Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Multiracial by the numbers? The Multiracial Advocacy

Multiracial by the Numbers?

Every Friday, C-Span runs a segment called “America by the Numbers.” It’s a way for government agencies to show the public that their statisticians are hard at work, bringing us the latest, truest, most reliable data.

I watched the July 13 segment. How interesting!  Two government people (a health statistics agency director and a “senior scholar”) discussed a new report on Children’s Well-Being, the result of 22 federal agencies’ work. Wow. Oh, wait a minute.

They were explaining a new study on Children’s Well-Being. But something was very wrong. Whenever they showed a slide or talked about a children’s health issue, every race appeared accounted for EXCEPT multiracial children. How could that be? They used Census data, which accounted for “two or more race people,” yet somehow they lost us. These are some of the things they talked about while citing and used racial statistics:
  • Teen Birth Rate
  • Obesity in Children
  • Issues of General Disparity in Health and Health Statistics
  • Smoking
  • Second Hand Smoke
  • Low Birth Rates
  • Emotional and Behavioral problems
  • Achievement gaps
  • Health Insurance and on and on….

Important issues! I still could not believe that they collected the data but then dropped multiracial people OUT, so I went to the website to read the actual report. I wish I had not done that. The introduction was written by Katherine Wallman, Chief Statistician, Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Wallman never did get the “multiracial thing.” My young son, Ryan, and I had a meeting with Wallman in the early 1990s. When we walked into her office, she said, “Hi! My son has one parent who is Jewish and one who is Catholic and we celebrate Hanukah and Christmas, so we understand!” Oh boy. She sent one of her aides to get “packs for Ryan.”   

We tried to make her understand that race is not the same thing as religion. Forms in the United States do not ask people to report their religion, and certainly not to make a choice between their mother and their father. She could not get it, but an aide came back with two packages of M&M’s with the White House imprint. When Ryan and I got into the elevator to leave, he turned to me and said, “Mom, it looks like all we came away with is some M&M’s.” He was right. He was 10-years-old.

I looked at the report online and sure enough, they had gathered multiracial data, but then dropped it on every statistical report. They even had a chart of deaths with all races accounted for, but not our group. A government statistician might declare from that information that multiracial people don’t die! Sorry, but we have to be realistic.

I expect that they will say that the multiracial numbers were insignificant, but they are actually higher than American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander populations that DO appear in the data!

There is no doubt that health disparities exist. There is no doubt that multiracial children exist. There is no doubt that multiracial children have been totally disregarded in studies of well-being among all racial and ethnic groups.

Aren’t you mad enough to take action yet?!

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