Point of view: Post-racial society? It's still just a myth

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By Nicky Enright

The notion that the election of Barack Obama would lead the U.S. to a post-racial era should be laid to rest.

Troubled riddles of race continue with the 2010 U.S. Census questionnaire, which bluntly asks, “What is person’s race?” as it has since the first census was taken in 1790.

The current form mentions a staggering 21 racial categories, including “Guamanian or Chamorro.” The 2000 Census revealed that there was a total of approximately 177,000 Chamorros living in the U.S. commonwealths of Guam or the Northern Mariana Islands or on the mainland. I find it bizarre that, according to the government, there is an entire race of people who number fewer than one million people in America.

Other groups with their own race and box on the census include “White; Black, African Am., Negro; American Indian or Alaska Native; Asian Indian; Chinese; Filipino; Japanese; Korean; Vietnamese; Native Hawaiian; and Samoan.” Also mentioned are the “Hmong, Laotian, Thai, Pakistani, Cambodian, and so on.” And there is a box labeled “Other Pacific Islander – for example, Fijian, Tongan, and so on.”

And so on indeed! Then there is one more box on the form: “Some other race — print race.” This box seemingly invites citizens to invent their own race. And hey, why not? Further complicating matters, the 2010 Census continues the option, first introduced in 2000, of checking multiple boxes. So it is only in the last ten years that the government has recognized that some people consider themselves bi-racial or multi-racial.

President Obama checked one box only: “Black, African Am., Negro.” This choice is peculiar because it denies the “White” mother who gave birth to him and the “White” grandparents who largely raised him. Unsurprisingly, President Obama may simply be trying to avoid controversy and conflict, but his answer does certainly perpetuate the slavery and Jim Crow era “one-drop rule,” whereby the existence of any “Black” blood at all made a person simply “Black,” thus enslaving and/or disenfranchising that individual.

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