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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Race and 2016

So much for post racial American that was expected after Barak Obama was elected president.

No we have the Rachel Dolezal story, the white woman who claimed to be black.

According to her parents " ... her ancestry is overwhelmingly white, with a small fraction being Native American."

What "fraction"? How do we measure that?

She used her racial characteristic - being black - to do all kinds of things such as teach African studies at a university, applying to positions where her race - black - would be an advantage.

In all of this I ask, are we back to the horrible Spanish Imperial colonial policy called "Las Castas." This consisted in keeping meticulous records of what fraction of white, black, and Indian people in their Caribbean colonies were? For example, "a "requinterón" in Peru implied that a child of only one-sixteenth Black ancestry is born looking Black to seemingly white parents." The policy ultimately collapsed under it's own weight. After a century there were so many "fractions" of different races that the bureaucracy could not keep up with it.

(The Spanish illustrated the racial categories in elaborate paintings such as the one inserted here.)

Did you know that the French do not use racial categories in their census? "France, with its revolutionary, republican spirit of egalité, likes to think of itself as a color-blind society, steadfastly refusing, for example, to measure race, ethnicity, or religion in its censuses." So they don't distribute benefits such as jobs or admission to educational institutions by race. It is averred that France has racial and other discrimination and the lack of data makes it harder to correct those conditions.

Maybe we need to reconsider and fix our use of race in identifying people and distributing both benefits and sanctions. We also need to ask the 2016 presidential contenders how they would deal with race and affirmative action if elected to the White House.

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