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by Michael Nevin, Jr.
25 August 2003Ward Connerly

Ward Connerly's Proposition 54 would prohibit state and local government from collecting data on a person’s race, ethnicity, color or national origin.

Each person’s map of the world is as unique as the person’s thumbprint.  There are no two people alike.  No two people who understand the same sentence the same way…So in dealing with people, you try not to fit them to your concept of what they should be.
—Milton Erickson, M.D.

Dr. Erickson was a legendary figure and leading practitioner of medical hypnosis.  One of the many physical disabilities Erickson faced throughout his life was color blindness.  However, it may not have been much of a disability since Erickson stressed that his own personal experiences helped to shape his practical problem-solving techniques for his patients.  Dr. Erickson died in 1980 and one must ask: How far have we come? 

Today, a battle continues to be waged over race.  The battle extends from racial preferences to racial data collection.  Many of the same people who would have you believe that police practice racial profiling adamantly oppose ending such profiling when it comes to government classification by race.  It seems that race creates a spoils system where groups can gain “points,” or special benefits, from such classification.  But that comes at a high price: sharp division and animosity among citizens.  Just as “Jim Crow” laws discriminated against blacks in this country into the 1960s, “affirmative action” creates a backlash of “negative reaction” today.

University of California Regent Ward Connerly is spearheading an effort in California, the Racial Privacy Initiative.  California's Proposition 54, on the October ballot, would prohibit state and local government from collecting data on a person’s race, ethnicity, color or national origin.  It would still allow the use of racial classification in some instances including: law enforcement identifying suspects and undercover assignments, prisons assigning prisoners, action taken to maintain federal funding, and in the case of “medical research subjects and patients.”  The Legislature, with a two-thirds majority in each house, and governor approval would allow for other exemptions to serve a “compelling state interest.”  The initiative, Connerly says, “diminishes the identity politics that have come to define how we live our lives. It brings public policy into line with the reality of the fact that Californians are increasingly marrying across the old lines of race and ethnicity, and having children, and thereby making the race boxes essentially obsolete.”  Connerly’s heritage is the following:  African, Irish, French Canadian and Choctaw Indian. 

Our society is made up of a farrago of blurring racial mixes.  In fact, the world is full of examples in history that seemingly concur with this treatise.  Does each of us really know the complexity and origin of our roots?  The 2000 Census allowed people to identify one or more races to indicate racial identity.  It’s an arduous task to describe all the categories listed, and census accuracy could never be attained.  Tiger Woods, the preeminent golfer in the world, has described himself as “Cablanasian”-- Caucasian, Black, and Asian.  Does government have a right or significant need to categorize Woods, Connerly, or you?  One such time and place where people argued in favor of racial identity was the antebellum South.  The “One-Drop” rule was imposed by wealthy Southern slaveholders who wanted to increase their stable of enslaved Africans, so they mandated that anyone with any African blood had to be a slave.

The confusing methods used today to categorize race are antiquated.  Americans deserve better.  Rather than dividing and separating us into neat, little cliques (albeit inaccurate), we need to remember one thing that makes America so great: acculturation, or if you prefer, the “melting pot.”  Each of us offers a unique and individual perspective which allows us to contribute and prosper in the freest country on earth.  We shouldn’t be pigeonholed to satisfy racial demagogues who benefit from conflict and victimization.  It seems a color-blind doctor figured that out a long time ago.  Maybe we can all start to see each other through the same lens.

Michael Nevin is a California law enforcement officer.

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