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Nonsense and racial sense in the U.S. census.

In the past, race was universally understood as a meaningful way of describing people, even if it did suffer from a lack of understanding of the genetic code that is responsible for racial differences. As the West entered the 20th century however, the forces of change were begun to overthrow race as a meaningful construct. It has been argued since that time that all races are the same except for superficialities like skin color or hair texture. Over the last 100 years, and especially in just the last couple of years, there has been an orchestrated outcry against the term "race." Strangely enough, the scientific advancement of both the Human Genome Project, and the Human Genome Diversity Project, has put us on a collision course with the politically correct assumption that race has no meaning. Since the Left cannot stop genetic research, they have instead attempted to change the language - "race" has been supplanted by "population group" or "ethnic group" as a means of keeping the debate about racial differences hidden from the public, even though it is a vigorous area of investigation by behavior geneticists, population geneticists, etc. It is now easy to compare groups based on genetic frequencies. Racial closeness between any two groups or any two individuals is extremely easy to calculate through DNA testing. So where has the United States government stood on this issue?

I happened to come across two documents from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the governmental agency that is responsible for developing the racial and ethnic categories for use in the census every ten years. One was published in 1995 entitled Standards for the Classification of Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity. The other was the FAIR Act Inventory published in 1997. These documents discuss proposed changes in the way we group races or ethnic groups, but it seems that the effort to do so is so confused and incoherent that no changes were made in the 2000 census (using Directive No. 15, Race and Ethnic Standards for Federal Statistics and Administrative Reporting, issued in 1977). (Both of these documents can be found on the government's Internet.)

A favorite invective from the Left with regards to race is that it is not real - it is a social construct (see for Jensen's explanation of the scientific meaning of race). Therefore, what does the government say about its racial/ethnic classifications? "The categories that were developed represent a political-social construct designed to be used in the collection of data on the race and ethnicity of major broad population groups in this country, and are not anthropologically or scientifically based." The question is then; why NOT use an anthropological or scientifically based racial classification? The one used at present has no meaning in reality, but does have meaning to those who are intent in grouping people according to political considerations - and this is primarily to show that everyone but Whites are discriminated against. However, this arbitrary lumping of racial/ethnic groups becomes absurd and counter intuitive based on what we know about disparate outcomes of different racial groups.

The current classifications are:
American Indian or Alaskan Native. A person having origins in any of the original peoples of North America, and who maintains cultural identification through tribal affiliation or community recognition.
Asian or Pacific Islander. A person having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent, or the Pacific Islands. This area includes, for example, China, India, Japan, Korea, the Philippine Islands, and Samoa.
Black. A person having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa.
Hispanic. A person of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central or South American or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race. (This category stands by itself, it is cultural which has no clear definition, and it is therefore meaningless.)
White. A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, North Africa, or the Middle East.

This type of classification however has all kinds of problems in it with regards to races and ethnic groups. First, let's discuss what it means to be Hispanic. If someone comes to this country from a Spanish culture, they can automatically get preferences based on their cultural category, no matter what they look like, their history, etc. In South America, there are numerous Spanish countries with large numbers of Europeans. Why would they be discriminated against in the United States? Because they have a Spanish surname? In addition, when will the preferences end for Hispanics - when they change their last names because of intermarriage, when their new culture becomes Americanized, or when some other group is defined to be more in need of help? The whole concept of throwing everyone who comes from a Spanish culture into one group is absurd. But it does tend to divide Americans up - separating us into large categories - the us (Whites) from all the others. The report did admit that it is not Hispanics that do poorly, it is the races that do poorly, "Research shows Hispanics who self-identify as White also fare better economically; thus, some said two questions were needed because ethnicity alone was insufficient for determining which Hispanics are likely to be victims of discrimination." Victims of discrimination? Or just less intelligent because many Hispanics are American Indians or Black rather than White.

Now let's look at some of the countries where large numbers of Hispanics are immigrating from. The reports point out that Hispanics from Cuba tend to be better educated, more prosperous, and healthier - and they tend to be more White than other Hispanic groups. What are Puerto Ricans? They seem to have a mixture of Black and White blood and are very different from Mexicans. Mexicans are an even stranger group to classify. The typical Mexican can vary from an American Indian to a Caucasian from Spain who has never racially mixed. These taller, lighter Mexicans are well known to Mexicans, but to Americans they are all just Mexicans. The report states, "Census researchers Bates, de la Puente, DeMaio, and Martin (1994) have characterized as 'official ambivalence' the Federal uncertainty 'about whether Spanish-speaking groups should be considered a separate race, or not.' For example, the census classified Mexicans as a 'race' in 1930, 'White' during 1940-1970, and 'of any race' they chose in 1980 and 1990. In 1940, persons of Spanish mother tongue were reported. In 1950 and 1960, persons of Spanish surname were recorded. By 1960, all Mexicans, Puerto Ricans and other persons of 'Latin descent' were counted as 'White' unless they were 'definitely Negro, Indian, or some other race (as determined by observation).' In 1970, a separate question on Hispanic origin was added to the census long form (sent to one-sixth of households). In 1980 and 1990, a separate question on Hispanic origin was asked of all households." Confused? You should be.

When I think of a Mexican that will have trouble competing in a technological society like America, I think of a Mexican that is closer to an American Indian, with an average IQ of 90. Nevertheless, note how American Indians, according to the government, excludes all Indians from south of the border. They have been reclassified for the convenience of discriminating against non-Hispanic Whites.

The report further confuses the issue of American Indians when it admits that native Hawaiians are closer to American Indians than they are to Asians. Asians in Hawaii do much better economically than do the native Hawaiians. This mixing of racial groups of course severely confounds data that compares different racial groups' economic success. It also shows repeatedly that it is not discrimination that causes some groups to do better than others, but the average intelligence of the groups.

Then there is the problem with Asians - East Asians are lumped in with Southeast Asians. However, recent genetic studies have shown that East Asians may be closer to Europeans than they are to Southeast Asians. On top of that, East Asians have an average IQ of 105 compared with Southeast Asian's average intelligence of 90. Asian Indians, or South Asians, are even more confusing: "There have been many changes in the broad racial categories, the specific components of the categories, and whether data on ethnicity were collected. Asian Indians, for example, were counted as Hindus in censuses from 1920 to 1940, as White from 1950 to 1970, and as Asians or Pacific Islanders in 1980 and 1990." What a mess! India, like many other countries (and having a strict caste system to separate the races) is made up of numerous races. It is situated geographically between the four primary races - East Asians, South Asians, sub-Saharan Africans, and Northwestern Europeans. Like the Middle East, it was a major migratory route to more distant places where races remained more isolated and distinct. I read in the Chicago Tribune, February 16, 2003, "...the Koreans consider themselves a race apart and above all others. Industrial South Korea needs populous North Korea to grow to its true place in the world, which it views as above the Japanese. Racial purity is a fixation on the Korean Peninsula." So apparently even Koreans would not want to be associated with the Japanese racially - they see themselves as different.

Then we have the most troublesome group of all - Middle Eastern people or Arabs. Up to now they have been classified as White, but there is concern that as their numbers increase, they may be subject to discrimination (this was all written before 9/11 of course). However, here, the real dilemma sets in - why not just call all those Arabs and Jews what they really are - Semites! No, they prefer to call Arabs "mixed" racially rather than admit that Arabs and Jews - according again to recent genetic tests - constitute the Semitic race. They openly discuss in this report the dilemma of including Israelis as part of the Middle Eastern peoples. Again, just like Koreans against the Japanese, the Jewish revulsion of being lumped into the same race as Arabs is anathema.

I noticed in the recent book, Jews in American Politics, that the word "anti-Semitism" had been replaced with "antisemitism" - deemphasizing Semite by eliminating the hyphen and capital "S." With the new sophistication of using genetics to determine races, the Jews seem to be in a dilemma with a term they have reserved for themselves, so it is best to diminish the racial emphasis of "Semite" without giving up their special place in the world by having their own word for what everyone else has to call racism. Almost everywhere in the media it is always "racism and antisemitism," as if they were separate actions of behavior or thought processes.

The report states that, "The categories and definitions were developed primarily on the basis of geography; therefore, they were not to be interpreted as being scientific or anthropological in nature. The racial and ethnic categories in the Directive reflected, in particular, agency needs for data for use in monitoring and enforcing civil rights laws .... Some have suggested that the geographic orientation of the definitions for the various racial and ethnic categories is not sufficiently definitive. They believe that there is no readily apparent organizing principle for making such distinctions and that definitions for the categories should be eliminated." In short, it is all pseudoscience, just like the whole victimization industry that has divided people by how much money they make - not as individuals - but by their racial group.

Many people think that miscegenation, or race mixing will solve our problems. After all, if we all just interbreed, there will be just one tan race. Stories about the demise of races are rather premature however. The study gives numbers for interracial marriages and they bare out that people do not intermarry randomly. In 1990, of the 1.5 million interracial couples, 31% were between Whites and Asian-Pacific Islanders, while 14% were between Blacks and Whites. Since there are 12% blacks compared with only 4% Asians (there are very few Pacific Islanders), Whites marry Asians at a rate eight times higher than they marry Blacks. Again, East Asians are very close to Whites genetically and in average intelligence. Could this be the beginning of a new Eurasian race - combining the ethnocentrism and intelligence of Asians with the creativity and openness of Whites? It could be a very beneficial hybrid for both races - Whites would be less susceptible to universal moralism and racial self-destruction. East Asians would never allow multiculturalism, racial extortion, and diversity in their own countries - the concept would seem bizarre and irrational.

There are a couple of solutions to this racial incoherence in our government's desire to classify people so that wealth can be distributed by racial/ethnic groups. The best solution would be for the government to just resign itself to not including race in surveys and the census - banning it from consideration just as a person's religion is excluded from consideration. Treat every American as an individual, and let the private sector gather data if they so desire on race, religion, etc. A second solution would be a rational approach to race. That is, stop playing games and let people self-describe to the census takers what race they think they are, including percentages if they like, for multiracial people. Computers can handle this data quite nicely for those who need to aggregate data into smaller units of classification. Moreover, the racial classifications should be based on the vast amount of data we have on racial categories. Cavalli-Sforza's Human Genome Diversity Project is an excellent source for mapping different races, and other researchers are doing similar studies (See Science magazine "Genetic Structure of Human Populations," December 20, 2002).

Another excellent book is IQ and the Wealth of Nations by Richard Lynn and Tatu Vanhanen, 2002 (I cover this book's material in my free on-line book Shattering the Myth of Racism - Volume II). This book also has some data on the racial make-up of different countries, along with the average intelligences.

The next time someone discusses any issue with regards to racial or ethnic demographics in the United States, and the pseudoscientific confounding of categories, you can point out that these classifications have NO empirical basis. For example, if someone tries to compare the economic disadvantages of Asians, simply point out that there is no definable Asian category, and that at a minimum East Asians must be separated from South Asians to be meaningful. Or point out to people that Hispanic is not a race, and what we need to look at is the racial differences between Cubans, Puerto Ricans, and/or American Indians from Mexico. Lumping people together merely based on a common language is nonsense.

Matt Nuenke, February 2003 -