House Subcommittee Hearing Re: OMB 15 7/25/97

AMEA Presents Testimony About Interagency Committee Recommendations to House Subcommittee
Civil Rights Figures Surprise Turnaround!

July 25, 1997 - The Association of MultiEthnic Americans presented its testimony on the recent recommendations of the Interagency Committee for the Review of the Racial and Ethnic Standards at a hearing of the Subcommittee on Government Management, Information and Technology today.  Carlos Fernandez, AMEA's Coordinator for Law and Civil Rights, told the Subcommittee that AMEA supports the recommendation that multiple checkoffs be permitted in a revised OMB Statistical Directive 15 and regards this as a major breakthrough for the multiracial/ethnic community in gaining governmental recognition.

     Mr.Fernandez also conveyed to the Subcommittee AMEA's concern that the new Directive 15 must ensure a full and accurate tabulation of individuals returning multiple responses, that Hispanic-nonHispanic individuals must also be covered by the multiple checkoffs rule, and that the new directive must not include a prohibition against the use of a multiracial/ethnic classification by any agency of government.

(Link here to the full text of the testimony)

     Also testifying at the hearing was Congressman Thomas Sawyer (D-Ohio) who expressed his support for the Interagency Committee's recommendations as well.  He also stated his continuing opposition to a new stand-alone multiracial classification such as that which has been proposed by Republican Thomas Petri as HR 830. Congressman Sawyer is the former chairman of the previous House subcommittee which oversaw the Census and was responsible for convening the first hearing on this issue of governmental recognition of multiracial/ethnic people back in June of 1993 at which AMEA testified at his request.

(Link here to AMEA's testimony in June, 1993)

     Congressman Thomas Petri (R-Wisconsin) followed Congressman Sawyer and surprised everyone by stating his willingness to back the Interagency Committee's recommendations.

     But the greater surprise came as members of the Black Congressional Caucus, John Conyers (D-Michigan) and Maxine Waters (D-California), and Harold McDougall of the NAACP announced, one by one, their own support for the Interagency Committee's recommendations for multiple checkoffs.  Their expressions of support heralded a major change in the stance of the traditional civil rights movement's position against recognizing multiracial people, a change that was due in no small part to the years of effort of AMEA to win their support.  They all also denounced the notion of a stand-alone multiracial category as potentially threatening to civil rights enforcement and monitoring.

     Others who testified included Sally Katzen of the OMB and Isabelle Pinzler of the Justice Department.

     Ms. Katzen spoke about the necessity of working out the practical details required in implementing an OMB Directive 15 with multiple checkoffs, but she also said that it was doable.  She was asked by Mr.Fernandez about the matter of including Hispanic-nonHispanic individuals in the multiple checkoffs scheme which the Interagency Committee's recommendations had been vague about, referring only to "racial" categories.  She said that she believed this could be "worked out" and left the impression that it was OMB's intent to cover Hispanic-nonHispanic individuals under the new OMB Directive 15.  Currently, Hispanics are treated as both a "race" and an "ethnicity" in two interchangeable formats.

     Ms.Pinzler who is an Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights in the federal Department of Justice stated her opinion that the multiple checkoffs recommendation of the Interagency Committee presents no problem in the monitoring and enforcement of civil rights laws.

     House Speaker Newt Gingrich had been scheduled to testify, but did not, apparently due to his presence at another hearing.

     The hearing received coverage by most of the major media and was carried live on C-Span.