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

By Rainier Spencer | Go to book overview

proliferation of racial check-boxes and racial statistics limits the ability ultimately to move away from the idea of race as a meaningful concept. Clearly, it is neither wise nor practical to simply dismantle the U.S. civil rights compliance structure at this point. What is needed instead is continued use of compliance monitoring, along with a commitment to finding alternative methods for tracking discrimination. The federal race categories have worked to cement the idea of race in U.S. society as much as they have worked to uncover patterns of racial discrimination. Any potential revisions to these categories must be considered with the utmost gravity and concern, both for the primary purpose of the categories in providing a statistical language for civil rights compliance monitoring and for the effects the categories have in solidifying the idea of race as a reality.

Early in this chapter, I asserted that two related concepts would guide my discussion in this chapter and in the book generally, and we would be well served to revisit them prior to moving on to explicit considerations of multiracial identity and a federal multiracial category. First, federal racial classification exists for the primary purpose of monitoring continuing discrimination against specific groups to whom the United States has particular, historical responsibilities. This is serious business in that it represents the best tool Americans have for reducing and eliminating covert and institutional discrimination. Second, in absolutely no sense is federal racial classification intended to provide a means for persons to validate their self-identity choices. Such considerations are simply outside the very particular scope of the federal race categories. With these facts in mind, we may now move to an examination of multiracial identity.


Notes
1.
"In civil law, definition is always hazardous." In Georg W. F. Hegel, Hegel's Philosophy of Right, trans. T. M. Knox ( Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1967), 14, 305.
2.
Suzann Evinger, "How Shall We Measure Our Nation's Diversity?" Chance 8, no. 1 ( Winter 1995): 8.
3.
Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Racial and Ethnic Classifications Used by Public Schools, NCES 96-092, by Nancy Carey and Elizabeth Farris , project officer Judi Carpenter ( Washington, D.C., 1996), 14.
4.
Although the basic text of the policy has remained unchanged, it is not correct to assert, as many commentators do, that OMB 15 had been in effect since 1977. There have been several changes involving which government agency has had responsibility for implementing the policy, and I shall detail those changes in this chapter.
5.
It is important to note that although discrimination against whites can certainly be monitored via these categories, they were designed specifically to aid in monitoring discrimination against the major groups in the United States who have been the victims of government-sanctioned oppression.
6.
Lawrence Wright, "One Drop of Blood," New Yorker, July 25, 1994, 55.
7.
Evinger, How Shall We Measure? 8.
8.
House Subcommittee on Census, Statistics, and Postal Personnel, Committee on Post Office and Civil Service, Hearings on the Review of Federal Measurements of Race and Ethnicity

-82-

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

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • A Note About Electronic Sources xiii
  • Acronyms xv
  • Introduction 1
  • Notes 10
  • 1 - The American Racial Paradigm 13
  • Notes 49
  • 2 - Federal Racial Categorization 55
  • Notes 82
  • 3 - Multiracial Identity 87
  • Notes 119
  • 4 - The Multiracial Category Initiative 125
  • Notes 160
  • 5 - Final Proposal, Final Recommendation, Final Decision 167
  • Notes 185
  • 6 - Thinking About Transcending Race 189
  • Notes 198
  • Bibliography 201
  • Index 213
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