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Shifting Definitions of Racial Categories

August 02, 2003

Re "Colorblind Versus Blindfolded," Commentary, July 31:

I would like to ask James Q. Wilson what race my daughter-in-law is; her father is Irish and her mother is black. Since she looks black, I guess she is black, since in this case the 50% Irish counts less than the 50% black.

Is the "race" category a description of skin color or place of your parents' birth? My mother was born in Romania. But her parents came from Russia. Will my grandchildren be Russian, Romanian, Irish or black? Or Jewish? Do religions count as races?

I think these categories are actually attempts to categorize something else. Perhaps instead of race, we ask everyone in the U.S. where their parents were born. Then we could allocate points to different countries of origin and points for longer ancestry in the U.S. Then a person of black slave ancestry can have the same chance as George W. Bush in entering Yale.

Hal Cohen

Los Angeles

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