Wednesday, September 16, 2009

End Census Racial and Ethnic Categories

To start, consider a bit of statistical 'analysis', by way of reference:

Mexico has a per capita gdp/ppp of 13,500 a year and the Chinese speaking world is about $7500 a year. As we know from statistics there is a clear and undeniable relationship between income and IQ. Therefore, either Mexicans work harder, or are innately smarter.


Of course few people would believe this in the United States today. In our corner of the world, our sample bias, Chinese-Americans make about twice what Mexican-Americans do. So we bring another set of stereotypes to the table. But from our worldwide income figures it might seem that ethnicity is masking class issues related to immigration patterns particular to the United States.

Critics of the bracketed analysis would point out the huge poverty in mainland China, the geographic problems in raising that population out of poverty, the legacy of imperialism , Mexico's proximity to the U.S, the weakness in IQ as a measure of innate anything. In short, people would point at other factors that complicate said analysis.

Unfortunately, we cannot do that when it comes to analyzing our own population.

Such is the intellectual weakness of our continuing obsession with ethnic categorization in an increasingly multi-layered American society. It is silly on one level, but deeply dangerous on another. From a left perspective, it deeply undermines working class solidarity. Go to any Cal campus in the Fall and see how many ethnic-oriented tables and student organizations there are versus labor organizations. Politically speaking for the United States in 2010, it's a complete dead end.

Second, it promotes racial antagonism and and the 'science' of ethnic differences in intelligence. This undercurrent exists in mainstream educational circles - again, based on our statistical reporting of issues solely along ethnic lines. And based upon a misunderstanding of how sample bias can skew perception.

Third, it is inaccurate and unscientific, which erodes logic and rationality in our broader discourse.

We cling to this way of viewing American society because it worked - 40 year ago - when there was little immigration and less flux in the statistical inputs of our society. The US today is characterized by multiple level of immigration - skilled , unskilled, from multiple areas of the world, and by ethnic mixing domestically on a scale rarely seen in human history. This tapestry is being thrust into an archaic and brittle system of categorization despite in many cases deep differences in class, culture and educational background. And behind it are political voices who like this way of breaking up society by skin color - most importantly the wealthy who of course are deeply in love with the idea of fracturing working class solidarity.

Time for a new model, most especially on the Left.

The most obvious example of this is Obama. He is, of course Black but from a middle to upper class background - attending one of the most elite private high schools in the U.S. -and from a father who was in the political elite of Kenya, a highly educated and a smart guy himself.

Can Obama's success really tell us anything about the conditions and opportunity for a descendant from slavery who grows up in Detroit ? I don't think so.