American apartheid

The controversy over a multiracial category on
census forms shows that racial and ethnic advocacy groups
aren't worried about fairness
as much as they're worried about spoils.

By David Horowitz

Published July 18, 1997 7:00PM (EDT)

a Clinton task force has unanimously recommended against adding a
multiracial category to census forms, which now only list four official
races: white, black, American Indian and Alaskan Native, and Asian and
Pacific Islander. According to the Los Angeles Times, the recommendation
marks a victory for "traditional civil rights and ethnic advocacy groups --
such as the NAACP and the National Council of La Raza" -- because a
multiracial category would dilute their numbers and decrease their
benefits. The wrangling over whether to add the category pitted these
older civil rights groups against newer multiracial advocacy
groups. Welcome to the Alice-in-Wonderland world of the new American

Begin anywhere: Asians, to pick only one of those official categories, are
not a race. The NAACP is not an ethnic advocacy group -- it is concerned
about a race. The National Council of La Raza ("The Race") is an ethnic
advocacy group, but neither Hispanics nor Latinos -- the ethnic
constituencies it claims to represent -- are actual ethnicities, in my opinion. They are
language groups, and in the case of Latinos, not even that. Moreover, the
terms Latino and Hispanic cover not only different but polarized
ethnicities, nationalities and races (e.g., the Mexican Indians of
Chiapas and their European-descended oppressors). Finally, neither the
NAACP nor La Raza are concerned for civil rights these
days, judging by their advocacy of racial and ethnic preferences generally,
and the zeal with which they have opposed the civil rights claims of
multiracial Americans in this case.

As the multiracial latecomers have discovered, there is no room for them
at the (so-called) civil rights table. Despite creating their own advocacy
institutions modeled on what has become of the civil rights struggle,
(including a march on Washington to protest their under-representation),
they have come up virtually empty in their quest for a census box. There is
not going to be a Tiger Woods band in the American rainbow -- no
designation for the one-quarter white, one-eighth black, one-quarter Thai,
one-quarter Chinese, one-eighth Indian American.

Of course, Clinton administration liberals didn't neglect to throw a
crumb to the multiracial latecomers, namely, the ability to check off
multiple boxes if they so choose. A spokesperson for a multiracial group,
Susan Graham, president of an organization called Project Race, welcomed this
small victory while insisting that her troops would continue to pursue the
multiracial category: "As it is, my children cannot be multiracial
children. My children can be check-all-that-apply children
and I do not consider that fair."

Well, it's not really about fairness, Susan. It's about a racial/ethnic
(check-one-of-the-above) spoils system, which is the sorry mess that civil
rights advocacy has become since the assassination of Martin Luther
King. What is at stake here, of course, is not rights but entitlements: the
set asides, grants, voting district lines and other government (and now
private) handouts that serve as payoffs to the racial/ethnic
grievance-mongers that a disintegrating civil rights movement has spawned.
Otherwise, who could be against a multiracial census
category that, if adopted, would embody the celebrated "American mosaic"?

Actually, I would be against it. I say this not only as a veteran of the
once venerable civil rights struggle, but as the grandfather of three
beautiful granddaughters who would qualify for the box that will not appear
on your next national census -- and thus will not qualify for the
affirmative action perks, the special even if you don't really need them
scholarships and the minority
even if you have to subcontract them to someone who is actually qualified to do the job contracts. Of course, my granddaughters will be able to fill a
racial box anyway (which happens to be black) and qualify for all these
perks if they just tick off the category that includes that part of their
racial/ethnic (take-your-pick) chromosomes that make the Clinton liberals
and other social engineers of the new American apartheid feel good about

I use the word apartheid advisedly, because apartheid in its origins as
well as its development was nothing more than an affirmative action program
for the Boer minority (oppressed by the English), and because the term
multiracial as a government category immediately brought to my mind a
trip I took to South Africa in the last days of the system where I
encountered the term "colored" or "mixed-race" as an emblem of the extreme
to which affirmative action programs can eventually lead.

The current multiracial census fiasco ought to set off an alarm bell to
the nation that we are headed down a terribly wrong path. We have already
become a race-conscious society in a way that would have been unthinkable
just a generation ago, when the phrase "without regard to race, color or
creed," was still invoked whenever anyone wanted to sum up the American
Way. Where will the present path lead -- down a road to deeper and more
bitter racial divisions, ugly struggles over diminishing racial spoils,
increasing civil conflict and eventually a South African future? Or perhaps
just further into the realm of the ridiculous, and the just plain stupid? I
have no idea. But you can check one of the above.

David Horowitz

David Horowitz is a conservative writer and activist.

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