Racial Privacy Initiative: A Trump Card

Ward Connerly,
the leader of the successful anti-quota Proposition 209

that officially banned racial preferences
in California government in 1996, is back with his

Racial Privacy Initiative
. This would prevent the
state of California from collecting data on its
citizens` racial or ethnic identities (although it
allows sensible exceptions for
medical research and the like).

The Racial
Privacy Initiative would make it more difficult for the
bureaucrats to carry on illegally discriminating by race
in the name of affirmative action, since they couldn`t
demand that, say,
University of California applicants check off race
and ethnicity boxes. (Hopefully, the constitutional
amendment would be interpreted to require that
admissions officers could only be shown a number instead
of a name for each applicant.) This data collection ban
may seem like a minor obstacle to government officials
intent on privileging some groups over others, but it
could be startlingly effective. Consider how the
otherwise powerful gay lobby has never won preferences
for homosexuals—with no

good data
on what percentage of the population is
homosexual, quotas for gays have been a


Connerly has
collected enough signatures to put his RPI on the ballot
in November, but not enough contributions to finance a
first-rate campaign. (You can send him some financial

.) So, he`s attempting a

delicate maneuver
to delay the initiative from
showing up on the ballot until March 2004 by submitting
barely enough signatures to qualify. If California`s
Secretary of State Bill Jones has to take beyond the
last week in June to certify that the minimum number of
RPI signatures are valid, then Connerly gets the 21
month lead time he wants. If not, the RPI will be on
this November`s ballot.

certainly understands the politics better than I do, but
I think his ballot measure might do surprisingly well
even with an under-financed quickie campaign. Racial
privacy is simply an intuitively appealing concept. In

first public opinion poll
, the measure enjoyed a
solid 48%-34% lead, even though 74% of the respondents
had never heard of it before.

This movement
appeals naturally to Connerly. He`s always identified as
a "black Republican," in part because

he looks
like a typical African-American. (The
average self-identified African-American is 17%-18%
white, while the average American white is 0.7% black,

according to
population geneticist

Mark D. Shriver
of Penn State. Only about 10% of
adults who call themselves black are more than 50%
white.) Connerly, however, makes no secret that he`s
only 25% black, with the rest of his ancestors white or
American Indian. He even has

who, like Tiger Woods, are "Caublinasians"
(Tiger`s made-up word for people like himself who are
Caucasian, black, Indian, and Asian). Not surprisingly,
he finds racial categorization by governments viscerally

intellectuals have not particularly warmed to the Racial
Privacy Initiative, in part because it threatens to
reduce the flow of free government-gathered

data about race
that us op-edsters find so
convenient. Still, Connerly draws a persuasive analogy
to the government`s refusal to collect statistics on
religion. During the Fifties, the Census Bureau

announced plans
to ask every American to check off
his religion on the 1960 Census. Jewish groups strongly
opposed this plan and it was eventually deep-sixed.

As a stat
geek, I`d love to be able to download all the Census
data sorted by religion. But as an American, I`m glad I
can`t. There are some huge disparities among the
followers of the

various religions in America
, but we think about
these differences much less than we think about
differences among categories about which the government
collects statistics. And that`s good for American unity.

Still, there
are a lot of people who`d like to see Connerly, a
charismatic and commanding figure, run for the U.S.
Senate in 2004 against the less than prepossessing
Democratic incumbent Barbara Boxer.

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

movie critic

The American Conservative
His website

features his daily

June 20, 2002