“Our goal is to have one classification—American”
Vouchers for Schools and the Multiracial Census
Redistricting, like a broad range of other legislative and administrative actions, depends on census data. But census measurement is itself an exercise deeply embroiled in the politics of racial equality. In this chapter, census category change is one of two very different issues that share a common feature. They are two of the many less familiar policies on which the modern racial alliances have played unexpected but consequential roles. And they are issues involving dimensions of two of the most important foundational systems in American life: public education, and governmental classification of the population in terms of race and ethnicity.
Education is recognized as fundamental to developing capacities for responsible citizenship, marketable skills, and resources for personal fulfillment in modern America. Governmental racial and ethnic classifications not only determine such key issues as congressional district size, federal grants to states, and affirmative action. They help both to express and to constitute the senses of identity of many Americans. Neither the structure of modern American schooling nor its systems of racial classifications can be grasped without appreciating the roles the modern racial alliances play in the politics that have shaped current policies and practices on those issues.
In The Audacity of Hope, Barack Obama defended an understanding of the American constitutional system as structured to foster “a conversation, a ‘deliberative democracy,’ in which all citizens engage in a process of testing their ideas against an external reality, persuading others of their point of view, and building shifting alliances of consent.”1 Obama acknowledged, however, that this vision of constitutional “deliberative democracy” potentially championed “compromise, modesty, and muddling through … logrolling, deal-making, self-interest, pork barrels, paralysis, and inefficiency.” He did not add “flip-