The Case for Race




Americans are classified by race and ethnicity for a wide-variety of reasons. The United States federal government (usually through executive agencies) collects data on race and ethnicity and provide that data to the public. Lawyers commonly use race and ethnicity categories and race and ethnicity data to both prosecute and defend against discrimination cases.


Race has been poorly understood throughout America's history. Over the course of American history, race has also proven to be a changing concept. Once thought of as a collection of distinct biological or anthropological groups, race is now considered to be a vaguely constructed social construct with an occasional biological correlation. A federal court in the Eastern District of New York made the following statement:

Ethnicity, like race, as discussed in McMillan, is a fictitious, changing, and unreliable social construct. See, e.g., Ian Haney Lopez, White by Law: The Legal Construction of Race 7-14 (2006) (tracing legal construction of race and ethnicity through America's legal system); Camille Gear Rich, Angela Harris and the Racial Politics of Masculinity: Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman, and the Dilemmas of Desiring Whiteness, 102 Cal. L.Rev. 1027, 1028 n. 3 (2014) ('Latinos/Hispanics occupy a liminal space in America's racial paradigm, as many Latinos believe that the term Latino refers to a racial group, and other Latinos treat Latino or Hispanic background as a kind of ethnic designation.'); Wendy D. Roth, Race Migrations: Latinos and the Cultural Transformation of Race 4-8 (2012) (examining traditional black and white racial dichotomy in America and how that dichotomy is challenged by considering Latinos as a separate racial category as opposed to an ethnic group).' GMM ex rel. Hernandez-Adams v. Kimpson, 116 F. Supp. 3d 126, 148 (E.D.N.Y. 2015).

The federal race categories are in need of serious improvement. Because the federal race system is outdated, the 2020 U.S. Census data is misleading and unreliable. To improve my use of the federal race categories and the accompanying race data, I filed a lawsuit against the United States to update the federal race system. The original complaint, filed on August 30, 2020, can be viewed here:

Van Cleve v. Ross, Original Complaint - Filed Version
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