Sitting around a table with attorneys from across the country, we took turns introducing ourselves after the first day of a D.C.-based convention. When our attention turned to an Asian American attorney I asked him where he came from.
“What do you mean? I’m American. I was born in America.” The conversations stalled for a beat while the disconnect became apparent. “No,” I retorted, “ I mean, what city do you come from. I work in Kansas City. The lady to your left works in Chicago.” He lamely answered Los Angeles.
But I definitely understood his defensiveness. As a child, when I asked my father where our family was “from,” I would get much the same response: “We’re American. That’s all you need to know.” This lawyer likely needed a higher GPA and test scores to gain admission to law school than his non-Asian fellow applicants because universities actively discriminate against his Asian ancestry. That’s not fair.
A person’s race should be irrelevant to virtually all interactions within society. Yet, before I received a COVID-19 vaccine, a health worker required me to fill out a form declaring my race. How is it that it’s both legal and socially acceptable to require a person seeking medical care to first declare a racial status?
What is the purpose of gathering racial statistics at practically every official interface? We’re asked to declare a race when we apply for college, when we seek a bank loan, job applications, and countless other thresholds. Why? Is it to prevent discrimination? To “help” the disadvantaged races? If that were true, then why don’t we require people to declare their sexual orientations, their religions, their disabilities? All of those characteristics are “protected” under the law and each suffered social disadvantage at one time or another. Yet we all seem to agree that any red-blooded American would bristle if a prospective employer demanded to know where you pray or whether you prefer sex with men or women.
The Asian American lawyer resented having to identify his race. My grandfather refused to identify the Eastern European country of his father’s origin. While some may wish to loudly proclaim their racial identity, should everyone be forced to “pick a team?”
For the Left, America is like a zoo full of exhibits. Integration, assimilation, and cultural mixing are forbidden in the way a zookeeper might insist that the Asian tigers not mix with the African lions. Yet, people are not animals to be kept in racially uniform boxes. Nowhere is the zookeeper mentality more prominently demonstrated than in the disgusting reactions flung at black conservatives. In the mind of the leftist, blacks have a defined ideological role to play. Nothing matches the vitriolic racism of the Left reacting to a black conservative.
It’s illegal to ask a job applicant if she’s pregnant. It’s likewise totally unacceptable to ask if somebody is gay, or Muslim, or handicapped. An employer claiming to need to know medical history to prevent discrimination would be laughed out of court. The whole purpose of asking about a person’s private identity is to perpetrate some form of discrimination, even if it’s out of a paternalistic desire to “help” them. It’s illegal to force “help” on a disabled person who hasn’t asked for help. And besides, government help should be based on the individual’s need, not race.
Asking about a person’s race should be illegal. Full stop. You shouldn’t be required to check the “other” box. You should not have to decline to answer. Unless the employer can articulate a legitimate business reason for needing to know an employee’s race, it’s none of his business. The mere act of repeatedly asking Americans their race encourages resentment and racial division. There are plenty of racially ambiguous people out there who are sick and tired of having to explain their family history just to go about their daily lives. Maybe your father is from India and your mother was a Polish immigrant. That’s private information and totally irrelevant to your skills and productivity as an employee.
We keep hearing that, “we need to have a conversation about race.” But how is that different from forcing people to talk about their private medical histories, their sexual preferences, or their religion? Those are private details. Nobody should ever be forced to discuss his race in the workplace, to apply for a loan, or to complete a class. A person with parents of different races should be allowed to keep the circumstances of his parentage private. Americans who immigrated from countries with ethnic prejudice and racial strife should not be forced to carry that baggage into their new lives in America.
Individual Americans, of course, are free to talk about race if they choose. But just as we have freedom of religion, we should protect the right to racial privacy. Asking for people’s race should be illegal. No American should be forced to use a hyphen if he or she does not want to.