F.R. Duplantier reporting Behind The Headlines
Week of:
July 9, 2000
Will 2010 Census Offer Multiracial Box?

F.R. Duplantier

by: F.R. Duplantier

Why does the U.S. Census need to know the race of every citizen, and why can't Americans with multiracial backgrounds identify themselves accordingly?

"Conducting the Census has always been, and will always be, a political issue," comments Royce Van Tassell of the American Civil Rights Institute (ACRI). "Its results determine which states get congressional seats, and which states lose them. Just as important," he adds, "its results determine the party alignment of the House of Representatives, and all state legislative houses."

In a recent issue of The Egalitarian, the ACRI newsletter, Van Tassell contends that "the political fight surrounding Census 2000 has been, and will continue to be, more divisive than any other in recent memory. The most divisive controversy centers on the role of race," he observes. "Beginning in 1993," Van Tassell recalls, "representatives of America's multiracial population began lobbying for changes in the racial categories available for Census 2000. Rather than being forced to choose one parent over another, or to become a demeaning 'Other,' these activists proposed a 'Multiracial' box."

The proposal encountered swift and determined opposition from minority rights groups, which had "benefitted greatly from the government's devotion to the 'one drop rule.' According to this rule," Van Tassell explains, "anyone with even one drop of black blood, or one black ancestor, is black. These groups base their political power on a claim to represent millions of minorities in American," he stresses. "The 'one drop rule' guarantees that they retain a large constituent base." The multiracial box on the Census form "threatened to dilute their constituent base."

Van Tassell reports that "the minority rights establishment prevented the addition of a multiracial box. Instead," he notes, "they convinced the Clinton Administration to allow people to select as many racial boxes as they wanted. In acceding to the minority rights establishment, the Clinton Administration guaranteed that the 'one drop rule' for racial classification would prevail," Van Tassell concludes. "Not only will the 'one drop rule' apply to the descendants of slaves," he emphasizes, "but to every other minority group with enough political clout to get their own racial box. Enforcement agencies will reclassify any person who selects white and some minority group as a member of the minority group."

ACRI Chairman Ward Connerly declares that "the 'one drop rule' and the legacy of Jim Crow are alive and well, thanks to the administration of President Clinton and the civil rights establishment." He laments that "multiracial people are forced to accept a government-imposed system of classification that is inaccurate and insulting; poor kids are trapped in lousy inner schools because of a failed system of racial preferences; and others are being discriminated against in the interest of achieving 'diversity.'"

Connerly reports that "the opposition to this ill-conceived and outdated practice has grown substantially. . . . The most prominent challenge to this simplistic system of racial classification comes from Tiger Woods," he notes, whose ancestry includes white, black, Indian, and Asian strains. "Woods rightfully resents the term 'African American," Connerly comments, "because it denies him the right to honor the other elements of his background."

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