Association of MultiEthnic Americans

AMEA Testimony Before House Subcommittee, January 29, 1999

Written and Oral Testimony of Levonne Gaddy
Founding President of Multiethnics Of Southern Arizona In Celebration (MOSAIC)
Before the Committee on Government Reform and Oversight of the U.S. House of Representatives

Phoenix, Arizona
January 29, 1999

Written Testimony:

Background

My name is Levonne Gaddy.  I am a professional Social Worker, an adjunct professor at Arizona State University School of Social Work (Tucson component) where I teach "Diversity and Oppression in the Social Work Context," and "Ethnic and Cultural Variables in Social Work."  I am a cofounder of Multiracial Americans of Southern California (MASC 1985) and Founding President of Multiethnics Of Southern Arizona In Celebration (MOSAIC since 1997).  In the role of Social Photo Documentarian, I have co-created a photo documentary exhibition containing seventeen (17) black and white photographs of multiracial and multiethnic individuals, couples and families along with accompanying text. The exhibition was designed to promote positive images of the multiracial and multiethnic population and to educate about the change in racial self identification, especially as it relates to multiracial individuals on Census 2000.  The exhibition began its tour in October 1998 at the University of Arizona (in Tucson) Rotunda Gallery.

Introduction

MOSAIC is a non-profit organization that was created in 1997 to address the social, cultural and educational interests of multiracial and multiethnic individuals, couples, families and groups.  MOSAIC is also interested in promoting and facilitating friendship between different ethnic and racial groups.  MOSAIC is an affiliate of the Association of MultiEthnic Americans (AMEA), a nationwide confederation of multiethnic/interracial groups representing thousands of people from all walks of life and includes individuals and families of various racial and ethnic origins and mixtures.  I as an individual citizen, nor MOSAIC or AMEA receive grants, hold contracts, sub- grants, or subcontracts with the Federal government.

OMB Statistical Directive 15 and Census 2000 Tabulation

I am a proud multiracial individual and embrace my African American, Native American and European heritages.  I celebrate the 1997 revision of the OMB Statistical Directive 15 allowing for the first time ever, people to select one or more racial categories to indicate multiple racial heritages on government forms.  This is a historical shift for people who identify with more than one racial heritage.  They will no longer be forced to falsely represent themselves by checking one category only.  However, the challenge still exists as to how the races chosen will be tabulated.  When the Census numbers are finally in, how will the multiracial community be represented to the traditional data collectors: a) healthcare professionals, b) national lawmakers, c) civil rights advocates, and now, our own multiracial community leadership?  Ramona Douglass, President of AMEA and Member of the Federal 2000 Census Advisory Committee states, "Whatever tabulation methods are chosen and instituted by the Executive Office of Management and Budget, we are committed to honoring existing civil rights protections and being accurately assessed for re-districting purposes over time."  Ms. Douglass further states, "Politics and science do not mesh well in determining what methods will best give us an accurate, complete and impartial Census.  We trust that those professionals who have been charged with its implementation have far greater knowledge than we do of what statistical methods are the most tried, true and up-to-date in resolving the non-response follow-up rate.  Any attempt by Congress to second-guess or circumvent the timely execution of a very tight Census time line will sabotage the process for everyone."  It seems to me, based on Ms. Douglass' statements, as well as the recent U.S. Supreme Court's decision banning statistical sampling, that a major component of improved coverage in the 2000 Census rests with answering the question: "What options are still open to the Census for rectifying the undercount and non-response follow-up rate?" I and MOSAIC membership fully support Ms. Douglass' position.

Local Strategies for Improving Participation and Accuracy of the Census Count

In a statement to AMEA membership on October 30, 1997, AMEA President Ramona Douglass stated, "It is imperative that we inform local, regional, and national representatives, educational/public school officials, and medical/healthcare professionals about the new OMB Directive 15." Carlos Fernandez, Coordinator for Law and Civil Rights for AMEA, in his May 1997 testimony before the Subcommittee on Government Management, Information and Technology of the U.S. House of Representatives stated, "Administrators of public schools across the United States are required to provide a racial/ethnic Census of their students to the federal government. In doing so, the public schools are required to adhere to the requirements of OMB Directive 15."  My concern is for how and when representatives, education officials, healthcare professionals, civil rights advocates and the multiracial community itself, will be educated about the OMB Directive 15 mandate that multiracial individuals be given the choice to self identify with more than one heritage on Census 2000 and other government forms by year 2003.  The desire of multiracial/multiethnic community leadership is that education begin immediately.  We desire that a substantial effort be made to inform citizens of the changes in racial self identification policy, the reasons for those changes and the benefits of responding to Census questionnaires.  This could be achieved by: 1. Advertisement focused towards representatives, education officials, healthcare professionals, civil rights advocates and the multiracial community itself on the need to be accurate in answering the race questions and how those answers will be used to benefit the community in schools, healthcare, employment, housing, etc. 2. Interracial families being portrayed in paid advertisements, posters and support materials, 3. Through consultation with local multiracial/multiethnic communities and organizations, positions be made available related to Census 2000 enrollment for people in our communities who are sensitive to the "check one or more" format and 4. Genuine partnership efforts between Census Bureau and multiracial community leadership.

Conclusion

The multiracial community's participation in Census 2000 concludes a history of covert and overt social oppression of the community in America. Social, political and physical invisibility are no longer acceptable options for multiracials.  To participate fully in Census 2000 is a statement from the community that it counts to be counted as interracial families and multiracial people.  We, in turn, ask for the commitment from our government of true collaboration with the multiracial/multiethnic community leadership, for a) jobs related to implementing Census 2000 and b) designated expenditures and follow-through to educate our community, government representatives, educators, healthcare professionals and civil rights advocates about the revised OMB Directive 15.

Oral Presentation:

Comedian and actor Steve Martin in the opening scene of a movie titled "The Jerk" stood amongst a large family of African American individuals and stated forlornly: "I was born a poor Black child." The contrast between the dark faces and Mr. Martin's whiteness, his obvious lack of rhythm, and the sheer ludicrousness of the scene evoked chuckles and laughter from audiences.

Well...the truth is that: in a small, segregated rural North Carolina town, I WAS born a poor Black child. Many times during my childhood and early adult years, people chuckled as I INSISTED that I was Black. That hurt!

As a youth, I was taught that race is a biological fact. Can you imagine the insanity of believing I was biologically Black and seeing in the mirror that I was White?

America's rigid racial categorizing system has harmed countless youth. I and millions others have been forced by our government to lie about our racial makeup. Multiracial people have a history of being denied, shamed, quieted. We have been America's secret.

I lived one third of my life, in a country where it was against the law for me to exist. The marriage of in the late 1800's of my grandparents - two people of different race - was an illegal union. How bad was the act of marrying someone of a race different than one's own?

The abolition of anti-interracial marriage laws in 1967 laid the foundation for multiracial individuals to legally exist. Thirty years after the Supreme Court ruling, for the first time in the history of this great nation, we multiracial people can finally be acknowledged by our government and have the opportunity to be truthful, by checking all the racial heritages that we identify with on a government form, on Census 2000.

The office of Management and Budget Directive 15 revision of 1997 mandates that multiracial people have the option to check one or more boxes when we racially self-identify. We are no longer forced to lie and the citizens of America can no longer lie to themselves about our existence.

Over the last twenty years, seventy to eighty grassroots, multiracial support organizations have sprung up across America. In her research, Cornell University Ph.D. candidate Kim Williams, has concluded that the multiracial movement in America may be the fastest growing social movement in America's history and may have accomplished more in a short time than any other.

It is my firm desire that the Directive 15 mandate be funded and that Americans will be educated about this change in racial identity policy. That multiracial Americans clearly understand how they can and why they should after centuries of oppression, express their racial truths.

I ask you to continue to move us forward from America's racial insanity towards truth and sanity by involving multiracials in every way possible in the Census 2000 response compaigns. Specifically, target the multiple check off respondents with a sustained national media message detailing the new policy. Involve leader of the community in training and sensitizing enumerators to the historical change. Engage multiracial leadership in local public relations campaigns, speaking engagements with schools and others impacted by the change. We in the multiracial community are a network of all races of people who are willing and committed to Census 2000 success.

I appreciate this opportunity to share my ideas with you and I, along with multiracial community's leadership, thank you for your willingness and commitment to partnering with us in this period of historic change.

I and the proud uncounted multiracial people of our country wish our fellow citizens to be as proud of us as we are of ourselves.

Thank you.