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Web Letters | The Nation

Patricia Williams is upset because her colleagues don't want to call themselves "white" and she considers this proof of racism.

Patricia Williams is upset because her colleagues don't want to call themselves "white" and she considers this proof of racism. Of course, if they were proudly proclaiming themselves "white," she would consider that proof of "racism," too. Damned if you do and damned if you don't!

I find it very interesting that Williams's Jewish colleague was afraid to list her religion/ethnic identity on documents for fear that it would be used against her. The Census Bureau tried to add a "religion" question to the 1960 Census but Jewish and predominately Jewish organizations (such as the ACLU) became hysterical and claimed that forcing Jews to identify themselves as such on official documents could pave the way for future persecution, perhaps a new Holocaust. Obviously, anyone who feels that way would be a hypocrite to advocate affirmative action, census racial classifications or any other required government racial//ethnic classification for other people.

All mixed-race people should identify as white. Hell, the Hispanics do that and they are the most "mixed-race" people in the United States!

A.D. Powell

Ann Arbor, MI

Apr 29 2010 - 10:29pm

So if one is not black, then, by default, one must be "not-black"?

So if one is not black, then, by default, one must be "not-black"? And to contend anything else is "dreamy"? And you wrote this in the same week that Arizona passed its anti-immigration law?

JoAnn Kawell

Brooklyn, NY

Apr 29 2010 - 3:47pm

Web Letter

The one essential element of discrimination is to make categories for people. That is not the proper business of government.

John D. Froelich

Upper Darby, PA

Apr 28 2010 - 1:37am

Web Letter

Checking the African-American box on my census form was an affirmation of self and of my history. I am not "phenotypically black." I am a racial chameleon. People often see themselves reflected in my eyes. I am spoken to in Spanish, Urdu and Hindi on a semi-regular basis. When I look at them blankly they ask, “What are you?” When I say black, everyone looks at me sideways. My mother is white (Jewish), my father is black. I have always considered myself black. My sister has always considered herself bi-racial. I don’t know what she checked on her census form. I don’t think it is my business to ask.

What I do know is that I identify with the culture, history and struggle of people of African descent in this country. It has been a driving point in my education, my work, and my relationships. To me, there was no other option to check. I will be the first to admit that race is a social construct and the first to admit that we live in a society that has contributed largely to the construction of the concept of race itself. I don’t take race lightly, and I doubt many people of color in this country do. The construct that has become race shapes our daily interactions with our friends, strangers, media and the world itself. Claiming to be color-blind blurs these differences that so many of us can’t ignore. If a room full of faculty at Columbia University can’t grasp that fact, who can?

Natalie Daniels

Chicago, IL

Apr 27 2010 - 3:39pm

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