The Chaos of Racial Categories

Arin N. Reeves
March 2008

My mother — a first generation immigrant woman of color physician who raised her children in several countries before making America her home — finds it utterly amusing that her daughter chooses to grapple with diversity for a career. When a Chinese Cuban associate joined her medical practice a few years ago, she challenged me with this “diversity” question: If a man, born in Cuba to a Chinese father and a Cuban-Chinese mother, grows up in Spain, immigrates to America and speaks English, Spanish, and Chinese (with a Spanish accent), is he considered a European, Hispanic, or Asian?

After a lengthy dialogue on race, ethnicity, nationality, and accent, she concluded by asking – Do racial categories enable diversity or do they limit diversity’s full expression?

Think Smarter. Lead Better.

  • Differences challenge assumptions.

    Anne Wilson Schaef
  • Strength lies in differences, not in similarities.

    Stephen R. Covey
  • Freethinkers are those who are willing to use their minds without prejudice and without fearing to understand things that clash with their own customs, privileges, or beliefs.

    Leo Tolstoy
  • It is not that I'm so smart. But I stay with the questions much longer.

    Albert Einstein
  • Wit lies in recognizing the resemblance among things which differ and the difference between things which are alike.

    Madame De Stael
  • There never were in the world two opinions alike, no more than two hairs or two grains; the most universal quality is diversity.

    Michel de Montaigne
  • Honest difference of views and honest debate are not disunity.They are the vital process of policy among free men.

    Herbert Hoover
  • Controversial' as we all know, is often a euphemism for 'interesting and intelligent.

    Kevin Smith
  • The biggest mistake is believing there is one right way to listen, to talk, to have a conversation -- or a relationship.

    Deborah Tannen
  • America has believed that in differentiation, not in uniformity, lies the path of progress. It acted on this belief; it has advanced human happiness, and it has prospered.

    Louis D. Brandeis
  • Strength lies in differences, not in similarities.

    Stephen R. Covey
  • Diversity: the art of thinking independently together.

    Malcolm Forbes
  • Difference of opinion is helpful in religion.

    Thomas Jefferson
  • To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.

    Tony Robbins
  • The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.

    F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.

    Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Diversity and independence are important because the best collective decisions are the product of disagreement and contest, not consensus or compromise.

    James Surowiecki
  • When we lose the right to be different, we lose the privilege to be free.

    Charles Evan Hughes
  • Diversity creates dimension in the world.

    Elizabeth Ann Lawless
  • I not only use all the brains that I have, but all I can borrow.

    Woodrow Wilson
  • Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won't come in.

    Isaac Asimov
  • Honest difference of views and honest debate are not disunity. They are the vital process of policy among free men.

    Herbert Hoover
  • One must even beware of too much certainty that the answer to life's problems can only be found in one way and that all must agree to search for light in the same way and cannot find it in any other way.

    Eleanor Roosevelt
  • Peace is not unity in similarity but unity in diversity, in the comparison and conciliation of differences.

    Mikhail Gorbachev
  • Wide differences of opinion in matters of religious, political, and social belief must exist if conscience and intellect alike are not to be stunted, if there is to be room for healthy growth.

    Theodore Roosevelt
  • Where all think alike, no one thinks very much.

    Walter Lippmann
  • In our work and in our living, we must recognize that difference is a reason for celebration and growth, rather than a reason for destruction.

    Audre Lorde
  • Our ability to reach unity in diversity will be the beauty and the test of our civilisation.

    Mahatma Gandhi
  • The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.

    Albert Einstein