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Erase Race

Funny op-ed in the Telegraph this morning about classifying people by race. The writer contacted various agencies in Britain in order to determine what criteria should be used to determine a person's race in connection with race initiatives declared by the Commission for Racial Equality. Some excerpts (but the entire article is well worth the click):

A few days ago I rang up their press office and asked them how they classified people by race. The human resources officer at Scotland Yard replied: "We use the term 'visibly ethnic minorities' ". You mean they have to be noticeably ethnic, to have brown or black skin? "That's right." But what if the applicant is just a darker white person? "Well, then we go on other indications. Maybe hair. Or perhaps, you know, lips." They need frizzy hair to be classified as black? "Er”¦ can I come back to you?"

A couple of hours later a different spokesman rang back with a different tack. "We go by self-declaration. It's what people feel they are. What ethnic minority they think and feel they belong to." So all someone has to do is say "I feel black" and you will treat him as black? "I guess so." Then what about a white person who falsely claims he's black, hoping to get some positive discrimination?

"Good question. I suppose if they were blatantly white, blatantly lying, then we would reject them." But what constitutes being blatantly white? Freckles? A taste for morris dancing? "Uhm, I'll call you back?"

Their apprehension is understandable - it's a shortish step from racially classifying people by genes or skin colour, to racially classifying them by skull size or personality, or by whether your hair is too frizzy too allow a pencil to fall out (as the South Africans used to do). But there are also problems with this politically correct approach, this denial of race as a biological fact.