Michael Omi on Racial Classification, Colorblindness, and the Instability of Race


June 06, 2018

Michael Omi, an associate professor of Asian American and Asian Diaspora Studies, presents a June 6 talk on "Racial Classification, Colorblindness, and the Instability of Race."


Michael Omi: I wanted to start out with a just a brief two-minute clip here. Let me preface this. This is kind of the light-hearted part to some degree since I wanted to do something to tie in with the NBA Finals since we have the Warriors-Cavs game today. One of the commentators who is in town to discuss some of the NBA Finals is Isaiah Thomas who is the older Isaiah Thomas. There's a younger Isaiah Thomas as well. Isaiah Thomas is a basketball Hall of Famer. He's also been an NBA coach as well as a college coach as well.

This is a clip that actually a colleague showed me. I wanted to start with this because what we're going to have is a kind of discussion about race as a social construct, and the backdrop for this is that Isaiah Thomas was giving this panel on with Shaquille O'Neal, some others, and it was about Black History Month. I'm just going to run this really brief segment of this. Thanks, Phuong.

Isaiah Thomas: ... because he makes a statement that it's a racist country, right? In order for this to be a racist country, you have to believe in the social construct of race. Race is not a biological consequence. It's not biological. It's social and cultural, and Gregg Popovich and Red Auerbach as men did not buy into the construct of race. They looked at all of us as human beings and when we deal from a human standpoint, not from a racial standpoint but just from a human standpoint, then we are all equal. There's no black. There's no white. Race is a social construct. It's not biological. W.E.B. Du Bois who was a historian, race is a social construct.

Michael Omi [inaudible 00:02:09] UC Berkeley who wrote the book Racial Formation in the USA said race is a social construct. For those who choose not to opt into the construct of the social norms of America that we live in, right? If you choose not to participate in the construct, then you have the choice to view and treat each other as human beings. That's what Red and Pop are talking about. That's what they're doing. They're looking at all of us as human beings not through the lens of race. You have a choice because it is a construct in America. It's not biological.

Michael Omi: You can stop right there. Thank you. I have to show you that because that's probably the first and last time I ever get a shout out from an NBA Hall of Fame basketball player. In fact, Isaiah Thomas starts this discussion. What I want to do this afternoon is really to talk to you about our systems of racial classification that we employ and the political consequences of them. The very act of sort of defining racial groups is a process which is really fraught with a lot of confusion, a lot of contradiction, and a lot of unintended consequences as well. It's important for us to realize that government definitions of race have varied widely across time and space. There was a time in America, for instance, when it was possible to change one's race simply by crossing state lines.

Persons, for example, were defined as black if they were 1/16 African descent in Kentucky, of 1/8 African descent in Florida, Indiana, Nebraska, North Dakota among other states, and 1/4 African descent in Oregon. We had this peculiar situation where there was a time where individuals could be black in one state and, in fact, white in another and change race by crossing state lines.

Along with this, along with these state-based definitions, we have historical shifts in scientific knowledge in fields ranging from physical anthropology to the genomic sciences that fueled debates about what race may or may not mean as an indicator of human variation. The approach I'm taking here is this notion of racial formation. Essentially, racial formation has this emphasis on the social construction of race and is really about the historical process, if you will, of how races are made, race making, and their impact throughout this social order.

Race making is fundamentally a process of othering defining and categorizing people as other. I should say, of course, that defining groups, people as other's obviously not restricted to distinctions based on race. We have gender, class, sexuality, religion, culture, language, nationality even age among other perceived differences are frequently evoked to justify structures of inequality to lead to differential treatment, subordinate, status, and, in some cases, violent war and conflict.

Classifying people by different perceived attributes is really a universal phenomena. As social beings, we kind of utilize social categories in order to navigate our world and discern who may be friend or foe and provide clues to guide our interactions with the people we meet and the groups we encounter, but as I said, I want to emphasize again that this act of defining racial groups is really this process that's fraught with a lot of confusion and contradiction and unintended consequences.

Now, this is particularly true. Let me start with state-based definitions of race. State-based racial classifications are never stable and are subject to challenges by individuals and groups who contest existing identities, make claims for the recognition of new identities and argue for ways to achieve much more alignment between the ways individuals and groups see themselves and the ways in which state agencies may classify them.

My interest in state definitions of race was really inspired by this court case that was in the 1980s. This was the case of Susie Guillory Phipps in the state of Louisiana. It's a kind of really interesting case, if you will. Case really arose during the late 1970s when Miss Phipps who was in her 40s was going to leave the country for the first time. She needed a passport. She never in her life had a passport. What do we require for a passport? It required birth certificate.

She goes to the Louisiana Bureau of Vital Records. Quite to her surprise, she gets reissued a birth certificate which describes her race as black even though Miss Phipps has always thought of herself as being white. What happened in the subsequent court case too was that she fell into this category in 1970 the state of Louisiana passed the law that said anybody with more than 1/32 black blood had to be legally classified as black in the state of Louisiana. According to the state's genealogical investigation, Miss Phipps was 3/32 black. I'm not quite sure how they got that, but it involved going over these records of her family which resided in the Lake Charles region in Louisiana and to make this thing.

This case actually goes all the way to the Louisiana State Supreme Court which rules in favor of the state being able to define how they want to classify racially-classified people. It then goes to the US Supreme Court which refuses to hear it; thereby, letting the Louisiana State Court ruling remain in effect. We could talk about this later. Louisiana had to change that into a system of self-reported race, but at the time in the 1980s, this was the law.

Now, this gets out this social construction of race and the political construction of race in that this category more than 1/32 has been utilized in the state of Louisiana to define who is a black example. Really, the determination of racial categories and racial identity has been no simple task. Over the past several centuries in this country, it's provided numerous debates about natural and legal rights about who could become a citizen of the United States and indeed who could marry whom.

The examples would be that it wasn't until 1950 through the McCarran Walter Act, the General Immigration and Security Act, that the United States finally recognized that race couldn't be used as a reason to deny a person from becoming a naturalized citizens of the United States. That had certainly affected at that point in time mainly Asians. They were like Japanese-Americans such as my grandparents could not become naturalized citizens of the United States till after 1952.

Most of you are familiar with the 1967 Loving versus State of Virginia decision which declared that the anti-miscegenation laws, the laws in many states that prohibited the issuance of a marriage license between a white person and non-white person, were unconstitutional. 1967 isn't that long ago. Well, it might be even more scarier for you to note is that Alabama had their interracial marriage ban on the books if not enforceable. It was not repealed until the year 2000. I'm sure that's kind of in many of your lifetimes.

I should say as an aside in a statewide vote in Louisiana, 41% of the voters wanted to maintain the interracial ban. In fact, it did not pass with overwhelming support in the state of Louisiana. Now, where a lot of the state definitions can be clearly seen is through the census and racial and ethnic categories in the United States have historically been shaped by the political and social agendas of particular times which you might be curious to notice that there's almost been no two censuses in which the racial and ethnic categories are the questions we ask have been the same.

It's hard to see, I know, is the racial terms used in the census throughout the 20th century. It might be surprising to note that there's only been three consistent racial labels. Those were white Chinese and Japanese with Chinese and Japanese being coded as separate racial groups. In fact, the term black has gone through Negro, black; different historical changes with respect to that.

There's some curious ones here. The use of the term Mexican as a race was only used once in 1930 and subsequently rescinded due to pressure from the Mexican government as well. It's a longer story. But after the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the Mexican American War, Mexican citizens were allowed to become citizens of the United States should they elect to. In fact, before that time, Mexicans were quoted as ... I mean were counted as white. In fact, after 1930, they would go through that designation as being white again.

There's other curious ones here. There was, in fact, a mixed-race category. You could see mulatto being used earlier in the 20th century. This one's curious as well; Hindu in 1930 and 1940. It was meant to capture the number of South Asians particularly Asian-Indians in the United States. Hindu is a religious designation, however. What's even more curious is that the overwhelming bulk of Asian-Indians the United States in that time were Sikh. Then, second Muslim. Then, third Hindu.

But, nonetheless, it became a kind of racialized category here as being Hindu, but the point of this is that you can see is that going from very few categories, you see real expansion of categories after 1970 particularly after 1980 and 1990 which is a reflection of changing demographics in this country, but also changing recognition of how we think about racial and ethnic categories.

The next thing I want to show you is the thing that you may be most familiar with. These are what we still labor under, OMB, the Office of Management and Budgets Statistical Directive 15. These are the official sort of federal categories and definitions of race. It was initially initiated in 1977 in response to the fact that different federal agencies were using different kinds of racial and ethnic labels and coding. They wanted to have a consistent basis upon which this was being done, but the impact of this was to really influence our overall understanding of race and ethnicity in the United States.

In many respects, these categories are sort of like the basic food groups of American multiculturalism as it became adopted and utilized. It was changed around again in 1997. There's a couple of things that happened in 1997. I'll actually come back to that later.

What you have now is these definitions of who a person is on American Indian Alaskan native, an Asian, black or African-American. What got separated out in 1997 was the distinction between Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders which was originally part of the Asian group and, for interesting kind of political reasons, was separated out into two different categories.

Note too the lack of parallel construction here. We have blacks being defined as a person having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa meaning, of course, to what are the black racial groups of Africa, but whites aren't defined as a person of the white racial groups, but a person of the original peoples of Europe, Middle East, or North Africa.

The other thing which you should observe is that being a person who's Latinx or Hispanic is really not a racial category at all. It's an ethnic one. It's the only one the feds are interested in, "Are you Hispanic or non-Hispanic" with the understanding then that is separated out from the question of race.

How many questions to ... Just flag me. I'm going to show you ... Yes.

Audience: About the last slide, I wanted to know if you could share a little bit about why ... like how that ... I know there's some show up on here and then just like disappear. I was just wondering …

Michael Omi: That was a concerted effort too. I told you about the failed 1930 racialized category of Mexican. It came up again in the wake of the civil rights movement as well where a lot of Latinx political leaders, some, wanted to record data. We didn't know what was going on with respect to that population. That led to the creation and the acknowledgment by the Office of Management of a Hispanic category. But even here, the definition you see is a cultural one. It's one almost based on Imperial culture because it says Spanish culture origin leading peoples of Portuguese under Portuguese political regimes, colonial regimes, like Brazil a little bit with absence on that. That's how it came to fruition.

Audience: It was more from your organizing that [crosstalk 00:17:20]?

Michael Omi: It was from the bottom up, but of certain political elites being able to make those claims from the bottom up.

Audience: Whereas these groupings are top-down where it's like [inaudible 00:17:31].

Michael Omi: Yes, although I don't want to get into it too much now, but the Native Hawaiian one was the result of Native Hawaiians initially wanting to move into the Alaska Native American Indian category, indigenous category. The Office of Management and Budget didn't allow that, but it did allow a split between Asians and Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders. We'll talk about that later. I'm going to that as well.

Now, next, we have ... which you may or may not be familiar with, these were the questions that were asked in the 2010 census. I don't know if any of you filled out the 2010 census. There are two questions. One is on ethnicity. The other is on race. It asks you first is this person one or are you of Hispanic Latino or Spanish origin. There's basic subgroups, three subgroups here; Mexican, Puerto Rican, and Cuban.

Then, you could fill in a blank. Then, there's a question regarding race in which you can fill in being an American Indian or Alaskan native and also you have Asian and Pacific Islander categories and finally a question asking some other race.

Now, what's interesting about this is that there was tremendous amounts of confusion particularly among the Latinx population in regards to this. Between, I think 1980 … It could be at least 1980, 1990 since this 2000 census ... 2010. That's right. That's four censuses that it's argued that about 40% of people who are of "Hispanic origin" fill out the census wrong. By wrong is they're supposed to check off ethnicity one and a race one.

An example of that, you're a very dark-skinned Puerto Rican. You should check off on the first one that you're Puerto Rican. Come down to question around race and say you're black. You're a very light-skinned or European Argentinian, quote that you're Argentinian. Come down and you mark off that you're white.

In fact, what people did was to ignore both those things and come down here and write something under some other race and write in that they were Puerto Rican or Brazilian or something or Argentinian or something like this. One of the things the census has been trying to grapple with is trying to capture the ambiguities involved in that.

What I'm going to show you next is what I thought was until a couple of months ago what I thought was going to be the 2020 questions. I was totally wrong on this. I'll tell you about that.

Audience: Yeah. I just had quick question where when they were coming up [inaudible 00:20:30] coming up with Hispanic Latino Spanish origin, what exactly were they trying to capture? Just like who has been touched by [inaudible 00:20:39] of like ...

Michael Omi: It's a long complicated story. There's a woman who teaches sociology here; Christina Mora, who's written about this very thing about how this category came into existence. I'm going to sort of shove that under there to say that there were different motives involved. There were different choices that had to be made in the construction of that category in the recognition of the category, but I'm going to show you something which became the next flashpoint of debate. Maybe, that'll help you out here.

What am I saying? Well, the census is always doing ... A while back, I got to spend about four days or something with the census and both give talks and get talked to about what they do. This people in the census are really ... They really do a lot of their homework with respect to the theories of race and ethnicity. They're very well-grounded. Many of them are, of course, academics. They've been doing these kinds of research and planning for the 2020 census with in responding to nine changing different graphics, but the increase in complexity of immigrants coming into the United States.

Also, the ways in which racial and ethnic identity is not static, but it's extremely fluid and also widespread campaigns and lobbying for changes in the questions and categories. I'll give you an example of this. In census 2020, there's a big campaign among Iranians to get debates ... to see how many Iranians. They said, "Don't check off you're white. Come down here and write some of the race and write Iranian." We do have some data with respect to that because of that kind of campaigning and lobbying around that.

They released this thing last year in which they talked about the results of the ... I'm sorry. The census released this. I'm going to show you what I thought was going to be our 2020 census. I'm sorry. Maybe, I should just mention this. This is just something which shows you that two-thirds of Hispanic adults that being "Hispanic" is part of their racial background. You see that some say it's a racial background. Some say it's an ethnic background, but 67% said it's kind of both. It's kind of wedded into one category.

This next thing goes be sort of reflective of that. I'm sorry. This thing is so, I don't know, kind of like not very clear, huh? I guess that's as clear as we can get on the projector. This was what was called the optimal elements from this national content test which was issued last February in 2017. Now, here's what the ... It was going to be, I thought, which would be that the question … two questions, would become one and that the Latinx category would become a racial category. That's reflected here. It's combined here, but there's a couple of other things going on with this as well. It had not only checkboxes, but now open-ended categories or open-ended response boxes for all the racial groups not just some of them.

In other words for the first time, blacks could say talk about their specific maybe national origin or ethnicity. You could say I'm Eritrean or I'm Somali which they couldn't do before. It allows whites to do that as well, so open-ended boxes. Then, it has some major choices here too which is always problematic in deciding what are going to be the choices; Jamaican, what are you going to pick.

The other aspect which has been lobbied for since 1990 census is the addition now of a Middle Eastern or North African category because up until this time, these groups were counted as white. Is that clear? Now, what's happened since this time, of course, is a real regime change with respect to politics. The big question, of course, which many of you familiar with that as immersion in the debates is the citizenship question which is opposed to be asked on the 2020 census which will, in fact, tremendously inhibit responses from a lot of immigrant communities as well as undocumented folks.

Leading to these lawsuits on the part of certain states like California, that would lose millions and millions of dollars because of the undercount in those populations as a result of this. Well-nigh that, but the Commerce Department which oversees the census in league with the Office of Management and Budget has scaled back and pulled much of this debate about these categories. This looks like what we're going to get for 2020 which is a return to two questions; the ethnicity one and the race question.

You're going to have open-ended boxes, but we're going to take out the middle eastern category as well. That's going to be dropped. It looks like we're returning back to the twofold question format. Any questions about that? Yes.

Audience: I had a question. On the previous slide where it said that, yes, so for whites, isn't it a little … For example [inaudible 00:26:50] go back to their heritage, whether they're from  [inaudible 00:26:53] or whatever it is, do you think that would be of confusion point for them to say like, "Oh, it's my background," as opposed to just having answers [inaudible 00:27:07].

Michael Omi: Yes, it will be for many who find themselves of varying, "I'm Scotch-Irish. I'm Norwegian. I'm this." It's not that they have to fill that part out. Do you see? They could just check white.

Audience: Right. But then there's option for ... Could it not be that there's a white American or I don’t know. I'm just like trying to wrap my head around whether that's fair saying that they're from German or taking that necessarily away from the actual Germans who were here or like ...

Michael Omi: Yeah, but that's a dilemma that can't be solved on that basis. Yeah, Stephen.

Stephen:  This is really interesting, but this optimum elements question. Does it conflate race with ethnicity?

Michael Omi: Yes.

Stephen: If someone puts Hispanic down, then how would the government determine whether that's an ethnic or ritual category? Originally, I thought that the shift was going to be Latino, Latinx was going to become race as opposed to ethnicity.

Michael Omi: It's trying to have your cake and eat it too, isn't it? In compiling the data, you could figure out how large the Latinx population is, but you could also break it down by ethnicities, subgroup ethnicities, but we've been doing that with other groups too like Asian Americans, for example, breaking out Chinese versus Korean versus Vietnamese kind of thing. I hope that answers your question, but in other words, it is a curious thing. In other words, it's the conflation in some ways of that whereas before was two distinct questions, but the big dividing line was whether you were Hispanic or not leading to those curious designations of the number of non-Hispanic whites who support something rather.

But we're going to have that problem again because they're probably not going to I'll push those two things together. You had a question? I'm sorry.

Audience: I was going to ask if it was simply [inaudible 00:29:18] change in terms of the regime change that led to this or was there levels of decision-making that we ...

Michael Omi: There's other levels of decision making that I'm pretty sure the Census Bureau never said we should put a citizenship question. That had to come from above. I'm sure after all this research, they were looking at a format like this with a Middle Eastern category, many of them want that Middle Eastern North African category to this. I'm thinking that much of this descends down from the Commerce Department through the particularly White House Office of Management and Budget which has significant control over the content of the census among other things. It's a White House thing.

Audience: There are seemly different iterations of these categories now [inaudible 00:30:12] I guess the difference between race and ethnicity. I don’t know. Could you just elaborate a little more on what are the common ... like what's the common definition [crosstalk 00:30:26].

Michael Omi: The promise there is none in certain ways. In other words, both of them are really social categories, really. Ethnicity often refers to one's "ancestral national origins" or something, but that could be a source of confusion as well and also what it doesn't take into account obviously is the way individuals and groups self-identify as well like I understand there's like, I may be wrong about this, something like six or seven really different Burmese subgroups in the United States and even to call them Burmese is to ignore what they believe to be significant modes of group and ethnic identification. Do you see what I mean?

Audience: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Michael Omi: There's always going to be a slipperiness to this stuff. There's not going to be sort of a hard and fast way to make those distinctions although this federal government has, in terms, of that Officer of Management and Budget Statistical Directive 15 define what major racial groups are, what a major ethnic group is. But within those parameters, the kind of questions you're asking about how can we make a hard fast decision around this is a pretty slippery one.

Audience: [crosstalk 00:31:52] I think when I see that [inaudible 00:31:55] hidden question or might not even be hidden. Are they just trying to get at what color is your skin and then ethnicity is ... I don’t know. [crosstalk 00:32:08].

Michael Omi: Yeah. If the census were attuned to something, they might ask you two different questions. They might ask you how do you self-identify and how do other people identify you. There would be probably, in a lot of instances, a lot of disparity between those two kinds of responses. In many respects for tracking or looking at substantive patterns of discrimination, it might be more interesting to see how the people you think other people see you as opposed to how you wanted to self-identify as yourself.

Much of this is reflected, as I said, the original ones the 2017 tests last year were based on these kinds of focus group interviews in which people conducted about who should be considered Middle Eastern or North African, how we separate out that from white, why don't we want more information on the immigration flows, the increasing heterogeneity of who blacks are in the United States.

We see these in places. There's going to be these differences. Yeah. Stephen.

Stephen: I want to ask you ideological question. [crosstalk 00:33:25] Obviously, there's a lot of education and [crosstalk 00:33:29] the census around politics, around not just congressional apportionment, like you said, the flow of funding and how ... What does it mean in terms of demography, but there's a parallel kind of ideological movement and energy around the census of coming more from the left wing that often critiques it as reifying social constructs that need to be [inaudible 00:33:52] to some extent. We saw a lot of this debate around gender recently in particular around kind of some say we just need to open entirely and having [inaudible 00:34:05] categories.

I'm wondering how do you avoid getting caught in that debate in a way that ultimately leads to a complete rollback of the data collection than we actually need to understand [inaudible 00:34:17] and also avoids like opening it up so that people can do things like [inaudible 00:34:23].

Michael Omi: Yeah, which they did.

Stephen: Nonsensical.

Michael Omi: I don't know, to be honest. I think that many of these decisions are, in fact, policy calls. In other words, what are you looking for? What are you trying to track? Even the claims come in particular political context when I first heard of the kind of ... There's a number of significant Arab-American civil rights groups. I had this in Washington before the 1990 census that were lobbying for on a Middle-Eastern category. That was in the wake of the first Gulf War as well as increasing kind of hate crimes being directed towards Arab Americans.

Well, it's not a hate crime for white persons hitting another white person by the census definition. What is this? What is the thing? Well, you have to say, "Well, hold it." We have to make some new categories here in response to this kind of political climate, but then, the climate changes. In the wake of 9/11, many of those same groups didn't want a separate Middle-Eastern category on the census for fears that they were going to be profiled that data could be used in ways to surveil that community in many respects.

I guess the answer is that there's never going to be kind of a hard and fast thing to this thing that they result from certain kinds of their policy calls and decisions. There's times where you're going to lobby for certain kinds of categories. There's other times where you're going to argue for disaggregated data like Asians have been doing for this UCLA, the Count Me In Campaign which was saying that lumping everybody has Asian disguises some really severe differences in the achievement gap or academic performance between Southeast Asians like Hmong, Vietnamese, Cambodians, and Koreans, and Chinese, Japanese. These are all the kinds of …

Let me say that even that can be rearticulated to serve other purposes like Anthony Scalia in the Fisher Case said, "How can we talk about Asian Americans ? There's really Cambodians, and there's this," but he's using it as a way to say be dismissive of all racial categorization. You've got to be careful what you want to put out there because it can always be flipped and serve a very different kind of political purpose than you have in mind.

Stephen: Just a followup on that. When you proposed your two-part question, I was thinking about what [inaudible 00:37:02]. The first question being how you identify and how a lot of identify. You're asking someone to think about their own lands and how other people ... and kind of intersubjective ... It's a tricky question. Who has just said that he wants the census to be on one [crosstalk 00:37:20]. Imagine what that race is like the kind of Brazilian or France situation where you have ... It's essentially becomes a form of government.

Michael Omi: Well, that's what's an interesting example. I'll talk about color blindness in just a second and about the ways in which the pervasiveness of that ideology on efforts to get rid of racial and ethnic data. Basically, France is an excellent example of that in that they don't track by race. I think, actually, the UK is one of the few European countries, Western European countries, that actually has raised stuff on the census, but the French example should be a vote.

Here, I'm getting ahead of myself in the argument around colorblindness. They say like, "Well, as if, if we got rid of the data, we wouldn't have any race problems." In France, I got a whole bunch of race problems. It's just like it renders any sort of understanding or data around that. Not clear. I mean these are difficult questions. A lot of world global censuses are moving away from the simple binary male-female option to check yourself off to be third sex or to embrace other forms of gender identification.

I think that's another frontier too. It's about how those categories will evolve. For the sake of time, let me see here what we got. I want to get to that colorblindness stuff, but I want to go over something. I could go over this pretty rapidly because what I want to suggest to you about racial classification is that it's not only occurring through the state-based debates about the categories, but just to alert you too without going into very deeply that there's a lot of resurgent debates about what race may or may not mean as a marker of human variation. This is particularly true in the race in the genomic sciences.

I just want to start out with a couple of quotes here that I like. This was at the completion of the mapping of the human genome where Bill Clinton and significant genetic scientists as well as Tony Blair from Britain was there. Anyway, this was really a big push about this thing about race during the successful mapping of the human genome. Here, we have Bill Clinton's quote, "I believe that one of the great truths to emerge from this triumphant expedition inside the human genome is that in genetic terms all human beings regardless of race are more than 99.9% the same. "Not the same presentation noted scientist-entrepreneur, Craig Venter, said, "What we've shown is that the concept of race has no scientific basis."

Now, what's going to be interesting is that within five years of these remarks, many of the leading genomic scientists sort of were reversing course and embarking upon a new search for perhaps the biological meaning of race. In many respects, what I want to alert you to is that we may be witnessing. There's kind of ominous signs that we may be witnessing perhaps re-inscription of race as biology. This takes place. I won't go through this very much. Many of this you know. Some has happened in the field of pharmacogenomics.

Pharmacogenomics is trying to more precisely create custom-tailored drugs to suit certain individuals. It's based on one's susceptibility to certain kinds of drug treatments and interventions. What's interesting about this drug, BiDil, was it was being touted by the pharmaceutical firm, NitroMed, as the first ethnic designer drug. This says ethnic, but here, they talk about race. Here, their race-ethnicity stuff gets conflated again.

I will show the slide to about that this guy looks like Bill Cosby, but I don't know if it really is him or not. Anyway, the BiDil was a result of two really generic drugs to treat cardiovascular disease, hypertension within the population as a whole.

Anyway, what happens is that NitroMed goes to the Food and Drug Administration. This is the short wrap and says it's got this drug and the FDA says, "Well, it's kind of a combination of two generic drugs have been on the market. We don't think there's any reason to give you a patent for this drug. There's nothing unique about it." NitroMed goes back to the data kind of massages the data and decides that BiDil deal seemed to work better among blacks in their sample than whites.

The statistics behind us is very is itself. There's an interesting book by a legal scholar named Jonathan Kahn who talks all about this BiDil drug. It became marketed for blacks resulting from hypertension. There's a slipperiness to this thing which I can discuss later on too. It looks like it was marketed around congestive heart failure. It looks like at least this is how it was explained to me by a Stanford MD PhD that it works good among people who suffer from diabetically-induced cardiovascular disease and not good among people where it doesn't work ... don't have that. There's some other underlying condition including heart defects which are causing that.

But it got read racially in certain ways. It results also from the fact that blacks suffer to a higher degree than whites from diabetes in the United States. Also, important to realize the social context in which that occurs as opposed to a biological racial one behind that. The the other way this has been manifested is the absolute explosion in ethnic ancestry testing from groups like 23andMe, ancestry.com in which here we have Skip Gates, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., really doing these kind of exploring your roots through in part through the forms of genetic testing.

I've been working with a student in African American Studies who has been looking at YouTube videos of people after they discover or read the results of their ethnic ancestry testing. It's really hilarious because he would say, "Oh my gosh. I am part Mexican." Maybe, that'd explain something like something about them. They're using it as a kind of revelation to rethink their own racial identities based on this kind of testing.

The testing is really fraught with a lot of problems about sampling, about the fact that national boundaries change a lot. If you're going to say you found out you're like 15% Somali, you got to figure out who's 100% Somali and how has that been determined. There's all this kinds of slippages with respect to doing ethnic ancestry testing as well. But where much of this research takes a much more ominous turn a bit is in criminal forensics and DNA profiling.

For those of you who've been enamored by a lot of CSI spin-offs, we have the promise of being able to determine the physical characteristics of crime suspects from the DNA they have left behind. Many of you may be familiar with the Joseph D'Angelo Case. He's the one who's touted as the Golden State serial killer suspect who was recently ... I mean for just a huge backlog of murders and rapes. I don't know if people are familiar with how they caught Joseph D'Angelo, former police officer, was through these ethnic ancestry databases by finding distant relatives and then narrowing the scope of who could that be.

In fact, what is a little disturbing is the ways in which criminal databases are being assembled for people who are picked up or arrested for felony convictions. What many people don't know, however, is that in order to get your DNA stuff taken out, say you're not guilty and the court finds you not guilty, you have to make a special case to get removed. In other words, it's not automatically get dropped. You're in there. We find a lot of crimes by looking at, oh, there's some DNA evidence. Who do we have? Hey, we have this person. It could be that that's their brother who committed the crime by looking at whatever's in the DNA database to begin with.

But even far more ominous, maybe the rise or the emergence of something called DNA forensic of DNA phenotyping which includes the ability, they say, to predict skin color. I'm going to show you something here which is really scary in this regard. This was in January 2015. The police in Columbia, South Carolina released a sketch of a possible suspect in a double murder case, a cold case, that was generated by a computer relying solely on DNA found at the scene of the crime. It said what kind of skin tone this person possibly had in different kinds of markers.

It's kind of scary because like this could look like a lot of people and to put that out there as the kind of the racial profile on that was, of course. Pretty disturbing.

Let me try to just make an intervention here. To the degree that if you critique these categories, if you critique the race stuff, it could lead you into subscribing to an ideology of colorblindness where people believe that the most effective anti-racist ideology gesture practice is simply to ignore race. We've seen this. I mean I have students in my classes that say I don't see race. When I see somebody, I don't care if they're white, black. They should say purple-green, few exotic colors to say this, that I just don't see race.

It's as if we don’t ... Every one of us utilizes clues about race as a way of navigating through our daily lives, who we meet on the street, who our teacher is going to be, who the clerk at the supermarket is. All these things I would argue. We rely on certain ways in which we racially categorize people. We have certain kinds of meanings. We attach to those identifications. That's the way we get around.

You know this by the fact that if there's a person you can't conveniently racial classify, it's sort of a crisis of racial meaning. You kind of got to know who they are. People who are of ambiguous racial categories or people who are of mixed race always get asked like, "I was wondering what are you."

Audience: Where are you really from?

Michael Omi: Huh? Where you're really from and like to track their exotic categories like Eskimo or whatever. It's interesting because I had a Latina student who, in fact ... She could be read differently. You could see her as "Arab" or you could see her as this. She says she gets asked that all the time even though she herself is, in fact ... both her parents were Mexican-American.

This ideology of colorblindness. Why raise it up is because if you believe these categories are imprecise unstable, one solution you might think about is let's get rid of it. Let's get rid of the categories themselves. I caught myself on this. Years ago, I was doing some critiques about the census and someone from the audience said, "You're right. That just backs up my point that we got to get rid of the racial and ethnic categories on the census," without thinking about, oh, what are we using that data for.

In fact, one of the persons who has pushed this, and I'll show him in a second, Ward Connerly. I want to use this as an illustration that over the past several decades and emerging again has been this concerted attempt by political conservatives to ban the collection of racial demographic information. Government policies that use racial categories are being increasingly criticized, accused of promoting color consciousness instead of colorblindness.

In 2003, we had a proposition in this state called the racial privacy initiative which would have added this article to the California Constitution. It went out to defeat. It went down to defeat in a curious way, but we could explore that later that the state shall not classify any individual by race, ethnicity, color or national origin in the operation of public education, public contracting, or public employment. This was the brainchild of Ward Connerly who many of you may know as the former University of California Regent who is the architect of California's proposition 2069 which bans affirmative action among other things; in admissions, in contracting and a whole host of ... in other social domains as well.

If you just superficially read what Ward Connerly was saying, you might find yourself in agreement with it. He says, "Dare we forget ..." This is the argument in the voter pamphlet which he wrote by the way. "Dare we forget the lessons of history. Classification systems were intended to keep certain groups in their place and to deny them full rights." In fact, I wish I had the full thing here and the text of someone's talk because he talks about the ways in which blacks have been disenfranchised or ways in which all these kinds of ways in which oppressive laws and practices have been visited on groups of color. I mean you read it, and you think, God, I must take an ethnic studies or something and just got [inaudible 00:53:29] without thinking about what he's advocating here.

Nigh that, he also wanted to separate this out from the racist biology question. He says preserving these kinds of categories preserves the myth the dangerous view that race is fixed biological reality. The kinds of arguments is very seductive if you're not clear about what he's, in fact, advocating for.

Let me say in a nutshell what I think is the problem is that Ward Connerly doesn't sufficiently, in many ways, distinguish the use of racial categories in our historic past from the way it's been used in a post-civil rights period. Beforehand is true prior to the passage of civil rights legislation in the 60s, census categories were utilized as to politically disenfranchise and discriminate against certain groups defined as non-white. See the 1924 National Origins Immigration Act or prohibitions on naturalization rights, anti-miscegenation laws I talked about earlier.

In many ways, these kinds of racial and ethnic categories were defined and strategically utilized to circumscribe the political, economic, and social rights of specific racialized groups. The thing is, however, after the passage of civil rights laws, census data was used to discern the patterns of discrimination practiced by businesses, schools, political institutions against people of color and other disadvantaged minorities.

Data by race has become absolutely critical to the enforcement of every civil rights law passed since the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Thus, what Connerly doesn't realize is that the civil rights era marked an important shift in the way in which racial and ethnic data was used from a tool to exclude specific groups to one used to ensure the inclusion and adequate representation of groups.

The other part of this I want a sort of conclude on is that in the Trump era, there's a kind of renewed concerted push really to suppress data on racial disparities and examples have been introduced. This one was last year which I thought was particularly pernicious and I think mentioned this to Al-Sadiq too is the prohibition of use of funds to design, build, maintain, utilize, or provide access to federal database of geospatial information on community racial disparities or disparities in access to affordable housing.

This is part of ... It was Senate Bill 103 which was called the Local Zoning Decisions Protection Act of 2017 that was introduced by Senators Mike Lee and Marco Rubio. It's about federal housing. Here, it inserted into this federal housing bill that you couldn't use federal funds to provide things on community, racial disparities, or access to affordable housing.

I utilize this as an example of the kind of groundswell or the emergence of pieces of legislation like this that add little things to them in order to strip out any sort of racial data collection mandates to them. I want to end on a quote. I really like this quote. During the proposition 54, the Racial Privacy Initiative I just cited, Ken Prewitt who is the former director of the Census Bureau who now teaches at Columbia, he sent me a short piece he wrote on the Racial Privacy Initiative.

I liked what he said. He said, "I'm happy to join Ward Connerly in welcoming a colorblind society, but I don't want to be blindfolded as it arrives." I think that's really appropriate. Yeah. We want to wish for a colorblind society, but we certainly don't want to be constrained and strapped to understand the depth and persistence of racial disparities in our midst right. Let me stop there and then let's have some discussion. All right. Thanks.

Not all at once. Yeah. No. Yes.

Audience: As you mentioned in the post civil-rights era along the times race and ethnicity are used in a benign fashion instead of the detrimental

Michael Omi: Exactly. Yeah.

Audience: ... fashion. But sometimes even in the legal context, even the civil rights statute could be used differently depending on the context like Section 2 of the Voting Rights Acts are I think most recently used in a way that damaged racial minority groups. How do you reconcile the two from a political angle or from a legal angle? How could you tell one from another? I think that's the reason why the supreme court has been reluctant to use phrase as a deciding factor in a lot of case because it's difficult to do and retract the thing or I think it's easier, but anyway. It's difficult [crosstalk 00:59:32].

Michael Omi: You can't reconcile it in certain ways. I wish Stephen was still here because he wrote an article, a law review article, about racial classification through different juridical decisions and why the Supreme Court has never made it clear what they considered to be even a racial classification as such. It's not that it was sort ... Anything about race is subject to the highest level of legal scrutiny, of strict scrutiny, in examining it for the intent of certain kinds of policies and stuff.

There's wildly contradictory notions about that. I can't reconcile it. I think that it's just the ways in which the politics of race has always sort of befuddled the courts in many respects. In fact, I mean think about key pieces of legislation. Even the Brown versus Board of Education decision was made on the narrowest of grounds. It was about separate and equal with respect to educational institutions. It was not about separate but equal with respect to transportation rights, accommodation rights, anything else.

The court has, always in many respects, been rather reluctant to expand the scope of some of those cases. I'll give you an example like the Colorado baker case that just came down right. It was based on this narrow thing of a commissioner on the Colorado State Commission made disparaging remarks about the baker owner's religious ideology, religious tradition.

It was not to say that in all in every instance a private business can, in fact, discriminate against a gay couple. There again. It just kicks the can down the road further to make a determination of how those things are going to be seen. There is no clear reconciliation, but ask Stephan Menendian for that article because I think it does a really good treatment of how the courts have had to grapple with what a racial classification is and its legal-political significance.

Audience: Sorry, a follow-up question. Do you think race should have social function in the society.

Michael Omi: Should it have a ... ?

Audience: Should it have social function in society?

Michael Omi: It's not that should it or not should it. It has. In other words, it is there. The other part of this is that even if you say race has no, say, biological and genetic basis or it's not an appropriate marker of human variation doesn't mean that social constructs of race disappear and that the social constructs of race are all around us. They've been embedded in laws and practices. I mean stuff like Jim Crow for example, but they operate at the most mundane level in our lives.

In the United States, in particular, race has always taken on an inordinate amount of significance. Think about too the ways in which race is never static. Think about new racial categories like the ways in which Muslim, Arabs, South Asians have been seen as a kind of racialized group of ways in which we've treated. Think about how Spanish, really in many respects, is kind of seen in a kind of a racialized context as well.

I guess what I'm suggesting here, it's not a matter of me saying, "Yeah, I don't think race should operate a social construct or not." It's that it does. The question is how does it do that. What are the kinds of ways in which that is manifested not only in terms of the institutions and the distribution of political power, but how that affects us on a daily basis, how that affects us in our relationships with other people.

I think that's what's important. Yes.

Audience: I have two questions. One, in the article like the chapter 4 that got sent out, something that was mentioned was how like society at large is pattern on race and then in your commentary to that quote, you mentioned that you find resistance to also be patterned on race because the example that you mentioned in here was that different like gender groups, whatever ... different groups who are trying to organize the resistance like, borrow a lot, rely a lot on black liberation movement.

I was trying to understand like because when you first said resistance is patterned on race, I imagine like, oh, we all resist within like, oh, I'm going to do rights for this specific census group. But then when you gave that example, clearly, I misunderstood my resistance pattern. I wanted to ask you for ...

Michael Omi: Well, I meant that sort of concepts of race are imposed from above. They're contested or argued from below, let's say. It's a good example of this. Think about like until the early 1970s, there was no Asian-Americans. There were separate ethnic groups. There were Chinese, Japanese, oftentimes, an antagonistic relationship with each other given historically the wars in the Pacific and others.

What it was, was a way of thinking about the commonalities of experiences, the kinds of discriminatory treatment, patterns of marginalization or ghettoization that different Asian ethnic groups at that time mainly Chinese, Japanese, Filipinos to a much lesser extent Korean, the Korean population was really extremely small, to develop a much more racialized identity as being Asian-Americans and to lobby for recognition or for some kind practices. That's something that comes from below too.

But it also results from above because during, for example, some of the most prominent Asian-American campaigns were about anti-Asian violence where an individual was harassed, assaulted or in many cases like Vincent Chin in Detroit are murdered on the basis of a misidentification, an autoworker foreman and his stepson thought Vincent Chin was Japanese. It was during a troubling time in the American auto industry which was losing ground with respect to Japanese imports.

Here, you have somebody who gets killed. There's others, Jim Loo who was Chinese that thought it was Vietnamese. He gets that mistaken identity. All Asians look alike solidifies in certain ways a kind of political response too realizing that you can't escape the kind of broader pants of racialization that you need to sort of band in solidarity with other groups.

I think one of the first victims post 9/11, I believe, was South Asian, in the southwest somewhere. [crosstalk 01:07:39] Sikh guy, not even Muslim, not Arab, not anything, but is misidentified. That's the kind of pervasive kind of racialization which could lead to groups seeking forms of solidarity and resistance from below in doing that.

Audience: [crosstalk 01:07:58] redefine those categories.

Michael Omi: You have to redefine those categories in a lot of ways. Yeah.

Audience: Can I ask a question?

Michael Omi: Sure.

Audience: This is something that came up from me. You know that book the Color of Law about like zoning [inaudible 01:08:17] a lot. In reading your piece as well like you speak about the shift where we go from like [inaudible 01:08:25] as a category [crosstalk 01:08:27]. Now, it's like a data collection method to fund maybe hopefully recreations if you want to [inaudible 01:08:33] about it. The thing that I'm like that book maybe think a lot about how like in the north so to speak, it's not so much the fact or ... It's more like we speak about it as de facto but, in fact, it's clear that from all of this not explicit or clearly racialized laws and zoning laws like there is very explicit racism [crosstalk 01:09:00].

Audience: I wanted to ask you the question of you brought up an example from Louisiana, Alabama. What do you think made it so that there's a difference in how ... It's not a difference in how racism is practiced, so to speak, specifically when it comes to like laws that are racially targeting to oppress social groups but it's like how we see them so ... My question is why didn’t we see ourselves in California or the north to south or not Louisiana. We think of ourselves as more colorblind when in fact we're not. Do you any thoughts of where that transition ... Why [inaudible 01:09:45].

Michael Omi: One thing is that California's one of the most diverse states. It's, at least historically, been a magnet for a lot of different immigrant groups as well, but I mean I think it's a false dichotomy.

Audience: [inaudible 01:10:02].

Michael Omi: No. I mean let's say in the South during the struggles in the 50s and 60s against desegregating lunch counters, one of the ... In the south, there's a Woolworths which was a general kind of how to describe Woolworths sounds like a precursor to like a Target store had everything in it. They wouldn't allow blacks to sit at the lunch counters. They could take food out, but not. In San Francisco here, Woolworths where ... I mean I grew up in San Francisco. Woolworths was right on ... If you're familiar with downtown, it's right at the Paul Street cable car turn off. It was where the gap is now.

Woolworths didn't have that same policy here although people mobilized and protested Woolworths as part of a national chain. In other words, the practices that were going on the South different from what was going on here, but nonetheless, the corporate thing was really overlooking the kinds of ways in which they were being racially discriminatory, but California has its own thing. I mean San Francisco has its own thing around from housing laws, restrictive covenants, however, [inaudible 01:11:18] too around the East Bay and Richmond.

But I think it's a little bit of a mistake to think that things were so different though. Do you know what I mean? It's kind of saying, "Oh, we were never bad as Mississippi or Alabama." Now that's true too in some ways, but it kind of ignores the ways in which in legal and political practice, many those same things were operative here and really deeply shaped where people live and the interactions between different groups too.

I guess my answer to that in a roundabout ways is to say, "Yeah. There's differences." Then, there's local and regional differences. That's always going to be expressed in some ways, but it was never a thing like all the nasty stuff was in the south and the west coast's escaped that kind of virulent racism. In fact, California, the ways in which anti-black racism got expressed in 19th century, people feared blacks coming into the state and later feared Chinese because they thought Chinese were going to give us the same kind of race problem that they had in the south.

I mean the explicit thing around Chinese Exclusion was the fears of creating another race problem that would parallel what happened in the south. This is right in the immediate wake of the Civil War. Yeah. We had our own issues. Yeah.

Audience: Earlier you mentioned that Hindu was considered I think a race. Do you think today it would be Muslim/Islam?

Michael Omi: We're not supposed to ... What's interesting about census is you can't ask questions about religion. There's supposed to be no religious designation. That Hindu thing was really a kind of racialized category. Yeah. We have another category like that, probably not. That's the Middle Eastern North African turn towards that.

Audience: What about the politic rhetoric that's been going on that's conflating Islam and Muslim as more an ethnic group than a religion where ...

Michael Omi: Yeah. I mean I think that's true in the political discourse. I think there's a conflation of that with Arab, people from the Middle East, not thinking about where. Isn't Indonesia the home to the largest number of Muslims in the globe? You don't think about people from Indonesia in the same ways. It's just kind of reflective of a kind of a shorthand really, isn't it, to make those kinds of leaps in claims. I don't think it's going to appear in the census like that. No. This is going to be regional.

If you looked at the definitions, they always refer to a sense of original peoples inhabiting a specific territory and even that, if you think about it, it's wrong. You can never make those kind of claims. All the definitions here are persons having origins in any of the original peoples who are the original peoples? That's subject to a lot of anthropological debate. No. I don't think we're going to go in that direction.

On the rhetoric in politics, that's totally different.

Audience: Do you think you could share the story about the Native American, or sorry, yeah, the Native Hawaiians.

Michael Omi: Yeah. What happened was in the lead-up to census 2002, many Native Hawaiians were complaining about the difficulty that many of the students from Hawaii, Pacific Islander students, encountered in getting into mainland college institutions among other things because they were lumped together with Asian-Americans. Then, if you argue for forms of under-representation or affirmative action, they would dismiss because we got tons of Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders on this campus.

In fact, that later led to key senators including Daniel Inouye and Senator Akaka who really posed this thing. He wanted to move Asians from ... It said Asian and other Pacific Islanders move Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders into the American Indian and Alaskan native category. That was the demand that was being made of this. This goes before the Office of Management and Budget. It was the Clinton White House at the time. You're going to get several stressors, but I'm going to tell you what I thought happened based on something I did with another colleague of mine.

It seemed kind of apparent that a lot of Native American groups did not want to see that move because it would change the kind of profile of who the Native American Alaskan native population was, but plus that Native Hawaiians don't have sovereignty. There are lobbying for it. They've been fighting for this for decades, but that major ... Tribes nations have sovereignty. They have unique state to state relations with the United States. The Hawaiians don't. That would politically muddy the group.

I say this is what I think because some groups say, "Oh no. We never said that or we never ..." I think they did push on this. What happens is the whole Hawaiian delegation, legislative delegation, gets invited and the Office of Management and Budget tells them here's what we're going to do. We're going to split the category, Asian and Pacific Islanders, and give you your own category. Nobody argued for their own category and so was like this kind of Solomon-like decision of just cutting up the category.

For the first time since the 1970s, we had a brand new group, freestanding group, Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islanders. It's like a 10th or a 100th of one 1% of the American population. We can't even put a middle Easterner right on there, but we got that. It's totally politics and part of it was ... I was told that the Clintons ... White House was worried that Native Americans had just faced the bad round of appropriations for the Department of Interior and for Native American interests. They didn't want to upset the Native Americans. At the same time, they wanted to give the Hawaii congressional legislation of senators, congresspeople and the Governor of Hawaii something. This was their compromise.

Now, every state, every locale has to employ these minimal requirements. In Tulsa, Oklahoma, we know how many Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders there are because you have to report that. That makes sense? It's all political in many respects. The same thing happened with the multiracial category. Groups of people were lobbying for a separate multiracial category on the census and major civil rights groups were opposed to that.

They were opposed to that for fearing a diminishment in numbers. We had the National Council of La Raza, umbrella organization of some 150 organizations not supporting that. Many black organizations did. What you got instead was something nobody wanted which is multiple check-offs. You could check off if all that apply. That's what we have now. You could check off as many as you want to more racial groups. That was in 2010 too. What's it say here? Let's see. There's a secret. Please answer. Just give me that instruction, but the instruction is that you can mark off all of that.

Audience: When they do decided to have the more standard kind of the race, does the Federal government then like [inaudible 01:19:59] back to the main [crosstalk 01:20:03]. Is it kind of just like keeping the peace by a lot of people to identify how they use to identify and then it's people want to get together [inaudible 01:20:16]?

Michael Omi: They are, but that data will be preserved. There's this place in, I think it's Indiana that the census relies on. You say something, there is a huge codebook that is absolutely amazing. I think it's got like a thousand or more ethnic groups listed, the groups you've never heard of. I remember one. Resort. I can't remember what that was or these other ones that are a small community of black Native American, something historically, somewhere in Georgia or something.

They have this comprehensive numbers. Those are kept. If you write that down, they will know that. The data will be there, but in terms of policies or particularly at the federal level, it will get coded back up. They're looking at the wrong numbers on respect to that. Think about this, for example. Hawaii's always complained that until they started mapping even Native Hawaiians or even Asian ethnic groups which they didn't before very well that the whole census was totally useless for planning purposes in Hawaii because it didn't talk about all the groups that were in Hawaii which they needed the kind of data on for public health, things around education, et cetera.

Audience: Quick question. Just so it's going to make my life so difficult. What if someone check white, black and actually all the boxes, how is the census going to calculate or count that?

Michael Omi: You get counted towards each one. In other words, the numbers never not add up to 100%. You say I'm black Korean, you will get counted as part of the Korean population in United States and part of the black population in the United States, but they'll break it down too. They'll say number of people who checked off Korean only, number of people who checked off Korean and other. You could see the data like of the others, what others did they say. You can't break that data down.

But in terms of the raw numbers, an individual can count towards several different groups and will be counted toward several different groups. That's why people didn't want the multiple check-offs.

Audience: I feel like we should have this information so that we know when we fill out the census what it's going to be ...

Michael Omi: Used for. Yeah.

Audience: I want to know how my answers are going to be used in order to answer in the way that [crosstalk 01:22:56].

Michael Omi: Yeah. No. People don't know that. They don't tell you that in certain ways.

Audience: Do we should be always advocating for keeping the census data [inaudible 01:23:15]. In my line of work, I think that's extremely difficult for us to do so. Regardless of what they claim just might happen is if you [inaudible 01:23:30] the claims of minority groups or racial groups or marginalized groups, if you don’t have the data, you will be extremely hard for you even to make that claim. You could never ... When I look at the number of black farmer that's losing their land [inaudible 01:23:49], I could really figure that out all the sense of that.

Audience: But without this kind of data, I cannot even make claim that the federal government should invest more in the younger black farmers at [inaudible 01:24:06]. I know a lot of minority group is screaming here and there but I think [inaudible 01:24:14]. Sometimes, [inaudible 01:24:17] we don't know what we're going to get.

Michael Omi: Yeah. You don’t know what you're going to get. Absolutely. I think both those points are ... What a nice thing about, yeah, it's really true. We don't know too much about what the census stuff is used for. The census doesn't put out stuff about here's what we use the census for. It's made it seen at its most general mission and vision as a simple accounting one of giving a national portrait of who we are, but like congressional, the seats in the House of Representatives are contingent on. It's a fixed number. It's a zero-sum game.

I mean you didn't used to be, but now it is. One state's gain is another state's loss or federal dollars for different groups. An undercount for states like California or New York or Texas has a devastating impact on their numbers on that stuff like that. On the one hand, you could do this exercise and critique the categories say, wow, what does that mean or … But on the other hand, you got to push for the data too. In other words, there's things we want to know. We want to trace those persistent patterns which they can't do in France.

What's the incarceration rate among Algerians or their access to housing in the suburbs of Paris? You don’t know that stuff because we don't have data.

Audience: The reason we came back from the UN [inaudible 01:25:53] people of African descent so I was talking to [inaudible 01:26:03] asking how many black [inaudible 01:26:07] said, "I have no idea." [inaudible 01:26:11] let people define who we are. He was just [inaudible 01:26:15] the US black even the newcomer from the US black, they've actually done no [inaudible 01:26:20] born in Denmark. I'm Danish. I have no idea. They just have to make a decision like I look at you whether you are or not. Somebody just we don’t know even with [inaudible 01:26:37] this data is [inaudible 01:26:41].

Michael Omi: That's right. We don’t. Are we good? Thanks, folks. [crosstalk 01:26:52] Thank you.