right to identify racially as one wishes-not as some government-funded agencies dictate in order to maintain their own financial and political clout-should accrue solely to the individual in question.
Groups such as the NAACP and the ACLU claim that adding a multi-racial checkbox would hinder their potential for identifying problems affecting “minorities” and admissions activities. In other words, people must be forced into specific racial categories whether they will or no in order for these organizations to fulfill their purported raison d’être. This strikes me as being sheer racialist bullying, inasmuch as it demands that the individual compromise his own identity, his very sense of self, supposedly for his own good!
Whether or not a person considers himself a Catholic, a Mormon or a Jew; whether he is gay or straight; whether he is a Democrat, a Republican or an anarchist-all these things are his prerogative as a citizen to dictate at his own pleasure. How, then, can it be possible for the State to tack a racial label on him, one that he does not choose of his own free will, in the name of “monitoring injustice”? Or is Old Jim Crow still stalking the decks of the Ship of State, but this time disguised as the Purser?
There are other questions that arise here too, questions that are by no means rhetorical. Do we know what someone’s ancestors are when they check “Black”, “White” or “Latino”? Do we know what their ancestors are when the University tabulates individuals into ludicrously broad categories such as “Asian”-which can include anybody from Sami to Sri Lankans to Mongolians to Ainu, none of whom are even vaguely related? (Talk about “obfuscating racial data collection”!) Most importantly, if an individual identifies himself or herself as “multiracial”, what is the public interest in following that person’s ancestral trail-or have we simply come full circle back to the One Drop Rule?
Those of us who identify ourselves as multi-racial must be allowed to define ourselves as we see fit, anything else is unacceptable. Our earnest fulfillment of the duties and responsibilities that we are obliged to live up to as citizens should be our guarantee of the inalienable rights that the Constitution grants us. And one of those rights should involve being able to determine for ourselves what “race” we and our children are.
The only alternative to providing a multi-racial checkbox is to eliminating racial designations-and their accompanying checkboxes-altogether. But I’m afraid that this solution, while being the ideal one, lies in the future. In the interim, it’s time for a realistic and workable change.
Translator and Senior Editor