Racial Classification In 2000 Essay, Research Paper
Across every state in the Union the call to classify can be heard. From the 2000 census to the job application come requisitions to mark the box that most appropriately describes your racial background. Spokespersons for the under-privileged segments of our society clamor to even the score (Scalia J., qtd. Judicial Review ) , and our governments subsidize such divisive rhetoric with legislation that mandates racial quotas (Judicial Review ). Racial classification is wrong for three reasons: it is a negating experience for the individual; it inherently divides people; and it is unconstitutional in practice.
But classification has its advantages. Without the institutionalization of racial classification, much valuable demographic information would be lost. Demographer Linda Jacobsen notes that absence of such classification .provides less of a link to historical data on race and ethnicity, as well as providing a disadvantage, for example, to health researchers, who know that certain health conditions or health problems are linked to particular races, such as sickle cell anemia, for example (Not an Other. ). It is certain that some employment of classifications is for good.
Racial classification itself is not inherently evil, as Dr. Orlando Patterson from Harvard observes race is a social construct, something we invent, an identification, partly imposed on us, partly what we select and choose (Not an Other. ). It only exists in our minds. It is the use of such classifications that is devilish. Edward J. Spar, executive director of the Council of Professional Associations on Federal Statistics remarks “The politics are in the details and the devil is in the politics, not in the statistics (qtd. in Identity Crisis.).” Most application of demographic statistics is far from altruistic, political concerns use such data to advance their own cause frequently.
In addition to the devious uses of racial classification, the act of classifying one s self is a negating experience. What do you say to someone like Tiger Woods who does not identify with any one particular racial group? Just check the box that fits best? In the movie Wayne s World , Wayne Campbell played by Mike Meyers, inaccurately quotes (in Mandarin) the philosopher Kierkegaard by saying if you label me you negate me. But the point is not missed. Charles Byrd, the publisher of Interracial Voice, comments there s absolutely no consideration or understanding on the part of the government that a great many of us don t view these existing racial categories as valid in terms of identity or affiliation (Not an Other. ). It is far better to do away with categorizations at all levels. Due to the inflammatory nature of race-relations it becomes even more so.
At the fundamental level labeling causes humans to note differences, creating an us and they mentality. Such manner of thinking breeds a comparative mood between individuals and groups. It was once said, comparisons are odious things. For anyone that has worked with children will know this to be true from experience. It takes very little for children to form an exclusionary majority, usually on some trait that is perceived to be the commonality of the group. The first order of business of such committees is the torment of those children who do not fit the mold. If we as parents and future parents abstain from making racial classifications then there is a significant chance our children will follow suit, as children often do.
At one time, nationality and race were synonymous. However, the great American social experiment that began in 1776 challenged this notion. For the first time in history, one people, was pulled from many, not because of lineage but ideology. American founders explicitly and implicitly agreed to loosen their old ties and form new ones. None called themselves British-Americans. Recently, that ancient agreement has come under siege and we find ourselves facing a crisis of identity.
No longer are we one nation, indivisible but many little nations with little or no cohesion or united purpose. Collectively, we are suffering from multi-personality disorder. We are encouraged at an early age to discover our true roots and find that which makes us different. Now, like the children of divorcees, we are from one to many hyphenated amalgams of nationality: Italian-Americans, Irish Americans, Afro-Americans, Chinese-Americans, and Mexican-Americans to name a few.
Can a people remain one and still be segmented and tagged by labels that have formerly caused so much turmoil? History has shown that there are few things more divisive than labeling. The essayist Richard Rodriguez writes that the slipperiness of the label will seem more apparent to Americans and our government s practice of dividing our nation into five neat pieces will seem absurd (Cultural Identity.). To unite a nation, let the people prosper in their own culture but call the people by one name.
There are many manifestations of racial classification. Police often take part in racial profiling. The practice of making stops on the basis of a racial profile (Identity Crisis). Members of particular races often fill government jobs in order to satisfy a quota. In academia, college entrance and scholarship are often dictated by socio-economic background, as opposed to a uniform standard based on merit. This last practice is better known as affirmative action. These and others are the symptoms of a society fixated on race.
In the practice of the three examples above, racial classification is necessary. In the case of Hopwood et al., versus the State of Texas et al., the constitutionality of racial classification is challenged. The plaintiffs claim they were discriminated against by the University of Texas School of Law and were not admitted on the basis of skin color. Under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, racial classifications are unconstitutional and all individuals are due equal protection under the law, regardless of race (Judicial Review ).
Justice Wiener, in his decision on the Hopwood case states, The Equal Protection Clause provides that [n]o State shall deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the law all racial classifications, imposed by whatever federal, state, or local governmental actor, must be analyzed by a reviewing court under strict scrutiny racial classifications will survive strict scrutiny only if they are narrowly tailored measures that further compelling governmental interests. Thus, strict scrutiny comprises two inquiries of equal valence: the compelling interest inquiry and the narrow tailoring inquiry (Judicial Review ). In all practical applications of racial classification, the narrow tailoring and compelling interest criterion is never met. In sum, the panel made a definitive judgement against the practice of racial classification as unconstitutional.
Terry Pell, from the Center for Individual Rights, concisely sums this complex legal issue, You may not take race into account if the sole purpose is to achieve diversity, if the sole purpose is to achieve some bureaucrat s idea of the proper racial mix of the entering class. That is unconstitutional (qtd. in Testing the System).
As humans, our record on making societal changes due to the morality of an issue is anemic, and the law is a conservative force that molds slowly over time. More often than not, societal changes occur for economic reasons or the necessity of survival. Yet, we still cling to the old racial labels that seem to define who we are, and will continue to do so until we absolutely must change or it is no longer profitable not to. But with the advent of the full digital revolution looming on the horizon, change is imminent.
Charles Byrd asks the question, When will we as a society become sufficiently enlightened to do away with racial classifications (Not an Other. )? I suspect, one day in the not-too-distant-future, our lives will be what we make it. We will not be judged by what we look like but who we are and what we produce. What we look like will be a mystery unless we choose to reveal ourselves. What we say and what we produce will be the only ambassador we need. This will come to be as work, school and the professional environment moves away from the public place and back into the household. The digital office will make this reality, where ideas are expressed in complete anonymity and are judged solely on their merit and not on appearance of the messenger.
Rather than have this change thrust upon us, let us choose to abolish the evil practice of racial classification so history will look more fondly upon us. By taking the focus off of race we validate that which truly distinguishes the individual, character. I propose an America; consisting of nothing but Americans, where none are judged by any criteria other than by the content of their character (I Have a Dream ).
Brackett, Elizabeth. Testing the System. 22 Dec. 1997 Online News Hour. Online Focus. 1 March 2000 .
King, Reverend Martin Luther JR. I Have a Dream, Address at March on Washington. 28 Aug. 1963. The Martin Luther King, JR. Papers Project at Stanford University. 2 March 2000
Rodriguez, Richard. A Cultural Identity. 18 June 1997. Online News Hour. Essays and Dialogue. 28 Feb. 2000 .
Smith, Justice Jerry E., Justice Wiener, and Justice DeMoss. Judicial Review of Cheryl J. Hopwood, et al., versus State of Texas et al., versus Thurgood Marshall Legal Society and Black Pre-Laws Association. 18 March 1996. United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit for the Western District of Texas. World Data Network. 29 Feb. 2000 .
Solman, Paul., et al. Not an Other . 16 July 1997. Online News Hour. Online Focus. 29 Feb. 2000 .
Stanfield, Rochelle. Identity Crisis. 25 Nov. 1997. National Journal. GovExec.com. 1 March 2000 .