The Rise of the Blended American

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Boston Globe July 9, 2001

Rise of the blended American

By Jeff Jacoby

WRITING RECENTLY in National Review, Ward Connerly described an encounter with a woman who supported his efforts to abolish racial preferences and promote colorblind government.

''What you're doing,'' she told him, ''is also best for your people.''

At the words ''your people,'' Connerly flinched. He loathes the mind-set that sorts human beings into racial categories. Though he didn't want to risk losing her financial support, he decided he owed her the honesty of explaining why her words set his teeth on edge. So he confronted her.

''What did you mean when you referred to my people?''

''The black race,'' she said.

''What is your race?'' Connerly inquired.

''I'm Irish and German.''

''Would it affect your concept of my race,'' he asked, ''if I told you that one of my grandparents was Irish and American Indian, another French Canadian, another of African descent, and the other Irish? Aren't they all my people? What about my children? They consist of my ingredients as well as those of their mother, who is Irish. What about my grandchildren, two of whom have a mother who is half Vietnamese?''

The woman was taken aback, Connerly records, but the exchange led to ''one of the richest conversations about race I have ever had.''

If only Connerly could have that conversation with everyone. Too many Americans still believe that people can be ''scientifically'' classified by race, a 17th-century notion more closely related to myth than to science. By now racial taxonomy should have been shelved with phlogiston and phrenology as laughably obsolete explanations of the way the world works. Indeed, it should be reviled, since race-mindedness, unlike phlogiston and phrenology, has led to incalculable cruelty, sorrow, and strife.

That was why the giants of the civil rights movement argued so forcefully for a government blind to color. ''Distinctions by race are so evil, so arbitrary and insidious,'' Thurgood Marshall argued in his Brown v. Board of Education brief in 1954, ''that a state bound to defend the equal protection of the laws must not allow them in any public sphere.''

And yet the government still draws and values those distinctions - more obsessively than ever, to judge from last year's census questionnaire. In decades past, Americans were asked to assign themselves to one of four or five races. But the 2000 Census offered not four or five racial options but - count 'em - 63.

That was because respondents for the first time were invited to choose ''one or more'' racial categories in identifying themselves. Belatedly, and not without a lot of grass-roots pressure, the federal government was finally acknowledging that a growing number of Americans are, like Connerly, multiracial. Now it ought to take the next step and go from 63 choices to zero. For as the Connerlys of this nation demonstrate, racial labels grow more meaningless by the day.

Close to 7 million Americans identified themselves as multiracial on last year's census, proof, if any were needed, that love doesn't stop at the color line. And if that was true for couples like the Connerlys or the parents of Tiger Woods, who married and had children at a time when the taboo against interracial families still ran deep, how much more will it be true of those falling in love today, for many of whom the taboo has never existed?

''Soaring rates of interracial friendship and dating,'' writes Tamar Jacoby (no relation), a leading scholar of race, in the June issue of Commentary, ''is no fringe phenomenon: According to one recent survey, more than 60 percent of American teenagers have dated someone of another color or ethnic group. A ... Gallup poll conducted in March found that 64 percent of the public - and 75 percent of those under 18 - thought it was `good for the country' to have more Americans `think of themselves as multiracial rather than belonging to a single race.'''

There are now nearly 2 million married couples in which one partner is Hispanic, 700,000 white-Asian couples, and 450,000 white-black couples. Naturally the number of multiracial children is soaring: according to one estimate, births to white-black couples more than tripled in the 1990s. On the 2000 Census, nearly one-10th of young black Americans identified themselves as multiracial.

Many minority interest groups resent the drift from narrow racial and ethnic pigeonholes. Fewer people identifying themselves as black or Hispanic or Asian, they fear, will mean a drop in their own political power, not to mention a drop in affirmative action largesse. Some of them push a separatist line, urging minorities to take pride in being ''of color'' and resist assimilation into the mainstream.

But in the piquant phrase of demographics expert Ben Wattenberg, host of the weekly PBS program ''Think Tank,'' the separatists are being ''defeated in the bedroom.'' The population of blended citizens is soaring, and with it the realization that our racial divisions are only skin deep. Tens of millions of Americans have learned to think outside the racial box. It's time the government followed suit.

-------------------------

Jeff Jacoby's e-mail address is jacoby@globe.com.

This story ran on page 11 of the Boston Globe on 7/9/2001. Copyright 2001 Globe Newspaper Company.



-- (Paracelsus@Pb.Au), July 10, 2001

Answers

The biggest difference between two human beings isn't found in race, it's found in gender.

-- helen loves those alien life forms called "men" (venus@not.mars), July 10, 2001.

I think it would be great if these forms had no choices for race. But as the article points out what would happen to the NAACP, and the like, if they didn't have a cause.

-- Maria (anon@ymous.com), July 10, 2001.

Maria, that's rich! Do you actually believe that stopping putting "choices for race" onto forms would make racism go away?

If you think there would still be racism, then why wouldn't the NAACP have "a cause"?

-- Little Nipper (canis@minor.net), July 10, 2001.


Did I say that racism would go away? Geez, you did read plenty in that sentence, didn't you?

How would the NAACP get its data? Not that that really matters to the NAACP. Somehow they spew forth all kinds of crap with no facts, whatsoever. I especially loved the ad that they ran just prior to the election. The "hate crimes" bill passed in states had only been used against blacks, not the other way around, which the ad proposed.

-- Maria (anon@ymous.com), July 10, 2001.


"Geez, you did read plenty in that sentence, didn't you?"

No. It wasn't one sentance I was reading. It was two. Let me spell it out for you so you can follow.

I was trying to figure out how the first one led to the second one. The part where failing to put a choice for race on forms would lead to the NAACP not having "a cause".

Since combatting racism is the NAACP's "cause", it appeared to me that you could only be saying that removing that choice from the forms would lead to there being no racism for the NAACP to combat. This was clearly an irrational conclusion, so rather than assume you are irrational, I asked you if you believed the plain implications of what you said.

"How would the NAACP get its data?"

Well now. This explains it. You seem to be saying that for the NAACP to "have a cause" requires them to have the data that is collected from those forms.

Except this, too, is a completely illogical conclusion. So rather than assuming that you are illogical, how about you take another go at explaining how you think removing "a choice for race" from forms could lead to 'the NAACP not having a cause'?

We'll get to the bottom of this yet.

-- Little Nipper (canis@minor.net), July 10, 2001.



How about this--when asked your race, just say "human".

-- (Paracelsus@Pb.Au), July 10, 2001.

Damn!!!

There I go again speed reading threads, thinking it said "blender americans", ready to read about how we are consuming more frothy margarita's and daiquiri's.

Oh well, party on Garth : )

-- capnfun (capnfun1@excite.com), July 10, 2001.


LN-

Maybe Maria thinks that people won't notice differences in skin color if they aren't reminded by all those little boxes?

And did anyone ever notice that all those forms are on WHITE paper? There's a reason for this, you know. Follow the money!

Actually, Paracelsus, you have the most elegant answer so far.

-- Tarzan the Ape Man (tarzan@swingingthroughthejunglewithouta.net), July 10, 2001.


Sorry, LN, I thought you had read the article.

-- Maria (anon@ymous.com), July 11, 2001.

Sorry, Maria. I did read the article. After your comment I went back and read it again, just to be sure I hadn't missed something the first time. Sure enough, my memory was correct. There was nothing in the article that mentioned the NAACP losing its reason for being.

No amount of deflection will make what you said any less of a non sequitor. Or any better justified or any more accurate. And you can't erase it. It is still sitting there like a toad in the road.

-- Little Nipper (canis@minor.net), July 11, 2001.



"Many minority interest groups resent the drift from narrow racial and ethnic pigeonholes. Fewer people identifying themselves as black or Hispanic or Asian, they fear, will mean a drop in their own political power, not to mention a drop in affirmative action largesse. Some of them push a separatist line, urging minorities to take pride in being ''of color'' and resist assimilation into the mainstream."

NAACP doesn't fall under the heading of "minority interest group"?

-- Maria (anon@ymous.com), July 11, 2001.


"Many minority interest groups resent [...] Some of them [...]"

Not only are the assertions you quoted vague and fact-free, but the author offers no evidence that they are even true. However, you assume that, if the NAACP is a "minority interest group", then the quoted statements apply to it. Why is that?

Not only that, but you leapt all the way from an unsubstantiated and unnamed "them" who fear "a drop in political power" to asserting "the article points out what would happen to the NAACP, and the like, if they didn't have a cause."

Way to go, Maria.

-- Little Nipper (canis@minor.net), July 11, 2001.


What a piece of work! Your making my question of "what would happen" to an 'assertion'? I didn't 'assert' anything with that statement, LN. I wonder about the possibility, hense the use of the term 'would'. You take that as an assertion? I'm not declaring or affirming anything at all. Jesus, learn how to read, man.

-- Maria (anon@ymous.com), July 11, 2001.

Now for a lesson:

"Everyone wishes the children could be brought back to life." This is a declarative statement that asserts that everyone has a particular wish. It is false. Not everyone has that wish. Notice how this statement differs from my statement.

Lets put my statement in the typical if 'p' then 'q' format. If they (the NAACP and the like) didn't have a cause, what would happen to the NAACP and the like. Notice this is NOT a declarative statement at all. It is a conditional statement. The truth or falsity of this statement depends on the truth of 'p'. For cases when the if clause is false, one cannot conclude anything about the truth or falseness of the statement itself, regardless of the truth of 'q'. So in practical logic terms, the statement is then accepted as true. Rich huh?

-- Maria (anon@ymous.com), July 11, 2001.


Julian Bond's comments on the NAACP.

As I said before, SOME folks on this forum simply DON'T follow politics.

-- Anita (Anita_S3@hotmail.com), July 11, 2001.



Maria, I am going to make a confession. I completely missed the fact that you thought you were asking a question. Maybe the period at the end, instead of a question mark, threw me off. Also, the fact that you prefaced your question with, "as the article points out", when in fact the article never even remotely asked the particular question you followed that comment with.

But any way you slice it, I failed to notice that this was actually framed as a question:

But as the article points out what would happen to the NAACP, and the like, if they didn't have a cause.

So, Maria, what do you think would happen to the NAACP if they didn't have a cause? My guess is they would hold a big party and celebrate!

-- Little Nipper (canis@minor.net), July 11, 2001.


LN, I'll try to use correct puncutation.

I know I'd have a party. My guess, though, is that they wouldn't "go" quitely. They would continue to fight for some 'ghost' causes. I've heard the partisan speeches they have made against the prez and I think they owe him an apology. Just my opinion.

-- Maria (anon@ymous.com), July 12, 2001.


So, Maria, what do you think would happen to the NAACP if they didn't have a cause? My guess is they would hold a big party and celebrate!

Like most nonprofits that were started originally for idealistic reasons, the NAACP has become a bureaucracy that exists as much to perpetuate itself as to promote any of its original goals. There are people employed by the NAACP who support their families on the salaries. They have a vested interest in the "cause" never being totally eliminated. Likewise, the National Cancer Society, etc. Many people would lose their employment if certain diseases were suddenly cured. No, I am not totally cynical about their efforts but I do recognize this ironic conflict.

-- Lars (larsguy@yahoo.com), July 12, 2001.


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