The United States' government's need to count by race has a long, sometimes sinister, yet often comic history. Affirmative action was invented to help blacks, but the concept has since been stretched to cover other minorities and one majority (women). Roughly 70% of the population now qualifies for affirmative action. And several billion foreigners are potential beneficiaries. Despite the financial importance of ethnicity, government bodies have made only whimsical attempts to rationalize their racial definitions. The result is endless amusement for connoisseurs of bureaucratic befuddlement:
Quotas for Immigrants. Since employers can count immigrants, no matter how new, toward meeting their government-mandated racial "goals," affirmative action encourages immigration, legal and otherwise, from most countries outside Northern Europe. (How this helps blacks remains obscure.)
Who is Hispanic? The official but vague U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) definition is: "All persons of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central or South American, or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race." State and local bureaucracies have concocted more specific guidelines. For example, "Hispanic-surnamed" is popular, although blatantly sexist. A red-haired friend of mine qualifies because his father was Mexican, though his mother was Icelandic. Why should the government care which parent was which?
Another Spanish-surnamed friend of mine looks highly Irish. His name comes from a sailor in the Spanish Armada of 1588 who was shipwrecked on the coast of Ireland and taken in by his fellow Catholics. In high school, he was besieged by letters from prestigious universities imploring him and his Spanish-surname to apply for admission.
A competing definition is "someone who grew up in a Spanish speaking household or was born in a Spanish-speaking country." This favours recent immigrants over longer-resident, English-speaking Hispanic families. It also discourages families from teaching their kids English. It would also include such Spaniards as
His Serene Majesty King Juan Carlos, former NATO boss Javier Solano, Olympic supremo Juan-Antonio Samaranch and opera god Placido Domingo, none of whom seems to have suffered much from discrimination. And, finally, this rule means that Teutonic-looking immigrants from Paraguay named Klaus who don't like to talk about what their fathers were doing from 1933 to 1945 are eligible for affirmative action.
In practice, just about anybody with an imaginative lawyer has a fighting chance to be Hispanic. For example, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission awarded a sizable tax break after conceding that a radio station buyer, a Polish-born man named Liberman, was Hispanic. (Some of Senor Liberman's ancestors were Sephardic Jews expelled from Spain in 1492.) In the notorious Wedtech minority set-aside scandal during the Reagan administration, the central crook, John Mariotta, was of Italian descent and surname and was born in New York. Since his parents were born in Puerto Rico, however, his firm qualified for massive noncompetitive government contracts.
Joe Stalin, Minority. Despite their rapid progress, Asians are still favoured by some hiring programs. However, since Asia sprawls from the Bering Sea to the Suez Canal, a remarkable variety of people are either currently covered or could logically demand to be classified as Asian. The EEOC lumps together East Asians with Pakistanis and Indians, despite the fact almost all Indians are Caucasians. It seems doubtful that bureaucracies that consider Indian Caucasians as Asians can long resist granting favoured Asian status to all Asians, including our rapidly growing Middle Eastern population. For example, the city of Pasadena, Calif., has extended affirmative action in hiring to Armenians.
Q. Which celebrities are of Asian extraction: consumer advocate Ralph Nader, Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, M*A*S*H cast member Jamie Farr, the late Queen frontman Freddie Mercury, former White House chief of staff John Sununu, quarterback Doug Flutie, Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein or former Soviet foreign minister Eduard Shevardnadze?
A. All of them.
Racial Purity. A blue-eyed contractor named Jon McGrath has obtained $19-million (U.S.) in municipal works minority subcontracts for being 1/64th Cherokee. As part of her Senate campaign, Hillary Clinton announced she is 1/128th black. (I have not heard her comment on whether this qualifies her for affirmative action. By the way, this followed her earlier claim, based on a rather novel Talmudic interpretation, that because her grandmother's stepfather was Jewish, therefore she is Jewish. I look forward to the First Lady revealing in a speech to the Andaman Islander Democratic Club of Queens that she is a pygmy negrito.) A recent genetic study of whites in three U.S. cities found the average proportion of black ancestry ranges between 0.5% and 1.1%. This suggests that something like a fifth of the U.S. white population has at least one black ancestor.
The Ultimate Loophole. According to the EEOC, you can belong to any protected minority with which you "identify." Since most people identify with their self-interests, anybody can plausibly claim to sincerely identify with anything. The Corsican Buonaparte, the Austrian Hitler and the Georgian Stalin, for example, had little trouble identifying with the French, Germans, and Russians (respectively) when circumstances required.
Steve Sailer (www.iSteve.com) is the president of the Human Biodiversity Institute.