During the past few centuries, America has experienced a massive influx if immigrants from all over the world. This monumental immigration began what is known as the “melting pot” process in the United States. Due to this process, the diversity of the U.S. has risen drastically through intermarriages and the assimilation of “foreign” cultures into “American” culture. I put foreign and American in quotes to simply point out the absurdness of calling American culture “American,” due to its’ being majorly influenced by “foreign” cultures. The United States has become a multicultural nation that feels the need to tally and track the many different races and ethnicities that fill its population.
The article RACE REMIXED; In a Multiracial Nation, Many Ways to Tally was recently posted in the New York Times and addresses the fickleness of race and ethnic labeling processes in America. It also speaks of a growing measurement problem emerging from increasing interracial and interethnic relationships. Herein lies a conundrum. How is America going to keep track of the multitudes of ethnicities? With an increasing amount of intermarriages and inter-cultures, the “melting pot” effect has led many to ascribe themselves to two or more racial and ethnic backgrounds. The author, Susan Saulny, uses the following example to demonstrate the aforementioned problem:
The federal Department of Education would categorize Michelle López-Mullins — a university student who is of Peruvian, Chinese, Irish, Shawnee and Cherokee descent — as ”Hispanic.” But the National Center for Health Statistics, the government agency that tracks data on births and deaths, would pronounce her ”Asian” and ”Hispanic.” And what does Ms. López-Mullins’s birth certificate from the State of Maryland say? It doesn’t mention her race.
Ms. López-Mullins, 20, usually marks ”other” on surveys these days, but when she filled out a census form last year, she chose Asian, Hispanic, Native American and white.
Apparently, the federal Department of Education (D.O.E) has different qualifiers for labeling an individuals ethnicity than the National Center for Health Statistics. This is a clear example of the fickleness mentioned earlier and points to the difficulties people today are facing when asked what race or ethnic identity they ascribe to. It seems that the Department of Education has adopted an adaptation of the “one drop” rule with regard to Hispanics. Saulny describes its’ new policy reflecting the following guidelines:
…any student like Ms. López-Mullins who acknowledges even partial Hispanic ethnicity will, regardless of race, be reported to federal officials only as Hispanic. And students of non-Hispanic mixed parentage who choose more than one race will be placed in a ”two or more races” category, a catchall that detractors describe as inadequately detailed. A child of black and American Indian parents, for example, would be in the same category as, say, a child of white and Asian parents.
Although this lumping together of ethnicities may be beneficial to the measurement of a growing multicultural population, it is quite representative a racist culture that does not acknowledge or respect the depth and complexities of race and ethnicity.