PROJECT RACE UPDATE – April, 2018
I have been asked some questions about Project RACE recently, so an update is in order. I have chosen to do this in a question and answer format. Please feel free to send your comments to me at SusanGraham@projectrace.com
Q. Why doesn’t Project RACE use the terms “mixed” or “mulatto”?
A. The term “mulatto” is outdated and offensive; the literal meaning is small mule. We don’t like to use “mixed” because it is the opposite of “pure,” and we don’t want to go there. Also, “mixed” lends itself to “mixed up,” “mixed nuts,” etc. We’ve all seen those headlines. Project RACE advocates for multiracial and biracial because they are respectable, properly descriptive terms. We applaud organizations like the Brookings Institute and Pew Research for using the term “multiracial.”
Q. It’s acceptable to use the term “mixed race” or “mixed” in the UK, so why not here?
A. This is an easy one. This is the United States, not England. It reminds me of a discussion I had with a group of writers who were coming up with company writing guidelines. The subject came up of how to use a period or comma with quotation marks. I stated that in the US, periods and commas go inside of the quotation marks. Someone said, “But in the UK, they go outside!” I said, “That’s absolutely true, but you are writing for an American audience.” Case closed.
Q. What is going on at the federal level?
A. Things are in a holding pattern since the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) opted to keep things as they are on the Standards for the Classification of Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity, which is sometimes referred to as the Standard for Maintaining, Collecting, and Presenting Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity. It is not called “Directive 15.” The Census Bureau has made their recommendations to Congress.
Q. What is the “citizenship” question and why should we be concerned about it?
A. The current administration has decided that everyone who gets a census questionnaire should be asked if they are a United States citizen. Project RACE is against this because adding a citizenship question could result in reduced response rates and inaccurate answers on the 2020 Census, according the experts and demographers, including several former directors of the census. We can assume that a sizeable number of immigrants and other people who are multiracial will not answer the census because of the question. This could reduce the numbers of the multiracial population and other minority groups. In other words, the push to add the question will likely risk a significant undercount of immigrant, minority (including multiracial), and low-income populations.
Q. Is it true that the recommendation to make Hispanic people a race has been turned down?
A. Yes. People can choose to be Hispanic as an ethnicity, but not a race. They can choose to be a race or races from white, black, Asian/Pacific Islander, Native American/Alaska Native, or “some other race.” You can check as many races as you want.
Q. Is Project RACE in favor of a Hispanic racial category and a MENA (Middle Eastern North African) classification?
A. Yes, Project RACE has made the Census Bureau and OMB very aware of our favoring both of these categories.
Q. A group called MASC is recommending that people contact their congressional representatives in the House of Representatives. What’s that about and is Project RACE also recommending this?
A. MASC (Multiracial Americans of Southern California) and Project RACE (Reclassify All Children Equally) are two very distinctly different organizations. MASC is a local, Southern California group and Project RACE is a national organization with representation in 48 states. We at Project RACE do not agree with the apparent “Urgent Call to Action” by MASC to make changes to Directive 15, which has not existed for the past 20 years (see above).
The deadline for comments has passed. Congressional representatives are unlikely to make any change in the Hispanic question, which is what MASC is going after, because of any local multiracial group. If any change is made, it will be because of lobbying by the national Hispanic and Latino organizations, like MALDEF and UnidosUS (formerly the Council of La Raza), which is as it should be. Cutting and pasting canned phrases to OMB or Congressional Representatives is an ineffective action for this type of situation.
MASC has also suddenly stated that (surprise!) the Census Bureau does not make public policy. That should not be a surprise to anyone who has done any work in this area. However, the Census Bureau is responsible for national testing of census questions as well as recommendations on wording, which Project RACE has been involved with since 1990. They may not set public policy, but they do influence it.
Q. Are Project RACE and MASC at odds?
A. MASC has publicly called Project RACE ineffective and something about being an organization that only holds a public party once a year.
Project RACE is the national advocacy organization for the multiracial community. Our primary focus is advocacy and public policy change. We work for the multiracial population in Washington, DC and in 48 states. We work with national diversity personnel at national corporations and organizations to utilize appropriate terminology for the multiracial community. We don’t just blow our own horn, we work very hard to let the community know what is going on with others communities as they relate to ours, in other words, we get the word out via our blog, emailings, our web site, social media, etc. We promote and coordinate bone marrow donor drives. We hold national Multiracial Heritage Week every year from June 7 to 14 to honor the multiracial community. Yes, people are welcome to participate with parties or in any other positive way.
MASC is mostly a social organization for a limited area of the multiracial community. There is a definite need for social organizations and we commend them for what they provide. We appreciate their work. We communicate and work with local multiracial organizations around the country and have no idea why the Board of MASC has chosen to become so hostile towards our work and our community. Their hostility does not influence our work in any way.
Q. Shouldn’t all organizations or groups that represent a community all be in agreement?
A. No. Historically, we can look at the NAACP and Urban League, both of which represented the black community although they did not agree on many issues. MALDEF and UnidosUS do not always agree. The two national Portuguese organizations have different policy statements. There are many more examples. Although we all represent communities, we all primarily represent our members.
Q. Is Project RACE an organization for academics?
A. No, our membership exists primarily of multiracial adults, parents and grandparents of multiracial children, and multiracial teens. We do have academics on our advisory board and fully cooperate and communicate with the fine academics who do important work on behalf of the multiracial community.
Q. Is Project RACE doing some kind of partnership with the U.S. Census Bureau?
A. The Census Bureau has formally asked Project RACE to be their partner in the national 2020 Decennial Census program and we have accepted the invitation. What this means is that we will help people understand the importance of filling out the census questionnaire and to check as many races as they want. The goal is to get as many multiracial people as possible to be active in the 2020 Census.
Q. Does Project RACE charge membership fees?
A. Project RACE never charges fees, as do some other multiracial organizations. We are an all-volunteer organization, unlike some others. We feel that anyone anywhere who wants to be a member of Project RACE should be able to, regardless of location or ability to pay. However, we do welcome donations, which are tax-deductible, since we are a 501(c)(3) corporation!