How black "do you need to be" to qualify for minority business grants?

In three months, Ralph Taylor of Washington State will be going before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals regarding a lawsuit he’s been working on for the past four years. The case is based on Taylor being denied access to certain government business programs supporting minority employers. Taylor is a citizen of mixed race, identifying as Caucasian, black and Native American. The problem is that he grew up in a white family with a birth certificate saying he was white and had no clue about any other lineage until he took one of those DNA tests. It showed that he was 90% European, 6% indigenous American and 4% sub-Saharan African. So he had his birth certificate changes and now he wants the government to accept him as a minority. (Washington Post)

Taylor acknowledges that he looks white. But despite being “visually Caucasian,” as he puts it, he considers himself to be multiracial.

“I’m a certified black man,” he told The Post. “I’m certified black in all 50 states. But the federal government doesn’t recognize me.”

After he was rejected from a program for minority business owners that would have given him an advantage when competing for lucrative government contracts, Taylor sued. His case, which raises complicated questions about how race is defined, is pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.

I’ve had some experience with this, as I’ve written about here before. My own DNA test produced a hodgepodge of results, with my ancestry coming from all over the place. I was majority northwestern European, but there was a big swath of Native American, combined with some lines from the region which now includes Turkey and, like Taylor, a tiny hit of sub-Saharan African.

The obvious question is “how black is black” for these purposes? I couldn’t imagine applying for any sort of benefits based on my various genetic strands. I’m still white. I grew up white, not on an indigenous people’s reservation or in an African-American community. Applying for such benefits would be a fraud and I would be embarrassed beyond words to go stand in front of someone and ask to be given some benefits based on that. Mr. Taylor apparently has no such qualms.

But if nothing else, Taylor’s case is raising some legitimate questions. He only registered as 4% black. What if it had been 10? How about 20? This DNA testing is still very new and the laws haven’t caught up with it. The government still relies in some cases on phrases such as, “visibly identifiable as a minority.” Oh, really? What does that mean? I can think of a couple of people right off the top of my head who are prominent activists in the black community but if I hadn’t been told what their occupation was I’d have sworn on a Bible that they were white. And how about Rachel Dolezal? She identifies as black and certainly looked pretty black for quite a while, fooling all the people a the NAACP.

Here’s another question. What about special government programs for women? They qualify for many of these minority advantage programs. Could Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner apply for one being a “transgender woman?” Jenner grew up and rose to fame as a man, enjoying all the rights and privileges of the patriarchy (as our SJW friends like to say), but later switched teams. Would it be right for Jenner to turn around now and begin claiming benefits based on being female?

Personally, I find most of these programs objectionable and dubious in their deployment to begin with. But if we’re going to have them, they should be going to those who are truly disadvantaged and have experienced issues based on those criteria. Should Paris Hilton qualify for a government grant reserved for women because of the obstacles she faced growing up female? How about Will Smith’s son? How much hardship did he face while dad was rolling in all of that Independence Day cash?

To a lesser degree, people like Ralph Taylor and myself didn’t face any racial discrimination growing up so we should be similarly excluded. But somewhere on the race scale between Ralph Taylor and Will Smith, there are some people who fall in that ambiguous, border area. And the government is currently woefully unprepared to deal with such questions.

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