Review of Classified: The Untold Story of Racial Classification in America
Classified: The Untold Story of Racial Classification in America
by David E. Bernstein
There was a brief period when, at least from my naïve high school freshman understanding of US politics, the election of Barack Obama was supposed to herald in a new age of improved race relations in America. Obviously, that did not happen, and instead it seems that in the past decade America has become more obsessed with race and wracked with racial conflict than at any point in several decades. Interpretations of American history that argue that the US is more or less congenitally infected with racism, such as that of the 1619 Project, and critical race theory and other Far Left perspectives have exploded into the mainstream and have increased social conflict and division.
As a result, David E. Bernstein’s new book Classified: The Untold Story of Racial Classification in America is a most timely and needed addition to the complicated and convoluted state of American racial discourse. In this relatively short (about 184 pages) and easy to read, yet detailed, book, Bernstein, a law professor at George Mason University, explains the rather hard to believe and rather strange government racial classifications in American law and their negative consequences.
Today, one might be excused for thinking that the categories of black / African American, white, Latino, and Asian are divine knowledge that descended from the heavens. These classifications manifest everywhere, not only on bureaucratic forms, but also in popular culture, where people have over time begun to adopt these rather arbitrary and often illogical classifications. However, as Bernstein explains, these classifications only began to emerge in the 1960s and ’70s, through a rather hodge-podge implementation among various federal agencies, with the current categories (American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian and Pacific Islander, Black, Hispanic, and White) being established in the late ’70s.
Yet Bernstein points out how these categories (unsurprisingly) have little to no logical consistency, and often encompass peoples who share no ethnic or cultural similarities. For some reason, people turn white west of the Pakistani border, so that people in Iceland and Afghanistan are considered white (also everyone in the former Soviet Union, which extends to the Pacific Ocean, are also classified as white), whereas ever
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