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University of Iowa News Release

April 13, 2004

UI Hosts Symposium On Race Classification, Ethnic Identity April 23-24

From government forms to school registration to consumer surveys, it seems you can't turn around without being asked to fill in a bubble or check a box: "black," "white," "Hispanic," "Asian," "other." With no scientific basis for defining race or ethnicity, these designations can become arbitrary at best, divisive and exclusionary at worst. But without them, media and government have no way of tracking racial disparities in health, housing, educational access or law enforcement.

A two-day symposium at the University of Iowa will explore issues surrounding racial classification and race/ethnic identity Friday and Saturday April 23 and 24. The symposium, which is free and open to the public, will include a Saturday morning community discussion as well as lectures and discussions with four national experts on race.

Symposium organizer Jennifer Glass, professor of sociology in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said discussions would cover a range of topics including the politics of racial classification, the history of racial classification and its uses in the United States, current Census Bureau changes in racial classifications, patterns of self-identification among multi-racial individuals and the nature and extent of intermarriage among racial/ethnic groups in the United States.

The event begins at noon on Friday, April 23, in room 106 Gilmore Hall, with a lecture on "The One-Drop Rule and Black Identity in the U.S." by James Davis, emeritus professor of sociology at Illinois State University. Davis is the author of "Who is Black?" a history of the "one-drop rule," (one drop of black blood made one black) and its social and legal effects on the people of mixed race in America.

Jennifer Lee, associate professor of sociology at the University of California at Irvine, will speak at 2 p.m. on "The Racial Classification of Multi-Racial Individuals and the Future of Race in an Intermarrying Society." At 4 p.m. Troy Duster, President-Elect of the American Sociological Association, will speak on, "Why is Racial Classification Still Important?" Duster is a professor of sociology at New York University and the University of California at Berkeley.

The first day's activities will end with a 5 p.m. discussion led by Donald Tomaskovic-Devey, professor of sociology at North Carolina State University.

On Saturday, April 24, organizers hope to have a wide range of community participants for a panel discussion on racial identity and race classification. The discussion begins at 10 a.m. in room 41 Schaeffer Hall.

The event is sponsored by the Center for Inequality in the Department of Sociology, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Department of Anthropology, Council on the Status of Latinos, African-American Council, Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity and School of Social Work.

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all University of Iowa-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires an accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact Department of Sociology in advance at 319-335-2502.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Mary Geraghty Kenyon, 319-384-0011,