Spurious Issues: Race and Multiracial Identity Politics in the United States

By Rainier Spencer | Go to book overview
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Unfortunately, there is a real danger that this kind of misinformation can do great harm. In his January-February 1998 editorial, Byrd advises his readers to do any of the following with their year 2000 census forms: "Check White!" "Check Anything But Black!" "Check Every Box On The Form!" "Don't Return A Census Form At All!" "Check Hispanic!" and "Check American Indian!" 52 While it is possible to read various harmful impulses into any of these suggestions, particularly the one to "Check Anything But Black!" one is struck by the insensitivity and selfishness required to consciously do harm to Native Americans by purposely advocating the destabilization of their numbers and the undermining of the protections and benefits based on those numbers.

Project RACE and Interracial Voice will likely persevere in their call for a separate multiracial category. In all probability, this call will continue to be driven by self-esteem issues, seasoned as before with contradictory and insincere arguments about accuracy and medical screening. But OMB's MATA decision is not satisfactory as an end result for any of the interested parties I have discussed. Future proposals by some factions to institute a stand-alone multiracial category, a B+MATA option, or even a return to the pre-MATA OMB 15 format will be met by dogged resistance and counterproposals by other factions. In this sense, OMB's 1997 decision represents perhaps only the beginning of newer and potentially more divisive debates over race and federal racial categorization.

Ramona Douglass, e-mail to author, July 14, 1997.
House Subcommittee on Government Management, Information, and Technology, Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, Hearings on Federal Measures of Race and Ethnicity and the Implications for the 2000 Census, testimony by Susan Graham on May 22, 1997, 105th Cong., 1st sess., April 23, May 22, and July 25, 1997, 290; and Ramona Douglass, e-mail to author, June 3, 1997.
This major change of direction by these two organizations came less than two months before the recommendations of OMB's interagency committee were finalized and made public. These were hardly secret deliberations, and it is likely that the direction in which the interagency committee was leaning became known to both AMEA and Project RACE, with the organizations reacting based on that knowledge.
Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, "1996 Race and Ethnic Targeted Test (RAETT) and Its Content Reinterview, Also Identified As the 1996 Census Survey", by Gerald Taché, Federal Register 60, no. 231 ( December 1, 1995): 62011.
This proposal would have allowed subcategories only if granted by high-level federal authority on an agency-by-agency basis. There was a clear intention in this proposal to discourage the use of subcategories.
Also important is the way one invites respondents to answer, an issue that I shall take up when discussing in detail the MATA option proposed by Project RACE.
House Subcommittee, testimony by Susan Graham, May 22, 1997, 290.
Bridget Bielinski, e-mail to author, July 11, 1997.


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