June 97 Letter to Cong.Petri

June 18, 1997

BY E-MAIL: tompetri@hr.house.gov

Hon. Tom Petri
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington DC

    Re: HR 830

Dear Cong. Petri:

     My name is Carlos A. Fernandez.  I have been asked to send this letter by Ramona Douglass, President of the Association of MultiEthnic Americans, Inc. (AMEA) on behalf of our organization.

     By way of introduction, I am the founding president of AMEA, the first nationwide multiracial, multiethnic organization in the U.S.  I currently serve on AMEA's Board of Directors as the organization's Coordinator for Law and Civil Rights.  I am also a Professor of Law at Golden Gate University's School of Law in San Francisco, California where this past Spring I taught "Multiracial, Multiethnic People: The Law and Society", the first, and thus far, the only course dealing with the law as it affects multiracial/multiethnic people.  I am also a co-author of  The Multiracial Experience (ed.Maria Root, Sage 1996), contributing the chapter "Government Classification of Multiracial/Multiethnic People".  I also drafted and personally presented AMEA's testimony to the House Subcommittee on Census, Statistics and Postal Personnel in June of 1993.

     I want first of all to commend you for your effort to acknowledge the growing multiracial/ethnic community in the U.S. as demonstrated by your introduction of HR 830. The acknowledgment of our community by all agencies of government has been a concern of AMEA since it's inception.

     HOWEVER...AMEA is deeply concerned about HR 830 as it is currently written. We will, regretfully, have to oppose the bill UNLESS and until it is amended to include some form of multiple check-offs.

     AMEA and the great majority of its allied organizations have always supported a multiracial/multiethnic category WITH multiple check-offs.  This was in fact the unanimous decision of the 3rd Multiracial Community Leadership Conference which AMEA hosted two weeks ago in Oakland, California.

     We are adamantly opposed to the idea of a stand-alone multiracial/multiethnic category. Briefly, here's why:

    (1) A stand-alone category DOES NOTHING to challenge the infamous, and in my opinion, unconstitutional, "one-drop rule" which is at the core of this country's failure to recognize multiracial/ethnic people.  We cannot support a proposal that would continue this baggage of the past.

    (2) We share the view of Congressman Tom Sawyer that a stand-alone category poses a possible threat to the legitimate interests of the various minority communities in the U.S., and thereby to the interests of the individuals in our community who are also members of these various communities.  Only the inclusion of multiple check-offs averts any possible adverse affects, and not incidentally, does not unnecessarily alienate people of goodwill in the civil rights community whose backing for any proposal to count multiracial/ethnic people we believe is essential if it is to gain bipartisan support and have any reasonable chance of succeeding.

    (3) Only multiple check-offs safeguard the interests of our community with respect to health statistics.  It is EMINENTLY RELEVANT to have information on the particular ethnic ancestry of individuals in our community.  A stand-alone multiracial category ignores this vital concern.

    (4) Demographers, both private and governmental, agree with us that the only way to ensure the continuity and integrity of racial and ethnic statistics is to provide multiple check- offs such that any numbers "lost" to the multiracial/ethnic category can be accounted for.

    (5) A stand-alone category is the equivalent of an "other" category.  Our community comprises diverse ethnic mixtures. Multiracial/ethnic people are as proud of their parentage and ancestry as they are of their particular identity as multiracial/ethnic people.  We do not wish to deny our connections to our parents' communities any more than we wish to be ignored in our own right.

     I should reiterate here that we DO SUPPORT a multiracial/ethnic classification.  Our position is simply that it MUST BE accompanied by an allowance for multiple check-offs.

     I have read your testimony before the House Subcommittee on Government Management, Information and Technology.  You expressed concern that multiple check-offs would result in an overall count exceeding 100%.  This is a fundamental misunderstanding of the model we have conceived.  A format of multiple check-offs TOGETHER WITH a multiracial/ethnic category meets this concern.  Our model only provides greater detail, not an overcount of individuals.  Demographers we have consulted are in agreement with us.  So is the Canadian government census which currently provides for multiple check-offs.  It is doable, and we maintain, ESSENTIAL.

     We would like to have the opportunity to demonstrate this to you.  As a start, I am attaching AMEA's model to reform OMB Statistical Directive 15 which I presented to the House Subcommittee on Census, Statistics and Postal Personnel in June of 1993, (revised in August, 1995).

     Once again, let me express my appreciation for your interest in our community.
We would like nothing better than to throw our wholehearted support behind your bill.
We hope that you will seriously consider our position as I have presented it here.
We standby to be of any further assistance to you.


            Carlos A. Fernandez

            Coordinator for Law and Civil Rights,
            Association of MultiEthnic Americans

cc: Hon.Thomas Sawyer
     Hon. Steve Horn
     Hon. Newt Gingrich
     Hon. Maxine Waters
     Hon. Xavier Becerra
     Hon. Patsy Mink
     Hon. Ben Nighthorse Campbell