Friday, April 29, 2005


This is utterly disturbing.
The U.S. Secret Service has asked for the race of guests attending a media reception with President Bush before the annual White House Correspondents' Association dinner Saturday.

Some senior correspondents who cover Bush regularly and have attended the reception in past years said Friday they had not been asked for race information previously and were shocked at the request.
Apparently, race is one of the standard identifiers always requested by the SS for people who will be near the president, the other four being name, date of birth, social security number and gender. But, as the article points out,
"[White House] reporters already have hard [permanent] passes, have gone through all the checks, and are often in reach of the president," said Ed Chen of the Los Angeles Times, who is secretary of the association. "I think it's unnecessary and offensive."
I wonder if they asked JeffyJames GannonGuckert for his race before they gave him a hard one. Er, hard pass.

So, what's so disturbing about this information? Well...
  1. They've never asked White House reporters for this information before.
  2. The Secret Service has no idea they've never asked for it before:
    Tom Mazur, spokesman for the Secret Service... said he did not know whether race information had been requested for this reception in previous years.
  3. The SS even requires any information beyond name and SSN to identify someone.
  4. The ball-passing of responsibility for this change is remarkable:
    Dueling Quote #1: White House press secretary Scott McClellan said the White House had not requested the information on race and that it was a law enforcement matter.

    "Law enforcement officials, the Secret Service, can talk to you about that and tell you why they have done that for a long time for criminal background checks, and so that they can get those checks done in a timely manner," McClellan said.
    Dueling Quote #2: The Secret Service said it routinely asks for information about the race of people who are going to be in close proximity to the president.
So -- we didn't do it, they didn't do it, and we really don't understand what the big deal is about us racially profiling reporters whom we've presumably already fully vetted.

Gee, I don't know. Could it be so that the White House can conveniently single out the people of color and move them to the front of the room, where their on-camera presence will provide some sort of sub rosa, subliminal message intended to lull the people into thinking that the poor are happy with W's Social Security plan? (Republican dictionary: "poor" = "not white.")

Or... are they trying to make Arab Americans easier to spot? Probably not, seeing as how there's no separate category for people of Middle Eastern descent -- yet. For the moment, they're considered "white."

But, anyway, the real question is why race is even a question for anything other than Census purposes, where the distribution of different groups does make a difference in the return of Federal funds. Otherwise, who cares whether someone is American Indian or Alaska Native; Asian; Black or African American; Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander; and White. That's the official Government list, which also includes two categories for ethnicity, Hispanic or Latino; Not Hispanic or Latino. Why those are the only two categories for ethnicity, at the expense of, say, conflating Japanese and Korean or Hutu and Swahili, is beyond me. And didn't anyone ever tell them that an American citizen who was born in South Africa but who is as white as snow is still, technically, African American?

My point, though, is that unless the question is going to result in some end benefit (read: reparation) for the person questioned, there's no reason to ask it. If you're trying to decide which school district should get a bit more federal funding because it has a mostly minority student body, fine. But if you're trying to decide whether you should let a reporter into a White House function, or even whether you should let a citizen of the US near the president, race really shouldn't be an issue.

After all, we can tell whether someone might be dangerous or not without knowing whether they're young, old, male, female, black, white or handicapped. Right? Right...?

Because, if we can't, then everything this Administration has tried to sell us about Homeland Security is one, big colossal joke. "Well, we didn't catch those terrorists because they lied about their race on the application."

Yeah, right...

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