Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Tanya Katerí Hernández's "Multiracials and Civil Rights"

Tanya Katerí Hernández is the Archibald R. Murray Professor of Law at Fordham University School of Law, where she co-directs the Center on Race, Law & Justice as its Head of Global and Comparative Law Programs and Initiatives.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Multiracials and Civil Rights: Mixed-Race Stories of Discrimination, and reported the following:
The Page 99 Test is like some numerical sorcery from a Jorge Luis Borges story, mythical and unfathomable yet accurate all at the same time. On page 99 of Multiracials and Civil Rights: Mixed-Race Stories of Discrimination, I describe how the U.S. government refused to add a “multiracial” category to its list of racial categories on the decennial census form in 1997, and instead started permitting respondents to select as many racial categories apply to their racial identity. The page then notes that the most zealous of multiracial category proponents were not satisfied by this government method of enumerating the population of racially mixed residents “because multiple box checking does not directly promote a distinct multiracial identity.” Page 99’s insight into the entire book though is revealed in the assessment that the significance of the census racial category debate:
extends beyond the actual decision of how mixed-race persons should be counted. What is most salient is how the struggles over the census racial categories have fostered a discourse of exalting personal racial identity and characterizing any incursions on expressions of personal identity as a civil rights issue in of itself absent any mixed-race specific material inequality.
The entire book is about interrogating the premise that mixed-race people have racial equality concerns that are not readily addressed by civil rights laws crafted with white versus black discrimination solely in mind. However, after examining the narratives of multiracial-identified persons bringing claims of racial discrimination across the contexts of employment, education, housing, public accommodations, and criminal justice, I found that at the core of each claim was the all too familiar binary of white versus non-white bias.

It turns out that apart from the distinction of articulating a multiracial personal identity, the stories of racial discrimination themselves are not unique and certainly not a cause for questioning the architecture of civil rights laws already under attack by those who are convinced that racial discrimination is no longer a concern that the government should be bothered with. Anti-discrimination law compels judges to concentrate on how claimants are treated rather than how they personally identify. The take away is that the public activism for cultural recognition of a multiracial identity is a misplaced import into the legal context because it obstructs the ability to understand the needs of multiracial victims of discrimination, whose disadvantage clearly flows from white versus non-white group-based racial hierarchies.
Learn more about Multiracials and Civil Rights at the NYU Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Racial Subordination in Latin America.

--Marshal Zeringue