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How Far Can You Stretch Affirmative Action-Eligibility Claims?
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March 20, 2012, 02:38 AM
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Since, as we all know, Race Does Not Exist, that, at least in theory, ought to create problems for the government in allocating benefits and protections according to race. Yet, the system seems to roll onward without too much trouble at a good-enough-for government-work level.

A question often asked is: What prevents Thurston Howell III from self-identifying as black and thus acquiring all the legal entitlements accruing thereto?

A reader has kindly sent me a number of bureaucratic forms that explain the "visual survey and/or other available information" enforcement clause. For example, from the state of Oregon, here are some key excerpts:

If you choose not to self-identify your race/ethnicity at this time, the federal government requires the  state to determine this information by visual survey and/or other available information.   

Then, down in the small print at the bottom:

For agency HR use only:  
_ AV (Asian or Pac. Islander –Visual assessment)  
_ BV (African American – Visual assessment) 
_ HV (Hispanic – Visual assessment) 
_ IV (Native Amer. or Alaskan Native – Visual assessment) 
_ WV (Caucasian – Visual assessment)

 

As I picture this working, if you self-identify in some self-serving but flagrantly dubious manner, you run the risk of being passed non-committaly along the bureaucratic chain by people who don`t want to deal with this tricky problem, until you eventually run into the Person in Charge of Visual Surveillance, who, inevitably, will be a large, self-assured black woman who glares at you briefly, listens to a few of your feeble attempts to sound black, and then replies, "Oh, no, you isn`t" and checks the "WV" box and stamps your paperwork "Rejected, with Extreme Prejudice."

I think this would make a pretty good sketch comedy running joke — L`qisjha Jones, Affirmative Action Arbiter — as various people try to bluff their way past L`qisjha, each rejected with the same punchline. You could have celebrity guests, like Vanilla Ice trying to be accepted as black, Bjork trying to be Alaskan Native, or Cliff Curtis trying to be upgraded from Pacific Islander to Hispanic. In the final episode, Dirk Nowitzki would show L`qisjha his highlight reel from the 2011 NBA Finals of him schooling LeBron James, narrating in his Teutono-`hood accent, and then put forward the metaphysical argument that since white men can`t jump, he must be black, which L`qisjha decides is inarguable, and stamps "Accepted" on his papers.