MASC Did WHAT!
I have a lovely wood recognition plaque in my office given to me in 1995 from the Multiracial Americans of Southern California (MASC). It hangs right under a letter to Project RACE and the Association of Multi-Ethnic Americans also dated 1995 and signed by President Bill Clinton. We were known then as MASC, Project RACE, and AMEA. MASC apparently no longer advocates for the multiracial community, Project RACE does, and AMEA is defunct. A great deal has happened in the past 25 plus years. Not all of it is good.
I will forever defend the work of Project RACE (Reclassify All Children Equally), but most of you know the history of the multiracial movement, so I won’t go back over that now. Suffice it to say that different organizations went different ways, but we all—or at least it seemed—wanted some form of recognition for the term “multiracial.” We were making progress. AMEA fell apart. Hapas moved on. MAVIN couldn’t decide what it wanted to be and the founder disappeared. The academics saw a way to “get published or perish” and began publishing papers and books like crazy with or without actual facts. Podcasts popped up, Loving Day gained momentum, and even comics took their best shots at us. We somehow endured. Project RACE kept doing what we did in 1990 and advocated for a multiracial identifier on racial classifications. We won some; we lost some.
Now it’s 2016 and decisions must be made by 2017 for the 2020 census. It must be done quickly for many reasons, which is why OMB issued a 30 day notice instead of the usual 60+. One more chance to take our best shot.
Then a few weeks ago the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the government people who decide on race and ethnicity in this country published a notice in the Federal Register, that obscure publication that half-heartedly asks for public opinion, suggesting that John Q. Public let them know what they think of the proposed plans. They laid out (as best they could) these areas under consideration:
- Whether to continue to have one category for Hispanic origin and one for race, or one combined answer;
- Have a distinct new category for respondents of Middle Eastern or North African heritage (MENA);
- The description of the intended use of minimum reporting categories; and
- Terminology used for race and ethnicity classifications.
Look back at those areas of consideration. Number 1 has been on the table for years and it is already a done deal. Number 2 has been in contention since before the multiracial question even came up, but it’s become a messier MENA category than previously. I’m not sure what number 3 even means completely.
Then…BINGO! Number 4 gives us a chance to bring up terminology again.
Project RACE jumps on the terminology question, gathers our members and supporters, and starts our answers to the open comment period! We gain momentum and wait for other “multiracial groups” to join in. MASC. The MULTIRACIAL Americans of Southern California stuns us. They openly advocated for number 1, the Hispanic race/ethnicity question.
Thomas Lopez is the president of MASC. He strongly favors Hispanics becoming a race instead of an ethnicity on forms. There are many reasons for the combined question to be considered. There are still organized groups fighting for it and the MENA question. Lopez glosses over consideration 4 with this: “In a combined question format this would simply be another version of ‘Two or more races.’” This would have been the perfect place to advocate for multiracial wording—for an acceptable, respectful term for our children. What were Lopez and the board of directors of MASC thinking?! Apparently, they should change their name to:
The Hispanic and Two or More Races Americans of Southern California