Exhibit 1. Michelle Malkin’s blog (hat tip to Adamu):
Fully one-quarter of the space on this year’s [U.S. Census] form is taken up with questions of race and ethnicity, which are clearly illegitimate and none of the government’s business (despite the New York Times’ assurances to the contrary on today’s editorial page). So until we succeed in building the needed wall of separation between race and state, I have a proposal.
Question 9 on the census form asks “What is Person 1’s race?” (and so on, for other members of the household). My initial impulse was simply to misidentify my race so as to throw a monkey wrench into the statistics; I had fun doing this on the personal-information form my college required every semester, where I was a Puerto Rican Muslim one semester, and a Samoan Buddhist the next. But lying in this constitutionally mandated process is wrong. Really — don’t do it.
Instead, we should answer Question 9 by checking the last option — “Some other race” — and writing in “American.” It’s a truthful answer but at the same time is a way for ordinary citizens to express their rejection of unconstitutional racial classification schemes. In fact, “American” was the plurality ancestry selection for respondents to the 2000 census in four states and several hundred counties.
Exhibit 2. The Rapporteur of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, to the Japanese government (thanks to Debito for putting the transcript online):
The report and [the government’s] responses contain many statistics including figures disaggregated by citizenship, nationality, but paragraph 4 of the report says that ethnic breakdown for Japan is not readily available, Japan does not conduct population surveys from an ethnic viewpoint.
I must say this has caused the rapporteur some heartache in the sense of trying to get a grip on relevant figures. For example, in relation to Koreans, you say that 600,000 approximately, that’s just round up those numbers, foreigners who are Koreans; 400,000 of which are special permanent residents, but there is also a figure of some 320,000 naturalizations that I have come across, and in recent years up to 2008, so we are actually talking about a million, something roughly around a million Koreans and Korean descent.
The committee often asks for statistics; we understand the difficulties that states may have for various reasons including reasons to do with privacy and anonymity and so on, not wanting to pigeonhole people in certain ethnic categories, but it can be tremendously helpful I think and also in many cases necessary to get a grasp of the situation by understanding its dimensions and if an ethnic question can’t be asked in a direct way in a census, we often encourage states to find creative ways around this, including things like use of languages we recommended to other states from time to time; social surveys, etc., and a number of other methods that are…this is essentially designed not simply to help the committee – that’s not the point – but to help the state, I think to understand the dimensions of a particular question, and enable them to focus their policy more appropriately.
“Race” in terms of black and white is a pretty silly idea, but there is something to be said about monitoring statistics on ethnic origin, as opposed to the Japanese government approach of looking at registered nationality alone (that is, when they choose to count foreign nationals at all). Of course, when the world is full of hot-heads on both sides of the political fence, it’s hard to reach a compromise that anyone will like.
32 thoughts on “Race: to be ignored or over-emphasized?”
I didn’t realize there were two Michelle Malkins. The one I know wrote a book called “In Defense of Internment: The Case for Racial Profiling in World War II and the War on Terror” so it is obviously a completely different person to someone who would write about “unconstitutional racial classification schemes”.
There are two Malkins, Mulboyne – on and off the meds.
In the UN bit – It seems like the same people are talking about changing or eliminating family registries to prevent discrimination by descent against Burakumin and yet favor (borderline) racializing or at least ethnicizing them, which is something that a large part of the community is against (but is favored by the more militant Kaiho Domei). Also, it is fairly sickening to see the UN panel so casually throwing around platitudes about Burakumin education in schools – the same large part of the community is opposed to this as they are simply hopeful that this discrimination (based on the jobs of their ancestors, nothing considered distinct culturally) will fade away and that any education may remind people -“oh, we’re supposed to discriminate against these people.” The officials seem innocent to the fact that they are getting involved in a very longstanding debate within the community.
Christopher Hitchens wrote with glee about how, when he had to renew his press pass to get into the United States Senate each year, he filled in the “race” box by writing “human.” For years and years he went through the same ordeal, and recalls how (often black) security guards would tell him to put in “white” or “caucasian”. He refused — white isn’t even a color, he said, and he had nothing to do with the Caucasus, and he ultimately got away with this year after year. Finally they removed the box from the application form, for which he wishes he could take partial credit.
I was actually just thinking of this, because I was reading a book about religion in America, and had just finished the passage where the authors explained that it is hard to estimate the numbers of people in each religion group in the US because the Census is not allowed to ask questions about religion.
However, I think the problem is not the data collection, but the use to which the data is put. We can’t have the government collecting data on religion, because then it will be used to discriminate against some religions, and well that would be wrong. But the US has never really stopped racial discrimination (though I think the current situation is much better than pre-1964), just changed when and to whom it happens a bit. I’d like to have this data just from a social science standpoint, but I realize its naive to think its use would be limited to that.
I also think the collection of socioeconomic statistics should be separated from the census proper. The census should be a simple headcount used to determine who lives where every ten years, for the purposes of drawing legislative districts, as is mandated by the constitution. A separate central statistical office should collect socialeconomic statistics for use by policymakers, and be free or even encouraged to use sampling techniques. This will at least increase compliance with the census (people won’t answer the long form for various reasons) and probably lead to better socioeconomic data collection.
Race, ethnicity, and citizenship are tricky issues in any case.
It just occurred to me, while Japan is lacking a extra-constitutional prohibition on racial discrimination, other countries that I am familiar with seem to have more rules regarding the rights of naturalized citizens. The US has its famous prohibition on foreign born citizens becoming president and Canada has it so that certain citizens born outside of the country cannot pass on Canadian citizenship to their children in certain circumstances.
>Sigh< Is there any social experiment elsewhere that Kiwis have not tried already?
Still, I rather object to the Herald describing a statement of ethnicity as an "objective declaration." The whole reason that the census in New Zealand asks for "ethnicity" and not "race" nowadays is because primordial notions of belonging turn out to be false the more you look into them.
Anyway, I can't wait till MM starts blogging about this one:
"Over 53,000 people listed themselves as Jedi in New Zealand's 2001 census. New Zealand had the highest per capita population of reported Jedi in the world that year, with 1.5% marking "Jedi" as their religion. The city of Dunedin had the highest population of reported Jedi per capita."
Doesn’t France actually prohibit all this “racial and ethnic classification”?
We have to have Mozu come over…
“The city of Dunedin had the highest population of reported Jedi per capita.”
Auckland would still XXXX them up bro.
Yes France is officially “color blind” and they officially treat all French citizens as if they were all a monotone. I don’t have any actual experience with it but logically it strikes me as insane. Hiding racial distinctions is exactly the kind of policy bigots would love because it makes it easier to hide discrimination. If you don’t have racial distinctions you can’t measure how many African Americans are in jail, how many are poor, etc. And then we can’t make informed decisions (not that it’s helped the US all that much but still)
Adamu – that’s the difference between a country that can afford to be a melting pot and one that sees its very language as under siege by English.
It is impossible of course to track racial discrimination without collecting race identity data.
All are supposed to equal before the law.
Is it important for the government to find out if that is really true?
>Doesn’t France actually prohibit all this “racial and ethnic classification”?
Yes, but in the past census questions in French Pacific territories have included questions on race. This caused some tension in New Caledonia a few years back, with the indigenous Kanaks viewing the census as a way of demonstrating that there were significant numbers of white French immigrants, and this that the island was no longer “theirs.” A few years ago President Chirac had to intervene to tell whichever government department that was conducting the census that race questions were unconstitutional. As I recall, there were a few liberals in New Zealand who saw this as a retrogressive step to delete ethnic identity and thus justify colonisation. A case of applying one’s own history to others, I suppose.
Many individuals in New Caledonia were reluctant to specify ethnicity because they thought they were just “Caledonian” (so maybe Malkin should move there). It’s interesting to note that they did not see themselves as “French.” Seems there is a lot of recent “French” immigration and those who have been around longer and maybe intermarried want to distinguish themselves from new arrivals. I guess it is like the difference in Taiwan between people who call themselves “Chinese” or who affiliate with indigenous groups, and those that call themselves “Taiwanese.”
I hope that censuses will eventually have to use Pantone codes because of the sheer complexity of ethnic combinations that are emerging. Just among my circle of acquaintances I can count the following couples who have produced or are likely to produce kids:
* Indian/Italian – Chinese
* Indian/Anglo – Chinese
* Indian/Anglo – Korean
* Mediterranean/black – Japanese
* Anglo – Japanese/Indian
* Japanese – Mongolian (Aceface, of course)
* Persian – Chinese
* Korean – Japanese
and probably a few odd combos I’m missing. Now granted, I hang with a more internationalized crowd than your average 2010 human, I think, but as more combinations re-combine with each other, we will eventually have to resort to some sort of genetic averaging in order to get any meaningful stats on ethnic origin.
The “ethnic combinations” you talk about are not a new thing, especially in the United States. If you go back in time, different ethnic groups have been tracked by the census for a long time – you can go to the US census web site and get tables and maps of German, French, English ancestry, all by census tract, and this kind of data has been tracked for over a hundred years now – and there has always been a lot of intermarriage. I, for example, am part Polish, German, Italian, and Hungarian. These days we don’t tend to think that people from different parts of Europe are all that different, but some time ago this wasn’t the case.
I think what has changed is the broader acceptance of more obvious differences – e.g. I married a Cambodian woman and my family has no problem with that, but my grandparents would never have tolerated either of my parents doing something like that (and my wife’s grandparents probably wouldn’t tolerate it either). But even so, for example very few “African Americans” are entirely African – there’s a visual difference between the black people descended from slaves in the US and the black people who are more recent emigrants from Africa. So it’s really always been going on, in some form or another.
The “black” in “Mediterranean/Black” listed above is actually a mix of African, Native American, and Scotch-Irish.
I’m a melting pot, my kid is a salad, my wife is a broth.
Eventually those will be the only boxes to check.
I’m not a big fan of them, for many of the reasons given in the comments, but if you are going to do racial or ethnic classifications (not quite the same thing), I would go by the “grandparents rule”. Basically you are of the ethnicity your grandparents were.
Even this is problematic. Two of my grandparents were from Russia, but they were descended from Germans who had settled in Russia and this population did not intermarry. One grandparent was a French-Irish combination, and the French ancestor was a German speaker from the German speaking part of France.
So maybe you take the ethnicity of three of your grandparents, if they share the same unmixed ethnicity, and are mixed otherwise? Or if you have two grandparents of one unmixed ethnicity, and two are mixed, you take the ethnicity of the two “unmixed” grandparents (German in my case, maybe). The Spanish tried to take account all the possible ethnic and racial combinations in their Latin American colonies and it got really complicated.
Minefield. For self-definition, Jedi is as good as anything and I’d have a real problem with a state taking it out of the hands of the individual and telling someone “sorry, you are going down as black” or “sorry, you are too light, you are going down as white” or “we need you to be a Japanese-Korean for statistical purposes even though you don’t want to have anything to do with it.” So if it is up to the person, the statistics could be worthless, if it is up to the state, it looks like metaphorical violence against the identities that people choose for themselves.
Also, there are things that nobody seems to be able to agree on like what exactly an “Asian” is.
“If you don’t have racial distinctions you can’t measure how many African Americans are in jail, how many are poor, etc. ”
Yeah,but they are not in jail because of them being black and nor racism alone is the reason of their poverty.America seems obsessed with racial distinctions while does very little to fight the real issue,the income gap,that is.
The color blind France,on the other hand,already has national health care program for decades…..
“Color blind France” also has race-based rioting in its overwhelmingly non-caucasian ghettoes, as seen in Paris a few years back; perhaps they could have been avoided by some positive discrimination, or even just acknowledgment of the situation from the government?
A census that takes some notice of race/ethnicity makes it far easier to see which minorities have been ghettoised, whether police forces in a certain area accurately reflect the local population (and are therefore less likely to be seen in terms of “us and them”), the correlation between ethnicity, community and infrastructure (are predominantly black inner city schools failing and why is this? Lack of funding? Poor infrastructure? Over-crowding?), and many other contentious points in which ethnicity (which also ties into questions of community and socio-economics) legitimately plays a part.
In day to day life, ignoring skin colour is absolutely laudable. However, the whole point of the census is to compile information about the make-up of a state’s population, and to ensure that government reflects this information in their policies. By asking about ethnicity in this way, the government is given data that it can use to try and combat discrimination and aid further integration between communities.
““Color blind France” also has race-based rioting in its overwhelmingly non-caucasian ghettoes, as seen in Paris a few years back; perhaps they could have been avoided by some positive discrimination, or even just acknowledgment of the situation from the government?”
Problem was the French government was very much aware of the situation.The riot took place in so-called “rent^controlled-housing”designed for immigrants from North Africa.So you can’t say the the neglect from the government is the reason of the riot.
Sarkozy “the American” favors the mesure of the diversity and his commission’s suggestion of lifting the ban on racial and ethnic statistics has provoked the controversy since last year, even evoking the memory of Holocaust.
A “diversity’s tzar”‘s report urged to ease the opposition to the collection of such a data.
“The report said France’s ban on officially classifying people by ethnicity or asking questions in the national census about their race or origins should be maintained.
But it recommended that censuses should henceforth include a question on the nationality or place of birth of people’s parents, an apparently minor change but for France a major easing of its staunch opposition to ethnic statistics.”
I don’t know if this a bit compromising recommendation will be accepted or not.
‘I’d have a real problem with a state taking it out of the hands of the individual and telling someone “sorry, you are going down as black”’
Of course, we have the words “quadroon” and “octaroon” precisely because the US was making those decisions at one point in time. My mother is listed on my birth certificate as “Black” even though she doesn’t look it. But, to quote Chuck D:
Black man, black woman, black baby
White man, white woman, white baby
White man, black woman, black baby
Black man, white woman, black baby
America may seem obsessed with race, but part of that is because overt racism is part of what is still our recent history.
Aceface, you write about France as if nationalized health care is evidence that their policy towards race is successful. What’s the connection again?
Didn’t say they are “successful”.
The connection is that France is more concerned about the financial situation of the citizens and focus more on the issue from the social class side of the problem instead of the color of the skin.something America seems not doing.
I don’t know that I could polarize it that easy. I mean, the governments of most capitalist countries I know are at least ostensibly concerned with the “financial situation” of the country’s citizens. I think that America, on top of that, has a very visible issue with racism that works its way into manifold socio-economic issues. I don’t agree that this “seeming obsession” with racism is what is preventing America from properly dealing with the income gap. Nor am I convinced that the relative paucity of racial issues in color blind France is what frees them up to roll out programs like their nationalized health care.
See,there’s the difference between us from the old world and you from the new world.
National health care program just isn’t an issue that polarize the opinionated public.
“I don’t agree that this “seeming obsession” with racism is what is preventing America from properly dealing with the income gap.”
Maybe,but seems to me,there are more weight on the race issue than the class issue.Could be the lack of socialist party in political spectrum causing this? Because in both France and Japan,what they say count.
“See,there’s the difference between us from the old world and you from the new world.”
How exactly are you from the “old world”? What do you even mean by “old world”?
I will agree that the rejection in America of anything remotely socialist in terms of policy is probably hurting the ability of lawmakers to try out solutions that work in other countries. That’s another issue for another time. My point with your comment is that the race and class problems in America are separate. Regardless of how woefully addressed the income gap is, the country still needs to be educating and having dialogs about race.
“How exactly are you from the “old world”? What do you even mean by “old world”?”
Check the map.
“That’s another issue for another time.”
Well,that’s the key concept I’m raising the difference between France and the U.S.
“My point with your comment is that the race and class problems in America are separate.”
How exactly is separate and how can you separate when most of the low income class in America are either African Americans or Hispanics?
“Regardless of how woefully addressed the income gap is, the country still needs to be educating and having dialogs about race.”
Maybe.But that doesn’t mean much if they are not living in the same lot.
>>I think what has changed is the broader acceptance of more obvious differences – e.g. I married a Cambodian woman and my family has no problem with that, but my grandparents would never have tolerated either of my parents doing something like that (and my wife’s grandparents probably wouldn’t tolerate it either).
That marriage would have been illegal in the USA in your grandparents’ time. Anti-miscegenation laws existed in most states until the late 1940s or after.
“Maybe.But that doesn’t mean much if they are not living in the same lot.”
Okay, now you’re not even making sense. Either that, or you’re just taking the piss. Who is ‘they’, what is a ‘lot’ and do you really think that the problem of income gaps has to be solved or attacked or whatever before issues involving race relations are continued?
1 in 50 African Americans is HIV positive (due in no small part to class-related issues – education, family stability, and drug abuse)and yet the Obama era has seen massive (state level) cuts to community outreach programs. Shouldn’t the dialogue also be about action?
!Okay, now you’re not even making sense. Either that, or you’re just taking the piss. Who is ‘they’, what is a ‘lot’ ”
“They” means both African Americans in the ghetto and Whites in suburbia.
“do you really think that the problem of income gaps has to be solved or attacked or whatever before issues involving race relations are continued?”
Never said that.However,I believe solving the problem of income gaps would have very positive effect to the race relation.While talking about race relation usually ends up very emotional argument and polarize politics and ends up not achieving much.
Joe’s comment about needing Pantone codes on the census reminded me of this:
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