Letters to the Editor

LTE: Census “Race” Apportionment

Date: Mon, 24 Apr 2000 14:14:10 -0700 (PDT)
From: George Winkel
Subject: census “race” apportionment

James, I have realized something about the census which I feel is VERY IMPORTANT. I am glad to see that Idaho Rep. Helen Chenoweth-Hage, R-Idaho, has introduced H.R. 4198 restricting the decennial census to enumeration of the population for redistricting. Here are some observations which I already had written on this subject.

The decennial census is found in the provisions of Article I, Section 2, of the U.S. Constitution — right up near the top, where our representative system of government is created. There, also, is found the provision for not counting “… Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other persons.” (The 3/5ths refers to the poor slaves of that antebellum period.) This is obsolete language now. Slavery is abolished (U.S. Const., 13th Amend., 1865), Indians are taxed citizens now, and no one can be counted “three fifths” of a person, under the Fourteenth Amendment (1868).

The census actually is ESSENTIAL TO OUR DEMOCRATIC SYSTEM OF GOVERNMENT, because its function is COUNTING PEOPLE, in order to apportion House of Representative voting districts. (U.S. Const., Art. I, 2.) The pre-Civil War census collected “race” information only so as to politically diminish Indians and slaves. There has been no reason for the census to ask for “race” since 1860 — the last census taken before start of the Civil War. Ever since the enactment of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, however, minority civil rights forces have been twisting our antebellum census 180-degrees, bending it to their political ends!

In one convenient output, the census’s fundamental governing function, APPORTIONMENT, continues — as it has done since 1790 — listing “race,” right there next to each respondent’s count and home address, and the other items. The opportunity this presents has been exploited for decades. The “race”-boxes on the decennial census clearly have been used, since 1970, or before, as political criteria for drawing “minority” electoral districts. “Minority” representatives, for years, have been elected by “minority” neighborhood constituencies based on candidates’ “minority” — their “race” — not on their leadership merit only.

At the very least, census “race” information provides ambitious minority ID-politicians a powerful device with which to hunt down “minority” communities, concentrate them into voting districts (e.g., Maxine Waters’s riot-prone South Central L.A.) — there squeezed fermenting together in gratefully “dependent” ghettos — while constantly laying all the blame for the peoples’ situation on “white racism.” I shudder to think, how much of our chronically underprivileged inner city civil rights unrest — how much American social injustice — actually stems from this political parasitism feeding at the heart of our democratic constitutional system of government?

I believe it is urgent we MUST SEPARATE the census’s fundamental apportionment-counting function, absolutely, from ALL other data collecting. Everything except the count of persons found at each address must go! Not only “races,” but any identity group which can get itself onto the decennial census questionnaire acquires a way, potentially, of gerrymandering district-lines around its “race,” “minority,” or “orientation,” and electing “representatives” of its “kind” to Congress, or to state office. (I recently heard on KPFK Pacifica Radio that gay activists tried to have a sexual orientation box put on the census.) This flaw is Balkanizing our nation! If the “white” majority eventually feels threatened, and joins in this same sort of ethnic wagon-circling politics, “voting by race,” too, the situation could degenerate disastrously — every polarized group for itself. (Don’t look now, but here is a new “European American Issues Forum (EAIF), alarmingly similar in its layout to the sophisticated “minority” rights sites which are burgeoning on the Web.)

Might history repeat? In the Reconstruction South, many “black” politicians won elective office alongside aristocratic former slave owners — the aging plantation masters not stripped of their suffrage for having fought against the Union. Patrician “whites” (the real power in the post Civil War South) were relatively tolerant to the recently emancipated Freedmen, who reciprocated, voting them, too, into office:

“During the 1880’s, visitors to the South from the North and from Europe were impressed by the way Negroes and whites mingled in public facilities such as streetcars, theaters, and soda fountains. A Negro newspaperman, returning from the North to his birthplace in South Carolina in 1885, found less discrimination in traveling and eating arrangements than in New England. The conservative whites, often former planters, who dominated southern politics for a time were quite ready to give Negroes a dignified, although subordinate, place in southern life. In return the Negroes generally voted for the ‘quality folk’ in elections.” (Henry W. Bragdon, Samuel P. McCutchen, History of A Free People, Macmillan & Co., N.Y., 1967, p. 539.)

This “black” and “white” coalition of “race” & “class” continued in parts of the South for many years beyond the end of Reconstruction, although the U.S. troops were withdrawn (1877). The obvious purpose of the nocturnal KKK “white” terrorism uprising which followed (i.e., the cross burnings, beatings, many lynchings, etc.), was stopping “black” voting, and reversing the power of “race”-conscious districting. From the time of the Supreme Court’s regressive “Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537, 41 L.Ed. 256, 16 S.Ct. 1138 (1896) decision, until the Voting Rights Act (1965) — that is, throughout the long, dreadful Jim Crow era — census “race” data remained available (and clearly it was used, by “white” state officials) to dissipate and deny power to the again disenfranchised “blacks,” based on their “race.” Are we not witnessing an unstable oscillation which that extra census “race” question has injected into our democratic system?

The Article I decennial census, mandated in our Constitution, must not do anything except COUNT PEOPLE — HUMANS (certainly NOT “races)! The census is a sensitive navigational instrument for our system of government, its checks and balances. This is why the census count is not permitted to use sampling. Congress has the power, under other constitutional provisions, to gather any data helpful to the government’s servicing any lawful goals. In fact, a “non-apportionment” “mid-decade census” has existed in the Census Act, ever since 1985, expressly authorized to use scientific sampling techniques (13 U.S.C. 195). (I doubt government needs to know one iota about anyone’s alleged “race,” however.) Despite all the hand wringing about federal funds, and monitoring voting rights, the Ship of State does not depend for guidance on the prying little personal questions that come riding piggyback on the enumeration function of our Article I decennial census. If we do not toss the excess baggage off the census, our Ship of State will be in great danger of hitting the rocks!

George Winkel

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *