Whatever the Motives, the Results Look Eerily Like Racism

I have been reading of late some histories of Germany in the 1930's, with a particular emphasis on racial laws and policy.   Over time the expanding bans on Jewish participation in the economy and society as well as preferences given to non-Jews for government jobs led to some practical problems, including:

  • What percentage of Jewish blood made one Jewish?  The Nazis messed around with this problem a long time, in part because of Hitler's absolute reluctance to get involved in such details.  Was it one grandparent?  Three grandparents?
  • How does one test for such things?  In the thirties, there was an boom in geneology research in Germany, as everyone raced around trying to figure out what evidence was sufficient to establish someone's race

It would be nice to think we put this kind of thing to bed, but here we are in the 21st century running around trying to answer the exact same questions

This story reminded me of the 1980s case of the twin red-haired Boston firefighters who claimed to be black, based on a photo of a great-grandmother and alleged oral history. While I remembered that they had gotten fired for their alleged fraud, I didn’t remember this detail:

Under current rules, said [general counsel to the state personnel office] Ms. Dale, candidates who say they are members of minority groups are judged by appearance, documented personal history and identification with a minority community. Disputes over claims of minority status are resolved by the Department of Personnel Administration.

 And indeed, there eventually was a two-day administrative hearing, in which the hearing officer determined that the twins failed all three criteria, and thus were not black. A judge upheld the ruling, finding that the twins had claimed minority status in bad faith.I have to admit being under the impression until now that as a legal matter, minority status was an in issue of self-reporting. But at least in the Massachusetts Civil Service system, one can get fired for “racial fraud.”

  • Every year, in the name of some sort of racial harmony, I have to sit down and report to the government on the race of each of my employees.  For 364 days a year I can ignore the race of my employees, but one day a year the government makes me wallow in it.  Here are part of the instructions:

Self-identification is the preferred method of identifying the race and ethnic information necessary for the EEO-1 report. Employers are required to attempt to allow employees to use self-identification to complete the EEO-1 report. If an employee declines to self-identify, employment records or observer identification may be used.

Where records are maintained, it is recommended that they be kept separately from the employees basic personnel file or other records available to those responsible for personnel decisions.

Race and ethnic designations as used by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission do not denote scientific definitions of anthropological origins.

I am told we are trying to create a society free of racism, but the results sure look a lot like racism to me.


  1. a_random_guy:

    As Jerry Pournelle has repeated written in his Chaos Manor blog:

    - Fifty years ago, if you wanted to be color-blind and treat everyone the same, you were considered a hopeless liberal.

    - Today, if you want to be color-blind and treat everyone the same, you are considered a right-wing racist.

    You have it exactly right: the government forces us to be aware of race. This is not accidental; it is the foundation of an entire entitlement industry. If we treated people equally regardless of their race, the entire entitlement industry would go away. You would want to be responsible for unemployed bureaucrats, would you? Have a heart!

  2. Esox Lucius:

    I always lie on those government forms. I say I am pacific Islander or inuit. I believe if you are going to ask a stupid question you should be prepared to get a stupid answer. My banker just about choked when he asked me to fill out one of them for a loan application. Apparently the bank examiners take special interest in that stuff. Bankers are told they can't edit the forms that the loan applicants make. So I said I was native american and the guy went apoplectic. It was a lot of fun to watch.

  3. marco73:

    We're all mutts.
    Unless you are some sort of European Royal, and just look at all the fooling around those people did, there is no reliable way to go back more than maybe 5 generations. At 5 generations, you have over 100 direct ancestors.
    How many of us can reliably state the complete racial makeup of all 64 of our great-great-great grandparents?

  4. Mr Bob:

    marco73, how racist to say that we all have 64 great-great-great-grandparents. I'm from alabama and I have only 23 great-great-great grandparents.

  5. Brian:

    I don't run a business so I don't have to worry about any of this. But when I got my census form last year, where it asked for race I marked "Other" and wrote in "human".

  6. LTMG:

    The start of prejudice of any stripe is the desire to put labels on people. Are labels generally necessary? I think generally not. There might be specific exceptions, but every one I consider can earn arguments against it.

    What labels might be desirable? Maybe hard-working, honest, ethical, reliable, and similar.

  7. Don:

    With Native American blood, it becomes more complicated still, because each Tribe sets it's own rules. My grandfather was adopted off of an Oklahoma reservation (no idea which one), so my father was technically Native American (although he didn't self identify that way). HOWEVER, I cannot claim that status even if I do the research because was adopted at birth an under the both the Creek and Cherokee rules, you must be able to trace your blood back to the Dawes Rolls.

    Oh well, saves the me the time of becoming interested in genealogy ;^).

    If I understand correctly, if he'd come from the Sioux or Blackfoot nations, adaption at birth (like myself) counts.

    Not one bureaucracy, but two, oh joy!

  8. matt:


    I have considered marking other and writing in "human".

    I think it would be funny to get a few thousand people together for the next census to mark other and write in "martian".

  9. DoctorT:

    I used to work at a VA hospital in Memphis. Human Resources based much of its hiring on filling quotas. An African-American, Muslim woman with a handicap was the most desired applicant because she was a four-fer.

  10. Smock Puppet, 10th Dan Snark Master:

    >>>> What labels might be desirable? Maybe hard-working, honest, ethical, reliable, and similar.

    ..... (wait for it)....


  11. Smock Puppet, 10th Dan Snark Master:

    >>> I think it would be funny to get a few thousand people together for the next census to mark other and write in “martian”.

    The heck with that, I'm SURE you could get a few thousand people to mark down "Klingon".

    Isn't there some law about "lying" on the census form, though?

  12. Hunt Johnsen:

    My wife and I both filled in that census blank "American". So far so good, but yeah, it's part of the divide and conquer strategy being used by the feds.

  13. Matt:

    Smock Puppet,

    I just looked it up. Lying on the census form could net a $500 fine. However, it is rarely enforced and even if it is, if we could get a large enoug group together it might be worth it just to muck with them.

  14. Benjamin Cole:

    Time to drop race from all government decisions.

  15. Ian Random:

    Funny how the only two groups that care about race are liberals and bigots.