Diggs: There is one humanity

Diggs: There is one humanity
Lawrence Diggs, in a recent lecture to University of South Dakota students, claims Barack Obama is not black.

And, for that matter, nobody is black and nobody is white. In Diggs' view of the world, the idea of race is outdated and incorrect.

It's a notion I've been wrestling with intellectually the past few days, and its hard to say whose viewpoint is in control – mine or Diggs.

In a nation like the United States – the great melting pot – it would be nice if someday we would reach that supreme moral plane, where people aren't judged by the color of their skin.

I hope I don't judge people by race. But I admit that I define myself as white, and a dark-skinned person as black.

During a question-and-answer session following Diggs' talk, a student asked him how he responds to the question that appears on every U.S. Census form that asks him to reveal his race.

Diggs chooses to not supply an answer to that question.

That revelation exposes one reason, perhaps, that race remains a burning issue in this country.

Racism certainly hasn't been eradicated in the United States, despite the civil rights movement that gained so much momentum four decades ago.

That's because the question of how we treat each other – especially those with different skin colors or ethnic backgrounds than our own – goes beyond simple prejudice toward a certain group of people.

It's all about power.

The question of who is counted is important because the census has always been about power. The founding fathers understood this. This census, which began in 1790, was created to determine how many seats each state would have in the U.S. House of Representatives. The more people a state has, the more representatives it gets.

Once the founding fathers had reached a compromise over big states vs. small states by creating the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives, the discussion about who to count started.

The southern states, understanding the census was about power, wanted slaves counted. Slaves were property under the law. They had no rights and no legal standing. But when it came to the census, southern politicians considered them as persons to be counted because doing so meant they would have more power.

With the next census coming up in 2010, we seemed to have come full circle. Consider this excerpt from a press release:

"The Census Bureau has not requested that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency refrain from enforcing immigration laws. While previous Administrations sought to have law enforcement raids curtailed somewhat to help obtain greater accuracy, we respect ICE's statement that they will not suspend raids even if a decision were made to ask them to do so. The Census Bureau fully recognizes that times have changed, with new challenges facing immigration authorities, and Census will change with those times."

The U.S. Constitution (Article I, Section 2) requires that the Census count everyone in the U.S. regardless of how they got here. Immigrants now account for 40 percent of the growth in the U.S. population. Accurately counting immigrants is therefore crucial to obtaining an accurate count.

The New York Times reported in 2001 that Arizona gained two more seats in Congress "largely because of a soaring Hispanic population in the state in the last 10 years." New Jersey saved a congressional seat in 2000 because of immigration. Nearly half a million people left New Jersey between 1990 and 2000. But nearly an equal number of immigrants moved in.

The people most apt to be under-counted are minorities and the poor, according to The New York Times piece. An undercount like this can affect everyone.

Diggs doesn't separate people into different races or classes.

"There is one humanity," he said.

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