A new law sponsored by City Councilmember Margaret Chin would allow New Yorkers to identify as more than one race—and check more than one box—on city agency documents.
According to 2010 Census data, New York City has an estimated 320,000 self-identified multiracial residents—more than any other city in the country. And between the years 2000 and 2010, the population of those identifying as multiracial grew more than those identifying as any one race.
Chin's proposed legislation would require city agencies to "amend their official forms and databases to accommodate multiracial identification where racial identification is required." This would impact city employment forms, afterschool applications, NYCHA forms, taxi license applications, and, logically, discrimination complaint forms, among others. The bill also calls for an update to all of the city's census-collecting computer systems and databases, to accommodate data on multiracial New Yorkers.
An accompanying resolution, introduced by councilmember Chin last fall, calls for the same multiracial identification requirement on all state and federal demographic data-collection forms. According to official city documents, as of right now, the FBI only allows fingerprinted individuals to identify as Asian or Pacific Islander, Black, American Indian or Alaskan Native, Unknown, and White.
What the new legislation would look like in practice remains to be seen. One option discussed at a Committee on Governmental Operations hearing today was the addition of a "multiracial" box, with the accompanying allowance to check multiple boxes per form. Chin said this afternoon that New Yorkers should have the option "to check more than one box: white and black, white and asian, asian and hispanic, or even more than that. Because many New Yorkers have multiracial parents. This is an opportunity for people to be able to celebrate their heritage."
Daniel Reckart testified at today's hearing, in favor of the new legislation. He told the committee:
"My mother is half Jamaican and half British-Caucasian. My father is half-Mexican half-German. My siblings and I... look both alike and at the same time a spectrum of our multiple races. Some of us look more Latino and some of us look more White and some of us look more Black. But the fact is that we have always identified proudly as multiracial, and to ask us to choose just one box is like asking us to choose allegiance to just one of our grandparents."
Councilmember Chin said of today's hearing, "There's a lot of support from my colleagues, so we really just have to work out the details."