Race, Reality, And Ward Connerly`s Racial Privacy Initiative

Ward Connerly, the chairman of the successful
initiative drives against government racial preferences
in California in

1996
and Washington State in

1998
, sent an especially interesting response to my

essay
last week on New York Times` Nicholas
Wade and his

many articles
documenting the biological reality of
race.

Connerly has put a follow-up called the

Racial Privacy Initiative
on the March 2004 ballot
in California. It would prevent the state from
collecting data on the racial or ethnic identity of
residents, except for medical research and certain other

specific
uses.

Connerly wants me to comment on the RPI.

Some backers of the RPI have cited the ever-popular
"Race Does Not Exist"

theory
in its support. If race is just an illusion,
they say, it makes no more sense for the government to
track it than it would to monitor its citizens`

astrological signs.

But if race is

scientifically meaningful
, as I contend along with
the New York Times` genetic correspondent, does
that argue against the RPI?

I think the opposite is truer. To me, the RPI is
appealing precisely because racial groups are
fundamentally an outgrowth of that locus of primal human
emotions, the

family
. That means race is and always will be a hot
potato. Government should handle it as little as
possible. Government should especially avoid throwing
fuel on the potato by

designating some groups as the beneficiaries and others
as the victims of affirmative action.

Another erroneous argument in favor of RPI:
interracial marriage is rapidly making obsolete the
entire concept of having people check little race boxes.
If most people will soon be tri-racial, like Connerly,
who is part black, white and American Indian, or
quad-racial, like some of his half-Asian grandchildren,
then what`s the point of government racial
classifications?

This is a better argument. But, as I`ve

pointed out
from Census data, the Tiger
Woodsification of America hasn`t gone through the
formality of

actually happening.
(This process is, however,
further along in Connerly`s California than in almost
any other state besides

Hawaii
.)

And it`s naïve to imagine that interracial marriage
will end race conflicts. In Latin America, 500 years of
race-mixing haven`t succeeded in eliminating racial
enmity. In fact, as

Amy Chua
showed in her book

World on Fire
, South America today is
experiencing a trans-national outburst of darker-skinned
peoples demanding greater equality of outcomes from the
continent`s lighter-skinned elites.

For example, as the New York Times` Larry
Rohter

reported
on

April 5,

"The Brazilian
government, responding to demands to improve the lot of
the black population, has begun imposing racial quotas
for government jobs, contracts and university
admissions. But that has unleashed an acrimonious debate
in a country that traditionally prides itself on being a
harmonious `racial democracy.`"

This American-style affirmative action policy is
being imposed despite the

notoriously
greater difficulty in Brazil in deciding
who is black and who is white.

The lesson: when the government is handing out
freebies, minor issues like logic and consistency aren`t
going to stop people from elbowing their way to the
trough.

The danger of racial polarization is always present.
And nothing exacerbates it more than government
preferences for some races over others. The RPI isn`t a
panacea. But it represents one additional way to prevent
the institutionalization of racial quotas.

Over the years, my objections to affirmative action
have become based less on moral principles and more on
the kind of prudential grounds that

Edmund Burke
emphasized. The entire liberal racial
system assumes a large majority paying for the special
privileges of a small minority. As long as the ratio of
payers to payees is high, the cost per individual payer
is tolerably low and the system is reasonably stable.
But as the late UC Santa Barbara historian and political
scientist Hugh Davis Graham pointed out in last year`s


Collision Course
: The Strange Convergence of
Affirmative Action and Immigration Policy in America,

affirmative action and mass immigration make a

volatile mixture.
Our current policy of giving
preference to most foreigners, even

illegal immigrants
, is tipping the ratio toward the
danger zone.

Connerly, a University of California regent, says
that the black lobby is no longer the main force
subverting Proposition 209`s ban on race preferences in
California. Instead, it was the California legislature`s
sizable

Latino Caucus
that told the Regents that if they
didn`t find

subterfuges
for raising the number of Hispanics
admitted, the University system`s budget would be cut.

(As I`ve

noted
, Latinos cast only 10 percent of the votes in
California last November, but they hold 22.5 percent of
the seats in both houses of the state legislature.
That`s because Hispanic politicians generally represent
"rotten
boroughs
" containing relatively few voters. The
current interpretation of the U.S. Constitution says
that all adults, even illegal aliens, must be counted
when drawing up legislative districts. Thus, only about
five-eighths as many votes are cast in districts
represented by the Latino Caucus as in all other
districts in California.)

Many of the issues revolving around the RPI are
subtle. I`d encourage you to read the

objections
of Tom Wood, the co-author with

Glynn Custred
of California`s Proposition 209. Wood
feels that racial data collection is essential for the
enforcement of his Prop. 209 and of anti-discrimination
laws in the private sector.

But that seems less like a problem than a benefit.
The government`s use of hiring statistics rather than
actual evidence of biased actions to "prove"
discrimination, as

Paul Craig Roberts
has documented, has put the
burden of proof on the defendant. It is the main reason
corporations have been imposing

racial quotas
upon themselves. 

As I`ve long

argued
, both justice and efficiency would better be
served by instead letting the marketplace penalize
competitive firms that irrationally discriminate in
employment.

I continue to think that RPI will help prevent the
Lebanonization of America – along with an immigration
moratorium.


[Steve Sailer [email
him] is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and


movie critic
for


The American Conservative
.
His website


www.iSteve.blogspot.com
features his daily
blog.]