A call for the separation of race and state, backed by a deep dive into the surreal world of racial classification in America.
“The racial categories that the schools use are completely bonkers, an arbitrary mess mostly left over from the work of federal bureaucrats in the 1970s that can’t withstand the slightest scrutiny. The administrators who rely on these categories are beholden to senseless and unscientific distinctions—they aren’t even competent or rational racialists. Justice Samuel Alito raised this issue in the arguments, pretty clearly relying on the work of George Mason University professor David Bernstein, who eviscerated the categories in an amicus brief and has written a book on their origin and implications, Classified: The Untold Story of Racial Classification in America.”
Americans are understandably squeamish about official racial and ethnic classifications. Nevertheless, they are ubiquitous in American life. Applying for a job, mortgage, university admission, citizenship, government contracts, and much more involves checking a box stating whether one is Black, White, Asian, Hispanic, or Native American.
While reviewing the surprising history of American racial classifications, Classified raises questions about the classifications’ coherence, logic, and fairness; for example:
- Should Pakistani, Chinese, and Filipino Americans be in the same category despite their obvious differences in culture, appearance, religion, and more?
- Why does the government not allow Americans to classify themselves as bi- or multi-racial?
- How did the government decide that a dark-complexioned, burka-wearing Muslim Yemini should be classified as generically white, but a blond-haired, blue-eyed immigrant from Spain should be classified as Hispanic and treated as a member of a minority group?
- Why does the government require biomedical researchers to classify study participants by the official racial categories, when the classifications have no scientific basis?
In an increasingly diverse society with high rates of intergroup marriage, the American system of racial classification is getting even more arbitrary and absurd. With rising ethno-nationalism threatening democracy around the world, it’s also dangerous. Classified argues that the time has come to consider abolishing official racial classification and replace it with the separation of race and state.