When I was at the Social Security Office getting a replacement for my card, I asked the teller whether my ethnicity was in the database she was taping into. She gave me a wry grin and said, “Honey, we know everything. We even know who your parents are.” I chuckled and asked her to prove it. And sure enough, she told me not only my ethnicity but the names of both my parents.
It doesn’t bother me that the federal government knows who my parents are. Who cares. What I take exception to is the federal government collecting data on race/ethnicity at any point in a citizen’s life whether it be at birth or every decade when the U.S Census Bureau bombards our mailboxes.
Just a decade after Martin Luther King’s death, the programs that his “I have a Dream” speech inspired began to breakdown. *Bakke * and *Gratz v. Bollinger * combined with the recent Parents v. Seattle School District provided the final death knell to the spirit of programs aimed to specifically help blacks and other minorities.
An argument frequently used against these programs is that race isn’t a useful construct or that it doesn’t have scientific meaning. Also, opponents of these programs seem to embrace a view that we should live in a colorblind society where the best qualified person gets the job or opportunity without regard to race or ethnicity.
On the flip side, the federal government and, if you live in Michigan, Vital Statistics collect data on race that are routinely used by State legislatures to dilute the black, largely democratic vote by gerrymandering. The public nature of the data is also unsettling. There is nothing preventing businesses or individuals from using this data to solely determine the racial make-up of a locale, further contributing to the growing segregation problem in the United States. The U.S State and Federal governments report crimes using race without consent.
If we are living in a colorblind society, why should the federal government continue to collect and dispense data on what race? What specific need is there to record the race of a criminal and make that data public? This is a growing concern of mine. If we greatly attentuate programs that help minorities under the basis that race is irrelevant, then the government should cease collecting and disseminating information about race that are used to the social detriment of minorities.
So I guess my question is exactly the title. If race does not matter or exist, should the government collect and dessiminate data to public on race? If the answer is Yes, I’m curious as to whether it is possible to live in a “colorblind” where such system exists.