Testimony on a "multiracial" OMB category (x Interracial
Date: Fri, 25 Nov 1994 08:45:47 -0600
[Co-moderator's note: In a recent posting to H-Ethnic, Rudy Vecoli voiced his disappointment that scholars of migration and ethnicity had not participated vigorously in the ongoing debate over the revision of OMB 15, the directive which sets federal standards for the collection and reporting of data on race and ethnicity. This posting, and the one immediately following under the subject heading "Testimony on "Germanic" as OMB 15 category", are two examples of recent public testimony before two different
federal bodies. In this first posting, Romana Douglass, an officer in the Association of
MultiEthnic Americans, testifies before the House Subcommittee on the census. Thanks to
Richard Jensen for forwarding Romana Douglass's testimony.]
Issue: May/June 1994
Title: Ramona's Census Subcommittee Testimony
Author: Ramona Douglass
(In recognition of Ramona Douglass' ascendancy to the AMEA Presidency, we gladly reprint a
copy of her testimony before the House Subcommittee on the Census. Ramona's witness was a
part of an ongoing effort to compel the Census Bureau to establish a multiracial category for the
2000 Census. She and other representatives of the mixed-race community appeared before Rep.
Thomas C. Sawyer's (D-Ohio) Subcommittee on Census, Statistics & Postal Personnel that held
hearings last summer on "Government Measurement of Race & Ethnicity." Ramona's testimony is
reprinted by permission of Interracial/Intercultural Connection, the Chicago-based Biracial Family
Network's local newsletter, in which it was published.)
My name is Ramona E. Douglass. I am the current Vice President for the Central Region of the
Association of MultiEthnic Americans (AMEA), and the immediate Past President of Chicago's
Biracial Family Network. I am a multiracial adult child of an interracial marriage. My mother is a
Sicilian-American and my father is of Native American descent (Oglala), on his mother's side, and
of African-American descent on his father's side. Both my parents are retired, and are currently
living in Scauri, Italy. They have been married for forty-five years. I am forty-three years old, and
have been active in the Biracial Family Network since 1986. I have served on its Board of
Directors in the capacities of: Publicity Chair, Biracial Adult Chair, Vice President and most
recently, as its President. In 1988, AMEA was formed at a Charter Meeting held in Berkeley, CA.
The Biracial Family Network was one of fourteen charter member organizations in attendance. I
was elected AMEA's first Vice President, nationally, and later reelected in 1991 in the position I
now currently hold. I am totally committed emotionally, and politically, to the ever-expanding
multiracial/multicultural movement in this country. I believe it is the right of all individuals and
families of multiracial/multiethnic descent to have a separate category (on government
documents), which embodies their racial/ethnic background as a whole.
There are many critics, outside the multiracial/multicultural movement, who view our efforts as a
personal threat to their monoracial/monoethnic cultural pride and politics. They do not see me, or
others like me, as individuals whose lives are th sum total of our racial and ethnic diversity. They
have chosen instead, for their own reasons, to "cherry pick" those parts of our heritage which
suits either a particular need or bias, coming from their own personal agenda or history. I am who
I am, not because of how others label and perceive me, but because of how I label, live and
culturally affiliate myself. This is no to say that any of us are insensitive to the legitimate fears that
any given monoracial group may have regarding our push fo a separate category.
In a society which continues to cripple itself with racial obsession and rejection, it is
understandable that there might be some suspicion that our motivation to have a
multiracial/multiethnic category is masking a more deep-seated desire to disassociate ourselves
from those parts of our heritage that have been ill-favored, or depreciated by the stigma of racism.
I cannot speak for everyone in the interracial/multiethnic community, but I do know that AMEA
and its affiliated local chapters are committed to the protection and continued support of
programs that enhance/embrace both our own culturally diverse interests, and the interests of
other monoracial/monoethnic groups who have suffered discrimination in public education, health
care, housing and employment.
What we are asking is that we also be recognized for our unique identity, special circumstances, and the discrimination we have had to endure when randomly lumped with one monoracial/monoethnic group or another, depending on how we are perceived, where we are perceived, and by whom we are perceived.
The Loving v. Virginia Supreme Court decision of 1967 (which made miscegenation laws
unconstitutional) may have freed our parents to make their own choices for partners in love and
marriage, but it did nothing to eradicate the insidious distortions or myths about the offspring of
those unions. Contrary to popular opinion, we are not any more confused, stressed, or tragic in
demeanor, than the progeny of any monoracial/monoethnic union who are attempting to find their
own identity, and niche in a "color struck," racially polarize society. What we don't have, which is
no longer acceptable to the ever growing millions we represent, is an official acknowledgment of
our very existence. I can't be "white" in the state of Illinois because it deems the race of the
mother as the only reliable criteria for determining the "race" of the child, and at the same time be
"black" or Native American in another state which only acknowledges the race of the father, or
minority-designated parent. It's not logical, it's not real and, more importantly, it's not me. The
term "other" is also unacceptable, for it negates our claims to any part of the racial or ethnic
categories listed before it.
If America was living up to its ideals, which advocate equality for all, in the eyes of the law,
maybe racial classifications of any kind would be unnecessary, and we would simply acknowledge
people ethnically, as Americans first and foremost. But the ideal has yet to become the reality.
Those of us in the national, multicultural community firmly believe that "race" or "ethnic"
affiliation is a personal choice, and should not be in the public, political or governmental domain.
As long as it is, multiracial/multiethnic children have the right to be identified as just that:
Submitted by Ramona Douglass