Susan Graham for Project RACE
If you think multiracial people have racial and ethnic problems in the United States, just look at what’s happening in Brazil. Forty-three percent of Brazilians self-identify as part pardo or brown. In the United States, multiracial people are about seven percent of the population. Their census has 136 classifications and ours has 57 for multiracial combinations.
Brazilians often do not identify as white or black, but fall into an assortment of names like dark nut, burnt white, and copper. It reminds me of the 1990s in the United States, when the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) was actually considering a “skin gradation chart” for their racial categories. Thank goodness that didn’t happen.
Brazil has a very complex history, which I won’t go into here, but 5.5 million Africans were forcibly transported to Brazil in its story of slavery. They have never been and are now no closer to a color-blind society than we are.
Affirmative action is very scary in Brazil. Many multiracial Brazilians are being rejected or thrown out of affirmative action programs for being too white. Whether you agree with the basics of affirmative action or not, will what’s happening in Brazil ever happen to us in the United States? Will affirmative action bite the dust rather than try to qualify its participants?
Schools there are setting up race boards to inspect future educational and job applicants, It may surprise you to learn that Louisiana, in fact, had “race clerks” to maintain the one-drop rule and ensure racial “purity” until 1977. The race boards in Brazil may be the law soon. About 25 students were recently expelled from one of the leading universities for “defrauding” the affirmative action system when they were found to be not “black enough.”
One of the points we won in the 1990s in the United States was for self-identification on the census and on all other forms requiring racial and ethnic information. It was a very important victory, as important as having the ability to check more than one race. We should never forget that it was a huge win from the previous observer identification policy. In Brazil, people can self-identify, but identification is very different in Brazil, as F. James Davis wrote in Who is Black, “The implied rule is that a person is classified into one of many possible types on the basis of physical appearance and by class standing, not by ancestry.” There is a big difference in the way the two countries count by race.
The criteria used by those universities and employers in Brazil are indeed scary and include the following: Is the candidate’s nose short, wide and flat? How thick are their lips? Are their gums sufficiently purple? What about their lower jaw? Does it protrude forward? Candidates can be awarded points per item, like “hair type” and “skull shape.” So, the laws stipulate that an applicant’s race should be self-reported, but then accuses them of lying for affirmative action purposes. Many of these students are resorting to something called the Fitzpatrick scale that grades skin tone from one to seven, or whitest to darkest. It’s something we would, hopefully, never tolerate in the United States. Yet, the race commissions in Brazil have a lot of support from the black community.
The United States must be aware of the tactics utilized in Brazil and we have to learn from them. If affirmative action remains alive in our country, let’s make sure it is fair for our multiracial population.
“Congress’ failure over the past few years to pay for rigorous 2020 Census planning, and now the Trump Administration’s insufficient budget request for 2018, will strike at the heart of operations specifically designed to make the census better in historically undercounted communities,” said Terri Ann Lowenthal, former staff director with the House Subcommittee on Census and Population.
She spoke during a national press call hosted by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. The call was moderated by Wade Henderson, president and CEO of Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.
“The decennial census is by far the most importance and critical tool in our country to ensure that diverse communities are equitably served with government resources and that the American people are adequately represented at all levels of government,” said Henderson. “The census is required by the U.S. Constitution and policymakers are responsible for making sure the job gets done right. All of us must insist that they do that because there are no do-overs.”
Currently the Census Bureau is being funded at 2016 levels, as Congress has not approved final spending bills for 2017. The bureau has requested a 25 percent “ramp up” for preparation activities. But President Trump’s 2018 budget proposal recommends keeping funding levels where they are currently, $1.5 billion.
Census advocates say this is a crucial time for laying the groundwork and are calling for Congress to reject the administration’s budget proposal in favor of one that covers all preparation activities.
A ‘major civil rights issue’
Recently, the U.S. Government Accountability office deemed the 2020 Census a “high risk federal program,” in part because the U.S. Census Bureau is planning to utilize several never-before used strategies – such as collecting responses over the internet – but may not have the time and resources to adequately develop and test them.
Budget limitations have already hindered major preparations, including the cancellation of tests of new methods in Puerto Rico and on two American Indian reservations, and resulted in mailed tests rather than electronic or in-person ones, as well as delayed community outreach and advertising campaigns.
Advocates say current funding shortfalls will result in many people – particularly black, Latino and rural households, and families with young children – being missed by the count. Arturo Vargas is the executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund. He calls the underfunding of the census a major civil rights issue for Latinos and other communities of color.
“A successful 2020 Census is not possible if Latinos are not accurately counted,” Vargas said.
Millions of Latinos, the second largest ethnic group in the U.S., were missed in the 2010 census, including 400,000 children under four, according to Vargas.
For each uncounted person, state governments and communities lose thousands of federal aid dollars, which go to anti-poverty programs, education, infrastructure, emergency services, healthcare and other programs.
An undercount can also trigger changes in political representation – from redrawn district lines, to fewer seats in local, state and federal offices, often diminishing the power of communities of color.
Advocates say that new cost-saving strategies like collecting responses over the internet rather than paper forms require investments on the front end. Delayed preparations cannot be made up later. Surveys administered online may also be hampered by the “digital divide” if adequate field tests are not taken.
Lack of access to broadband and the internet may make it “more challenging to [reach] those historically left out of the census in the first place,” Vargas warns.
The ‘first high tech census’
The first “high tech” census also opens the door to cyber security concerns, which have been exacerbated of late by evidence of foreign attacks on the 2016 presidential elections. Such concerns could make Americans even more hesitant to participate.
Lowenthal says she and other advocates must be prepared for a “wild card” event, such as President Trump publically questioning the importance of the census via social media.
“One errant tweet could shake public confidence and in the process depress participation and undermine faith in the results, conceivably all the way to the halls of Congress,” Lowenthal said.
Census advocates are eyeing several other threats to the decennial count and its yearly counterpart, the American Community Survey. The ACS is sent yearly to about 1 in 38 households to collect demographic data on everything from employment and home-ownership to educational attainment.
Republications in Congress are pushing to make participation in the ACS voluntary which could severely damage the data, says John C. Yang, president and executive director of the non-profit advocacy group Asian Americans Advancing Justice.
“The ACS updates the Census throughout the decade. As such it is required by law and must remain so to provide the vital info needed from our communities,” Yang said, emphasizing that the ACS is the only source for detailed data of ethnic subgroups, such as Vietnamese of Chinese descent.
Census advocates are also on high alert because an unsigned leaked executive order, titled “Protecting American Workers from Immigrant Labor,” referenced a directive to the Census Bureau to collect data on immigration status.
Advocates are alarmed by the intentions behind this unsigned order.
“Latinos and other immigrant families are keenly aware of heightened immigrant enforcement actions in their communities, and this may increase distrust in contact with public agencies including the Census Bureau,” Vargas said.
Project RACE needs volunteers from every state to help gain official recognition of
MULTIRACIAL HERITAGE WEEK!
June 7 – 14
Click Here: ProjectRACE.com/MHW
Make sure your state is represented!
Sara Ramirez is a Mexican-American singer, songwriter, and actress. Her father was of Mexican ancestry while her mother was Mexican and Irish-American. Sara was born in Mazatlan, Sinaloa but relocated when she was young to Tierrasanta, San Diego with her mother when her parents divorced. She is fluent in English and Spanish. Sara graduated from the San Diego School of Creative Performing Arts and then in 1997 graduated from Julliard School of Drama. Sara Ramirez is most known for her role as Dr. Callie Torres on the drama television series Grey’s Anatomy. She was the original Lady of the Lake in the 2005 Broadway musical Spamalot in which she won the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a musical. In October of 2016 Sara was a speaker at the True Colors: 40 to none Summit, which focuses on LGBT youth homelessness across our country. “So many of our youth experiencing homelessness are youth whose lives touch on many intersections- whether they be gender identify, gender expression, race, class, sexual orientation, religion, citizenship status, and because of the intersections that exist in my own life- woman, multiracial woman, woman of color, queer, bisexual, Mexican-Irish American, immigrant and raised by families heavily rooted in Catholicism on both my Mexican and Irish sides- I am deeply invested in projects that allow our youth’s voices to be heard, and that support our youth in owning their own complex narratives so that we can show up for them in the ways they need us to.”
Makensie Shay McDaniel
Project RACE Teens president
A Washington Bad Cop/Bad Cop Story
Susan Graham for Project RACE (Reclassify All Children Equally)
Everyone knows about the U.S. Census Bureau (CB), but not everyone has heard of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The CB counts important things in the United States, including people—by things like race and ethnicity. The OMB decides what race and ethnicity people can be in the United States. They are both bad cops. Sometimes they try and play a game called Bad Cop/Good Cop, in which they go back and forth trying to get the public to place blame on the other. The 2020 Decennial Census is only a few years away. Planning for it takes a great deal of time and actually began as soon as the 2010 Census results were made public.
The CB recently released its recommendations for approval by the OMB. Project RACE had attempted to have input into both the CB and OMB by letting them know how we wanted the multiracial population to be listed, counted, known, treated, etc. The CB pretended to be the Good Cops and pretty much said they cared what we had to say. OMB played the Bad Cops and would not return our calls, email, letters, etc. or answer our questions.
I will cover some of the more salient requests and salacious responses to revisions to OMB’s Standards for Maintaining, Collecting, and Presenting Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity. Most of the items had nothing to do with the multiracial population, so first I’ll cover those that did. It’s a very short list.
- In addition to people being able to check all of their races, we gave many examples of how to include the term “multiracial,” which is very important. Correct wording in race and ethnicity is very important, particularly for children. Just ask the people who were once “Colored,” then “Negro,” then “Black,” and now “African American.” Yes, terminology is important. However, CB and OMB will not call the multiracial community “multiracial.” We were denied even though they were taking “Relevance of Terminology” into consideration. For the next ten years, we will remain the “two or more races.”
- Some people write in “multiracial,” “biracial,” “mixed” or some other term instead of checking the little boxes. They should be put in the category of what is called “two or more races.” They are not. They will be placed in the “Some other race” category. They will not be multiracial. Denied again.
- It appears that the way the race question is asked is important, although not important enough to use the wording that our community wants. What they have decided is this. Drumroll please. Instead of instructing people to “Mark all that apply,” we will be instructed to “Select all that apply.” That’s what we got. We’ll know when we see our 2020 Census forms.
Project RACE is not recommending that our members bother to write further comments to the Census Bureau or the Office of Management and Budget at this time.
So there we have it. If you’re interested, a few other interesting things having less or nothing to do with the multiracial population were put forth for further input. Well, not really. CB and OMB have actually already decided on the following points, but they very quietly put out a Federal Register notice for comment.
- A new category will be added for Middle Eastern or North African people. The acronym is MENA. You can be a MENA person or you can still report more than one. By the way, Israelis are now Middle Eastern. If I had been checking say “White” for my entire life, but was now given the choice to be MENA, I would probably check white and MENA, but that’s just me. They still don’t seem to know if a MENA will be a racial or ethnic category.
- The Subgroup proposes that OMB issue specific guidelines for the collection of detailed data for American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, Black or African American, Hispanic or Latino, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, and White groups for self-reported race and ethnicity collections. However, the Subgroup plans to continue its deliberations as to whether OMB should require or, alternatively, strongly support but not require Federal agencies to collect detailed data. If you know what this means, please let me know.
- Should it use the NCT format, which includes separately Native Hawaiian, Samoan, Chamorro, Tongan, Fijian, and Marshallese? If neither of these, how should OMB select the detailed Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander race and ethnicity categories? Apparently, these small populations are more important than the multiracial population.
- Relevance of Terminology: The Subgroup proposes that the term “Negro” be removed from the standards. Further, the Subgroup recommends that the term “Far East” be removed from the current standards.
- The Subgroup proposes further clarifying the standards to indicate the classification is not intended to be genetically based, nor based on skin color. Rather, the goal of standards is to provide guidelines for the Federal measurement of race/ethnicity as a social construct and therefore inform public policy decisions.
- The Subgroup also considered whether referring to Black or African American as the “principal minority race” is still relevant, meaningful, accurate, and acceptable. Given that many of the groups classified as racial and ethnic minorities have experienced institutionalized or State-sanctioned discrimination as well as social disadvantage and oppression, many consider it to be important to continue identifying the principal minority group in Federal data collections and reporting systems. However, it is not clear if the referent groups should change given changing demographics. Whew!
- Should Hispanic or Latino be among the groups considered among “principal minorities”? Would alternative terms be more salient (g., “principal minority race/ethnicity”)? Hispanic or Latino usually is considered an ethnicity while “minority” is usually used when referencing race.
What is the government up to now?
Last week I sat through three hours of the 2020 Census Quarterly Program Management Review just to see how things are progressing for the multiracial community. It was pretty dull, with presentations about everything from address canvassing to systems readiness to partnerships and so much more.
I picked up on some hesitation which usually doesn’t come with the usual “everything is great here at the bureau” mantra. They said they have “paused” some activities and are delaying a few things. It seems like they just don’t know what is going to come from the new administration yet and they are just a bit nervous. They should be. Who knows what will happen before Census 2020?
Anyway, there was a lot of talk about Census Day on April 1, 2017, when 80,000 housing units will be tested. They glossed over the race and ethnicity question very quickly and mentioned they will continue using the existing wording unless something changes from testing done in 2016 and comments to OMB. Of course they will.
We are one of the communities that should be included in partnership engagement so that the multiracial participation in the census can be increased and accurate. But are we? Hell no. In fact, the census bureau contracted with Young and Rubicam (Y&R) to the tune of $415 MILLON to help get a complete count of households. Y&R subcontracts with corporations that represent every racial and ethnic group except the multiracial one. They will make sure that every Alaskan Native in the country knows about filling out the census, but multiracial people? Not so much. In fact, not at all. Do they think we don’t know this?!
The big question in my mind is this: Does the multiracial community even care if our numbers are skewed? This is all a numbers game—it always has been—and we should care a lot. The lower our population numbers, the less we matter to the government, businesses, advertising agencies, retailers, the medical system, and on and on. Do we only exist for the annual party, movie, or book signing? Do we really want to go back to the days when the one-drop rule was the law? Does number tabulation and voting redistricting mean anything to us? Should you even have to think about whether interracial marriages are allowed? Will we be deported because we’re not 100% white? Or do we want respect for our identity choices, political clout, appreciation for the diversity our children bring to their schools, and the end of the tragic mulatto stories once and for all? Does it really matter if our history is accurate? Let me know what you think. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org
Project RACE, Inc.
MASC Did WHAT!
I have a lovely wood recognition plaque in my office given to me in 1995 from the Multiracial Americans of Southern California (MASC). It hangs right under a letter to Project RACE and the Association of Multi-Ethnic Americans also dated 1995 and signed by President Bill Clinton. We were known then as MASC, Project RACE, and AMEA. MASC apparently no longer advocates for the multiracial community, Project RACE does, and AMEA is defunct. A great deal has happened in the past 25 plus years. Not all of it is good.
I will forever defend the work of Project RACE (Reclassify All Children Equally), but most of you know the history of the multiracial movement, so I won’t go back over that now. Suffice it to say that different organizations went different ways, but we all—or at least it seemed—wanted some form of recognition for the term “multiracial.” We were making progress. AMEA fell apart. Hapas moved on. MAVIN couldn’t decide what it wanted to be and the founder disappeared. The academics saw a way to “get published or perish” and began publishing papers and books like crazy with or without actual facts. Podcasts popped up, Loving Day gained momentum, and even comics took their best shots at us. We somehow endured. Project RACE kept doing what we did in 1990 and advocated for a multiracial identifier on racial classifications. We won some; we lost some.
Now it’s 2016 and decisions must be made by 2017 for the 2020 census. It must be done quickly for many reasons, which is why OMB issued a 30 day notice instead of the usual 60+. One more chance to take our best shot.
Then a few weeks ago the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the government people who decide on race and ethnicity in this country published a notice in the Federal Register, that obscure publication that half-heartedly asks for public opinion, suggesting that John Q. Public let them know what they think of the proposed plans. They laid out (as best they could) these areas under consideration:
- Whether to continue to have one category for Hispanic origin and one for race, or one combined answer;
- Have a distinct new category for respondents of Middle Eastern or North African heritage (MENA);
- The description of the intended use of minimum reporting categories; and
- Terminology used for race and ethnicity classifications.
Look back at those areas of consideration. Number 1 has been on the table for years and it is already a done deal. Number 2 has been in contention since before the multiracial question even came up, but it’s become a messier MENA category than previously. I’m not sure what number 3 even means completely.
Then…BINGO! Number 4 gives us a chance to bring up terminology again.
Project RACE jumps on the terminology question, gathers our members and supporters, and starts our answers to the open comment period! We gain momentum and wait for other “multiracial groups” to join in. MASC. The MULTIRACIAL Americans of Southern California stuns us. They openly advocated for number 1, the Hispanic race/ethnicity question.
Thomas Lopez is the president of MASC. He strongly favors Hispanics becoming a race instead of an ethnicity on forms. There are many reasons for the combined question to be considered. There are still organized groups fighting for it and the MENA question. Lopez glosses over consideration 4 with this: “In a combined question format this would simply be another version of ‘Two or more races.’” This would have been the perfect place to advocate for multiracial wording—for an acceptable, respectful term for our children. What were Lopez and the board of directors of MASC thinking?! Apparently, they should change their name to:
The Hispanic and Two or More Races Americans of Southern California
via Huffington Post
By Alexander Jasienowski
As a young girl, I remember my grandfather saying to me, “You’re black, you’re black, you’re black. It doesn’t matter how much white blood you have, you’ll always be, and always be seen as black.” My black grandfather said the words but my white relatives reinforced the message with their actions.
Growing up with a black mom and a white dad has been central to my life experience. I struggled to fully fit into one identity as each side of my family imposed its views on my identity. The black side of my family said it directly: I could never completely fit into the white community. My white grandfather, aunts and cousins were never comfortable enough to directly confront the strain that race placed on our relationships. Yet the tension of race always slipped into our encounters.
When we were young, my father would regularly take my sister and me to visit his family in upstate New York. Looking back, these memories are tinged by recollections of strange behaviors. One day, after my sister and I took one of our many swims down to the lighthouse, my aunt looked at our hair and said, “your hair is too wild, it’s so difficult!” I cringed — her words filled me with disgust and frustration. The behaviors of my father’s family continually pointed to this singular difference of race — when they gave us skin colored band-aids (which were actually too dark for our skin tone), volumes and volumes of Temptations CDs, and the strangest gift of all, eleven black dolls dressed in different animal costumes. With each visit upstate, my feelings of discomfort became stronger. My sister and I were always included in the family, but there was a growing sense of awkwardness that seemed to justify the words of my black grandfather. No matter how hard my white relatives tried to make it appear that they were comfortable with our racial differences, their behavior ultimately helped push me to choose an identity, black.
The choice proved to be complicated. I began to identify as black internally, and at the same time, externally, I was still seeking acceptance from the white community. Early on, I used my hair as a way to conform to white expectations. I tamed my wild curly locks by straightening them, changing an aspect of myself so that I would blend in with my friends at school. Gradually, I realized that more of my friends were people of color, and I experienced a level of comfort I had never felt before. By the end of 9th grade, after years of conforming to the expectations of others, I let my hair go natural, freeing both my hair and myself. Feeling liberated, I felt a new sense of confidence and pride in my multiracial identity as I embraced my black heritage more than my white roots. I made this choice under pressure from both my black and white sides. They made it seem that one culture had to dominate.
Looking back, having to make a choice at all is unsettling. In making one side dominant, I abandoned a piece of myself. People shouldn’t feel that it is necessary to abandon a part of their identity in order to be accepted.
Now, identifying as multiracial, I am learning to get beyond the pressures that were placed upon me as a young girl. While my connection and sense of affinity with the African-American community grows increasingly stronger, I continue to lean into my multiracial identity, although I sometimes feel a lingering sense of unease. I work through these vulnerabilities by reaching out and supporting others who seem to be experiencing similar struggles. Every now and then, I feel the urge to safely lock away my curls, but I do not give in to this temptation.
Alexander Jasinowski, a graduate from The Spence School, graduated from Pitzer College last Saturday
Multiracial Heritage Week 2016 has been fantastic! Thanks so much to the following:
- All of the volunteers across the country who helped make MHW16 such a success by contacting their governors.
- The state lawmakers and their staffs for all the help with proclamations and resolutions.
- The media for giving us local and national coverage.
- Kelly Baldwin for all she does for multiracial children and interracial families.
- Karson Baldwin, President of Project RACE Kids, who can always be counted on to do whatever is needed.
- Our wonderful Project RACE Teens, especially Lexi Brock and Makensie McDaniel co-presidents and Dionna Roberson, VP.
- Patti Barry, our Project RACE Grandparents President.
- Filmmaker Tay Erikson for the best video ever!
- The Project RACE Advisory Board for all your help and great advice.
- The K&F Baxter Family Foundation for funding us for so many Multiracial Heritage Week efforts.
- The anonymous donor, you know who you are, what you gave and how grateful we are.
- All of our wonderful families who make it possible for us to do our work.
- My son, Ryan, for always giving me good advice.
- My husband, Sam; my pup, Sonny; and Kim Carlucci, all of whom took excellent care of me so I could thank all of you.
Cleveland, Ohio celebration