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Who is defining them?

You are. Phenotype is the only obvious set of characteristics of "race" and sex identification. These characteristics are visible. Mr Obama's complexion is not white. His "race" antecedents would be an uninteresting topic of discussion, except that (I) his campaign thransformed his "white mother from Kansas" and "black father from Kenya" into an epithet preceeding every PR placement released since his announcement; and (II) his conduct confuses some racists, because it does not conform to any "cultural" or pseudo-scientific stereotypes of race groups.

If phenotype cannot be observed with certainty (e.g. gender, disability, sexual habit), it becomes an unreliable political instrument by which to discriminate among groups and individuals for purposes of dispensing penalty or benefit. Individuals form groups to exercise political agency primarily to extract new or withheld "rights" from the state. "Leaders" typically enforce social cohesion within a group or nation-state by propagandizing and modeling stereotype rather than mobilizing legal and political tools and strategies to remove individuals who maintain discrimination of equal protection.

I would add that professional academics such as political scientists and sociologists increasingly perform the dubious service of articulating stereotype whenever they resort to statistically methodologies to describe the motives of individuals associated with a group. For persons who are ignorant of or cannot recall intimacy in their relations with "others," this service is indispensible to forming an opinion of "others," be they mixed, blind, deaf, trans, hetero, athiest and soforth.

In the US politicians enforce "race" identity primarily to justify fund distributions, which are politically motivated, of course. To do so the state demands assistance from individuals to self-report group identification. If an individual refuses to report, the state will report on his or her behalf. You want evidence?

Following is a comment I posted earlier:

I've been staring at a form which I received last week from the Montgomery County (MD, USA) Public Schools administration. In correspondence distributed at the end of the prior school term, the administration informed parents of forthcoming data collection. It did not give an explanation of the purposes of the census. The correspondence merely described how the form's elements are designed to capture greater variance in race and ethnicity designation.

To Parents/Guardians:
Complete and return this form to your student's school by September 2, 2008. Please complete Parts 1 and 2 by completely darkening the circle beside your answers using a #2 pencil or a black or blue pen.

The form itself "discriminates" responses. Each is identified by a numerical student ID, given name, and home address. So this data collection device, for statistical purposes, is not "blind", and one's personal ability to assert or to recover anonymnity within a central knowledge base, whose data may be distributed to third parties irrespective of permissions (cf. bio-ethics of "informed consent"), is void.

Directions: Part 1-Ethnicity Designation- Read the definition below and completely dareken the circle that indicates this student's heritage.

Is this student Hispanic or Latino? (Select one answer)
Persons of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race, are considered [by who?] Hispanic or Latino.

Directions: Part 2-Race Designation- Read the descriptions below and completely darken the circle or circles that indicate this student's race. You must select at least onerace, regardless of ethnicity designation. More than one response can be selected.

American Indian or Alaskan Native: A person having origins in any of the original peoples of North or South America (including Central America) and who maintains a tribal affiliation or community affiliation

Asian: A person having origins in any of the original peopples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent incuding Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippin Islands, Thailand, or Vietnam.

Black or African American: A person having origin in any of the black racial groups of Africa.

White: A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or South Africa. [?!]

Native Havaiian or Other Pacific Islande: A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, or other Pacific Islands.

"Other" is not a choice retained from the national census, 2000. In fact, respondents are required to certify by signature.

I verify the information on this form is accurate.

    [OR]

I refuse to re-identify the race and ethnicity of this student.

In the case Parent/Guardian refuses to "re-identify," a school employee will select designation(s) for the student.

FOR SCHOOL USE ONLY: I am the observer who completed this for [sic] due to parent/guardian refusal to re-identify.

Surely there are such instruments distributed in the UK, no?

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Sun Nov 9th, 2008 at 11:32:20 AM EST
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