TCS Daily


Ward Churchill: Republican Civil Rights Pioneer

By James D. Miller - February 24, 2005 12:00 AM

In one respect, Ward Churchill is a Republican civil rights pioneer.

Ward Churchill is the professor of ethnic studies at the University of Colorado who compared the 9/11 World Trade Center victims to Nazis. Churchill got his job in part because he falsely claimed to be a Native American.

Whether someone is white, black, Hispanic or Native American can't be objectively determined so why not let every American pick his or her own race? I propose that Congress implement a Racial Freedom Act that makes race entirely a matter of choice. Under this act, once you have chosen your race you get all of the affirmative action benefits accorded to that race. Furthermore, no one can exclude you from any race-based rights because they don't accept your racial choice. The act should first be applied to colleges.

College administrators would greatly oppose my racial freedom act, fearing that white students would take advantage of the affirmative action preferences they offer to many non-white races. But politically correct college professors believe that gender is a social construct, meaning that society, not biology, determines if you are male, female or something else. (For the campus left gender is no longer a binary decision.) If biology doesn't determine your sex it certainly shouldn't be assumed to determine your far more amorphously defined race.

Colleges use diversity as a justification for racially discriminatory affirmative action. But surely you add to the diversity of your organization through your personality and world-view, not your skin color or ancestry. If Ward Churchill believes (to what I'm sure is the horror of most Native Americans) he has more of a Native American than a white outlook then why not let him define himself as Native American? Similarly, many on the left believed that Bill Clinton was our nation's first black President. My Racial Freedom Act could make this official. (Although my act wouldn't help Howard Dean achieve his goal of becoming our first gay president.)

It would be amusing to watch colleges try to argue against my Racial Freedom Act. They would have to pretend that there is some non-subjective means of divining race. Let Republican congressional chairmen call before them the presidents of objecting colleges, asking these presidents to define precisely how much African blood should be required before a student could have the legal right to call himself black. Let these presidents also be asked how they will determine if a student is lying about whether he is black; will the college subject all its supposed black applicants to genetic tests?

Ideally, race wouldn't matter to colleges. Unfortunately, so many professors have devoted their lives to showing the importance of race and to justifying why it should be used to discriminate through affirmative action that it will take at least another generation until colleges can judge students and professors just on the contents of their brains. So instead of trying to make race irrelevant to colleges, let's make it a matter of choice.

James D. Miller writes The Game Theorist column for TCS and is the author of Game Theory at Work.

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