Decline to state

Twenty-five percent of students who take the SATs refuse to identify themselves by race or ethnicity. The growing number of “non-responders” has undercut the validity of data on the achievement gap between races and ethnic groups. In fact, “non-responders” are now the largest minority among SAT takers. I’m a lover of data, but I have to sympathize with young people who refuse to be categorized.

About Joanne


  1. Mad Scientist says:

    I always refuse to answer those type of questions. They are contrary to the ideal of being judged by one’s abilities rather than by one’s race.

    Unfortunately, I believe that most of the people who fail to respond are probably whities like me.

  2. Hear, hear!

  3. I suspect that most who fail to respond are over-acheivers who don’t like the idea that race might matter, probably disportionally white (as a group, not individually). If that is the case then “non-responders” should score higher than any other group.

  4. Every semester my college sent us a list of personal data to update. It was meant for things like your parents’ address (i.e., where to send the bill), but the program they used also spat up race every time. I had a friend who changed his ethnicity every semester just to throw off their stats (with a small school, one person did make a difference).

  5. It’s kids who have that libertarian streak who don’t answer. My son never does but he has classmates who are the children on old-hippies who always faithfully fill out every tiny bubble. (And their parents always try to screw with the date by listiing themselves as American Indian, to “boost their numbers”–idiots.)

  6. I’d be happy to fill in my race if I’d be given a legally and biologically sound definition how to do so.

    — e, who is of the opinion that everyone originated from Africa and that race is simple nonsense

  7. Two Tone says:

    For years, I’ve been either choosing “Decline to State” or filling in the blank with “American,” which is, after all, my ethnicity.

  8. If there is an “other” box for race. I put “human”.

    Just my little protest.

  9. Walter Wallis says:

    California had just, finally, passed a law against requiring racial identification when this new crap came up. Had I known, when I was marching against segregation, that Blacks would re-segregate themselves I would have found better things to do with my time.

  10. 25% it not bad!

  11. Yeah, maybe the kids have some brains after all!

    Of course, I wonder how many of those who refused to identify themselves actually did so because there wasn’t a correct box? Not that many schools actually offer an ‘Other’ box, since they want to slip you into only one category.

    Most of the time, you would ONLY be allowed to choose one. And those of mixed race like me would refuse to choose.

    Heh, heh – I like KimJ’s friend’s idea: choose a different race each time you report, just to mess with their heads.

  12. Claire: Part of what made my friend’s idea work was he had a very “ethnic” sounding name, even though he was white as snow. He’s convinced he was only accepted because the school figured he was a minority based on his name, since the dean of student affairs was obviously diasppointed when he met my friend in person.

  13. Claire – my oldest has been pretty consistent at not filling out “race” for the same reason, being mixed race Chinese and Caucasian.

    KimJ – I was greatly disappointed when my wife would not consent to giving one of our adopted daughters an obviously ethnic middle name to go with Lynn as a first name and a clearly Chinese last name. I really wanted to give her a good Chinese sounding name so I could watch (or at least imagine)the confusion on their faces when this black child showed up.

    Finally, my wife related the look of confusion on the face of her Chinese oncologist upon their first meeting – until he figured things out.

  14. Harvey: Heh, I have a friend with a very Irish sounding name who is half-Korean and large enough to pass for a sumo wrestler, so he gets double takes too. 🙂

  15. Walter Wallis says:

    I left race blank on my census form, and they sent someone around to check me out.

    I like Jedi Knight for religion, and I may try Eloi next time for race.

  16. The Girl Scouts (at least in Chicago) required ethnicity information on registration forms. My wee wifey would call the office and ask them for determinations as to how to list, for example, the Filipina who looked Chinese and spoke Polish, or the girl whose mother was Appalachian white and whose father was Brahmin. The latter girl married a Mexican hidalgo, and now has a daughter old enough to be joining the Scouts. Hopefully by now they will allow her leader to list her as Mixed, or Other, or maybe Earthling.

  17. I’ve had trouble trying to fill these forms. I have the feeling that there will be an implication that I’m a white male if I don’t. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, aside from the fact that it might affect my hiring status.

    The problem is that I’m part Lapp. Lapplanders are ethnic cousins of Siberians, Mongolians and the language and culture has ties to the Navajo of all people (or People, as they’d correct me). Does that make me Asian?

    I also love when surveys ask my gender. The boxes are for “male” and “female”. Shouldn’t they be “masculine” and “feminine”? I thought male was my sex and gender was a social construct built around my sex. But I think that horse left the barn years ago.

  18. Mad Scientist says:

    Well jon, you cannot answer “often!” when asked “gender?”.

  19. Hear, hear! If I can get one of my kids to marry a person who is partly Native American and partly “black”, my grandkids will then contain genes from every one of the “races”.

  20. speedwell says:

    Hey, Hermit, how do you know they don’t already? I’m NOT dissing their mother… just pointing out that everyone’s lineage contains a few, oh, surprises.

  21. Heeler-Kelpie Cross works well in Australia

  22. My case for tracking racial information:

    It’s accepted in the scientific and academic communities that there’s no biological basis for race, and thus one’s race, at least biologically, has no bearing on psychology or ability. Indeed, it would seem absurd that with an understanding of the scientific ‘irrelevance’ of race and the complicated nature of identity, the government would insist on racial categories for its citizens. This is true; these categories are extremely flawed and problematic. However, that flawed as they may be, they are absolutely vital at this point in history for the purposes of identifying and naming the symptoms of our society’s deep structural racism and organizing resistance along these perceived racial lines.

    The current dominant view of race, at least in the U.S., is known as “modernist racial ideology.” This is the idea that the eradication of racism depends on the deliberate non-recognition of race. This is mainly because of Jim Crow — for years, the most appaling examples of racism in the U.S. were done by the law’s recognition of race.

    Today, thankfully, after years of struggle, Brown v. Board of Education, the Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act, and others, racial discrimination is no longer explicitly enacted by law.

    Unfortunately, racial injustice today is enacted not through official policies of segregation and racialism but through the fundamental, structural privilege given to whiteness at every level of society.

    Before you write me off as a whiny liberal, here are a few statistics which I’d be thrilled to cite for you:

    African Americans and Latinos face significantly higher rates of many health problems, and consequently die at substantially higher rates. They are far more likely to live near environmental hazards. If you are a person of color, the state’s response to these disadvantages is far more likely to be prison than constructive help; the prison-industrial complex effectively uses captured colored bodies to further increase the wealth of white-owned corporations.

    Again, I will happily provide sources for this info upon request.

    There frequent public outcries over “reverse racism,” which usually means “race specific measures, designed to remedy existing racial discrimination, that inconvenience or offend whites” who never challenge the “thousands of well-documented cases every year of routine, systematic, and unyielding discrimination against minorities.”

    That said, I understand those who don’t fill out the categories because they don’t wish to be categorized as such. The existing state-sanctioned categories don’t even begin to reflect the complexity and diversity of peoples’ racial identities. The categories are in need of large reform and improvement.

    However, I believe that ending the data collection completely would be far worse than using the categories, flawed as they are.

  23. Jack Tanner says:

    OSO – your oh so tired liberal platitudes of victimology are the problem not data collection.

    ‘They are far more likely to live near environmental hazards. If you are a person of color, the state’s response to these disadvantages is far more likely to be prison than constructive help;’

    Make sure you call when the state locks up someone for living near an environmental hazard. Unfortunately there are a lot of social problems that afflict a lot of people but they’re not exclusive to blacks, whites or anyone else. Most of those problems begin when you have a 70% rate of children being born to single moms. You can go thru life attributing those problems to other people or some absurd ‘structural privilege given to whiteness at every level of society’ but in doing so you’re just perpetuating the problems by not addressing them.

    If you think people are in prison because ‘the prison-industrial complex effectively uses captured colored bodies to further increase the wealth of white-owned corporations’ you need to familiarize yourself with the GP of a state correctional facility or maybe talk to the victims, survivors, friends and relatives of these crimes. But you’d fit right in with the convicts, they think they’re all innocent victims too.

  24. I’m with Roux, I always check other and write in Human. A couple years ago a lady took back a form I had filled out, scanned it quickly and saw my answer next to Race. She gave my a wry smile, handed the form back and said “That is not a proper answer.”

    So while erasing the word human and replacing it with ‘400 meter breaststroke’ I loudly asked her “So does this mean you are denying my membership in the human race?”

    Then I handed her back the form and walked away before she could respond.


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