JP Updates Council Members Introduce Bill That Would Allow NY’ers To Identify Themselves As Multiracial by Boruch Shubert

JP Updates
JP Updates
Council Members Introduce Bill That Would Allow NY’ers To Identify Themselves As Multiracial
Boruch Shubert

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New York City residents would be able to identify themselves as belonging to more than one race on city documents under legislation that was to be introduced in the City Council on Tuesday.

“We just wanted to bring New York City into the 21st century,” explained Councilwoman Margaret Chin, a Manhattan Democrat who is the measure’s lead sponsor. “This will allow New Yorkers to identify their heritage and be proud of it. They shouldn’t have to only check one box.”

The city has the highest population of multiracial residents in the United States, with 325,901 individuals identifying as more than one race on the 2010 U.S. Census.

Under the current system, official city forms that request information about race or ethnicity have five options: “white, not of Hispanic origin”; “black, not of Hispanic origin”; “Hispanic”; “Asian or Pacific Islander”; and “American Indian or Alaskan Native.”

The legislation could obligate changes for dozens of city forms. For instance, complaint forms with the New York City Commission on Human Rights would be changed, as would applications at the Department of Small Business Services and at the New York City Housing Authority. Documents that are required to be filled out by New York City’s more than 300,000 city employees would also be affected by the new legislation.

Supporters of the measure contend that allowing New Yorkers to identify as more than one race will produce more accurate demographic data, which can be utilized beneficially for policy making and can sometimes impact funding from the state and federal governments.

The bill, which is co-sponsored by Democratic Councilmen Ben Kallos and Corey Johnson, would require city agencies to ensure they have the capacity to maintain the new demographic information within three years of the bill’s enactment as law.

Councilman Johnson recalled being perplexed when asked to check a box on employment forms when he joined the Council. “I am 50% Irish, 25% Korean and 25% unknown,” he said. “I’m proud of my family’s heritage and history and story, and I think that all New Yorkers should be able to self identify as who they are and where they come from.”

Councilwoman Chin voiced her hope that de Blasio would fully endorse the legislation. “Even his kids would be affected,” she pointed out.

A spokesman for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio commented that the mayor looked forward to reviewing the legislation. The changes specified in the bill would be administered through the Mayor’s Office of Operations.