I Believe in the American Dream of Equality

Julia - South Whitley, Indiana
Entered on January 4, 2009
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: equality, race

This I believe: Now that America has elected a black president, it is time for the Census Bureau to move beyond identifying Americans by ethnicity. What useful purpose does counting Americans by race serve in a nation known to be a melting pot? Technology now proves that we are 99.9 percent identical at our DNA level, so how accurate can the count be, unless every one submits to a test to identify that particular .1 percent that marks ethnicity? Without that test, do most people know their ethnicity, without a shadow of a doubt? And how many misreport, either by ignorance or on purpose to mask a hidden identity?

I don’t understand exactly how the tests offered by DNA Print Genomics work with someone with an ethnic heritage as complicated as Tiger Woods. But I DO know that, for an American public misinformed by the mass media, Tiger is a black golfer, when in reality his racial heritage is not majority African-American. Ethnicity can be marketed, but it can also be lost or assimilated into the dominant culture. Bi-racial or adopted children raised in a white culture, or children raised in a primarily black, or primarily Asian, or primarily Hispanic culture, usually adopt that culture as the norm, as all people gravitate to the norm to fit in.

When I lived in rural New Mexico, I was surprised to find that over 90% of the students in my high school there identified themselves as Hispanic, although tight curls suggested possible Buffalo Soldier ancestry or eyes suggested a Chinese ancestor who laid railroads across the Southwest. Even more surprising was the Hispanic family whose last name was Scotch-Irish, descendents of a local legendary scalp-hunter. Because the culture and customs were exclusively Hispanic, with frequent Quinceaneras, serenades for every occasion, and herbs for curanderos in every drugstore, small differences of hair or eyes or last names didn’t count for much. Culture determined ethnic identity.

I don’t mean to ignore the real prejudices faced by people of color. But this I believe: Barack Obama’s education, experience, accomplishments, public service and ideas for leading our country are more important factors to consider than his skin color or ethnicity when discussing his presidency. And, while affirmative action has helped achieve more equality, I’m not sure fighting battles based on race or ethnicity are as appropriate as working together to assure equal opportunity to all Americans, irregardless of race or ethnicity.

I believe we should say good riddance to census categories that report ethnicity, since it’s clear that the information collected is faulty at best and useless for anything except dividing us as a nation. I believe a better focus is on achieving equality by uniting communities of people whose needs are more important as a group than the individual ethnic DNA of its members. And while we’re at it, let’s rid our nation of racial profiling, a despicable remnant of slavery we could do better without.