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government policy in criminal justice. Specifically it will answer the question: If we are interested in obtaining a "blind" society regarding human rights, why do we insist on asking a person's race, ethnicity, religion, sex and marital status on private and governmental forms. Should we? Why or why not? If we are indeed a society that is "blind" to the melting pot of races that settle our nation, then why indeed is it necessary to fill out our gender, race, and marital status on just about any form, survey, or government document we sign? America is not a blind society at all. Racial tensions have existed in this country from the first. In fact, American has a foundation in racial segregation and racism -- first with the Native Americans, who we robbed of their land and consistently pushed West, and second with the African-Americans, (and indentured servants) that the country imported by the thousands to do the dirty work of the farms and the factories. America has never been a blind society, and never will.
Many Americans hope that someday American society can resist the urge to compartmentalize the citizens, and simply recognize each of us as Americans who live and work together. However, there has always been a need by the government and other data collectors to know what race, gender, marital status, and religious beliefs each American carries around with them. Some of this data is certainly important in understanding the dynamics of the nation and how it affects governmental programs, shifting age differences, and other important considerations for future programs and generations.
However, much of the data seems superfluous and unnecessary, and it is exceedingly irritating to be asked such personal questions during simple surveys, or simple actions such as buying a car or a house. Some of this data is necessary, but much of it simply seems intrusive and prying when it occurs with such frequency. However, many sociologists and criminal justice experts feel this information is vital to society, and must be captured all the time. One expert notes, "Quarrels about the relative significance of race notwithstanding, few sociologists would disagree with the unparalleled importance of race in American society. Along with gender, age, and economic resources, few other social traits possess as much gravity in determining personal well being" (Snipp, 2003). This may be the case, but much of the flurry of data collected throughout the year does not seem to ever end up in the sociologist's charts, and so, one must wonder where the data goes, and who is really collecting and assessing it for our own "personal well being."
Unfortunately, there are many problems related to just how the government and other agencies collect sensitive data such as this, and thus, how it is analyzed and used. For decades, the American census simply noted race as "White, Black, or Other." This was not a viable sampling of the many races living in America, and gradually, the questions created were broader and gave a greater sampling of the racial mix that is America. Some sociologists find the government census data collected every ten years as invaluable; because it is a measurement their own smaller samplings are viable. Sociologist Snipp continues, "However, even more important is that federal surveys and especially the decennial census provide an important benchmark for checking the accuracy of smaller samples" (Snipp, 2003). While this data may help in understanding American society; where it has been and where it is headed, it is also highly controversial. That is why at least one American legislator has attempted to remove these racially motivated questions from surveys and government forms. California legislator Ward Connerly introduced a measure in California in 2002 that would remove racial questions from all forms in the state. A newspaper reporter writes, "The privacy initiative states: 'The state shall not classify any individual by race, ethnicity, color or national origin in the operation of public education, public contracting or public employment'" (Miller, 2002, p. A05). Many people welcomed the measure as a harbinger of things to come, and saw it as a way to create a truly "blind" society that indeed is colorblind and open to all people. However, other legislators in the state were…[continue]
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