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Week of: July 15, 2001

What Color? Try Red, White and Blue

by F.R. Duplantier

"Imagine a nation where government looks at skin color and ethnic background the same way it views our religion: none of the government's business."

Ward Connerly of the American Civil Rights Institute laments that "racial and ethnic classifications are deeply entrenched in our nation." He worries that "they are becoming more entrenched, as the government expands the list of racial and ethnic groups instead of folding us into one people without divisible parts." Connerly reports that the U.S. Census "developed a list of 63 racial categories for the 2000 Census. If the ethnic category of 'Hispanic' is taken into consideration," he adds, "that list multiplies to 126."

In a recent issue of The Egalitarian, published by the American Civil Rights Institute, Connerly argues that "the issue of 'race' is becoming more central in the public sphere, not less. Our elections are infested with identity politics, as we saw during the 2000 presidential campaign. Throughout the nation, 'racial profiling' and the call for reparations for the descendants of slaves are being debated, often with violent consequences," he continues. "Special legislation is being enacted in many instances to punish the perpetrators of 'hate crimes' based on race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation."

Connerly fears that "America is becoming a slave to skin color 'diversity.' Race seeps out of every pore of the body politic in our nation." He warns that, "unless the American people confront this issue -- and soon -- troubling times await us. The violence and civil disturbances that took place in Cincinnati are instructive of how far some are willing to go to pursue matters having a 'racial' implication."

Connerly urges his fellow citizens "not to cave in to the demands of protestors who seek remedies based on race" and instead recommends "removing race from the public arena." He suggests "getting rid of the boxes that government uses to classify, define, and categorize the American people. 'What is your race?' 'What is your ethnicity?' 'What is your national ancestry?' These questions should not be asked of American citizens," says Connerly. "In a nation that considers itself the melting pot of the world," he asserts, "the very concept of people being divided by the color of their skin, the origin of their birth, or, worse, that of their ancestors, is abhorrent."

Like many Americans -- black, white, and otherwise -- I felt or feigned a fascination for my ancestry back in the 1970s, made some feeble efforts to trace my "roots," and spent a pleasant postgraduate year soaking up what little remained of French culture in the bayou country of southwest Louisiana. I felt then, and still do, a keen affinity for the Cajuns, but it wasn't long before I discovered a cure for my Francophilic fantasy: the French! The countryside was full of them, young European socialists who'd come to Lafayette and the environs for a year to teach "proper" French in the local schools. I had little in common with these radicalized, anti-American, self-righteous know-it-alls; reflecting on that striking dissimilarity, I resolved that my roots would thenceforth remain buried -- in our rich American soil.


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