November 16, 2004
Joint Letter to University of California Board of Regents
November 16, 2004
Ms. Leigh Trivette
Secretary of the Regents
1111 Franklin Street, 12th Floor
Oakland, CA 94607
Dear Ms. Trivette:
We the undersigned organizations wish to renew our support for Item RE-52, proposed by Regent Ward Connerly on March 4, 2004.
RE-52 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-52 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, rather than continue to be used a means of denying “multiracial” individuals the same identification rights afforded to the rest of the student population.
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 without their knowledge. 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-52 the Board would be in the position to effect positive change on 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. And, nowhere is this change more apparent than in California. 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.
Many mono-racial advocacy groups have publicly been involved in political and media campaigns aimed at denying “multiracial” individuals the right to choose their own identity. The root of this issue is money and power. That said, we do not understand why such groups should be allowed to control such a personal right as self-identification for their own gain. To deny one segment of society a right, based on the objections of a third party, seems to run counter to everything for which this nation stands. Why should the self-identification of “multiracial” individuals be subject to the whims and approvals of mono-racial organizations who would deny them said right in order to artificially inflate their own numbers for financial and political gain? Why should the self-identification rights of “multiracial” individuals continue to be denied in such a manner, while other groups are granted the right to identify as they see fit?
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.” As long as they continue to be treated in such a manner, their civil liberties, contributions to society, and general cultural impact as a whole will continue to be viewed as subordinate to the mono-racial groups. It is unfair for one group to be perpetually singled out and disrespected in such a manner, and the University has the ability to help remedy this situation through the adoption of RE-52.
Further, the controversial “check all that apply” method was adopted by the Office of Management and Budget in order to give the appearance that “multiracial” individuals were going to be allowed their right to self-identify, as other groups are currently allowed. The real purpose of this “check all that apply” method is to allow the government to collapse such responses into one category only, leaving the tabulation of “multiracial” individuals subject to the whims of whatever mono-racial advocacy group happened to wield the most political power. In effect, “multiracial” individuals may check all the boxes they like, but unbeknownst to them, their self-identity will actually be determined by a third party. Currently, no other racial or ethnic group’s self-identification rights are treated in this indefensible manner. In short, the “check all that apply” method is a cosmetic screen to cover the fact that the racist one-drop rule is still in effect with regard to the self-identification rights of “multiracial” Americans. This should not be the case.
We applaud the Board for taking the time to consider this request and urge it to grant its rapidly growing “biracial” and “multiracial” student population the same rights to self-identification that its mono-racial students have held for decades.
The Multiracial Activist
Charles Michael Byrd
National American Metis Association
Francis Wardle, Ph.D.
Center for the Study of Biracial Children
Founder and President
Interracial Women’s Political Consortium
Multi-Ethnic Women for Media Fairness
Steve and Ruth White
A Place For Us National
Chief National Director
A Place For Us National