New York Times uses “Multiracial”

New York Times uses “Multiracial”

The New York Times published an analysis on August 24 titled, “Even With Affirmative Action, Blacks and Hispanics Are More Underrepresented at Top Colleges Than 35 Years Ago.” They made their affirmative action arguments based on the results. We are very glad that the Times used the term “Multiracial” when describing students who utilized either a multiracial classification or check two or more races.

One of the goals of Project RACE since the 1990s has been to work with schools, companies, medical institutions, and other data users to utilize the correct and respectful terminology of “multiracial” on forms that require people to indicate their race(s). The ability to check more than one race was not regulated by the US Department of Education until 2008. We have worked with many educational levels, companies like Apple and Estee Lauder, and large and small medical institutions, including health insurance companies, to use the proper terminology. We have been successful.

The article and accompanying analysis pointed out that “A category for multiracial students, introduced in 2008, has slightly reduced the share of black students.” However, they do not reveal how they came to that conclusion. Data from Pew Research, the Census Bureau, and other data users do not come to that same conclusion. Most people who now are able to indicate their entire heritage used to, by and large, use the “Other” category.

The multiracial population is rapidly growing. Ten years ago it was common to see multiracial numbers below three percent. Now, it is not uncommon to see upwards of six percent. An example they gave was for Harvard University, where the breakdown is White 47%, Asian 24%, Hispanic 13%, Black 8%, and Multiracial 7%. For UCLA, the breakdown is Asian 35%, White 31%, Hispanic 24%, Multiracial 6%, and Black 3%. Vassar College had 64% White, 13% Asian, Hispanic 13%, Multiracial 7% and Black 4%.

The multiracial population should always be included on forms that require racial and ethnic identity. We have come a long way, but Project RACE will continue to monitor and take corrective action where data is utilized in any way.

Susan Graham

Affirmative Action?

Affirmative Action?


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.



Medical Monday


Classifying Human Races

From A Troublesome Inheritance by Nicholas Wade

 In the 18th century Linnaeus, the great classifier of the world’s organisms, recognized four races, based principally on geography and skin color. He named them Homo americanus (Native Americans), Homo europaeus (Europeans), Homo asiaticus (East Indians) and Homo afer (Africans). Linnaeus did not perceive a hierarchy of races, and he listed people alongside the rest of nature.