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Multiracial Americans Rally to Lobby for Multiracial Category

July 20, 1996

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Carrying signs that read ``I’m proud to be me″ and ``I’ll choose my category,″ a group of multiracial Americans held a rally Saturday to press the government to introduce a multiracial category for the 2000 census.

``To be proud of both your ancestries you need something like that. It’s not anything we should be ashamed of,″ said Gwen Loftus. Loftus, an African-American married to a white man, had a ``Yes, I’m her mother″ sign on her daughter’s stroller.

Multiracial groups have been lobbying the federal government for a change in racial categories that appear on official and unofficial forms.

Speakers at the rally, attended by about 200 people, complained that they were not treated equally.

``We stand for the struggle to gain acceptance for being honest about racial tolerance, racial acceptance, racial integration,″ said B.J. Winchester, president of the Unity Multiracial Social Group of Jacksonville, Fla.

Couples in interracial marriages complain that their mixed-race children have no appropriate category to check off on many forms. They usually choose the ``other″ classification, if it exists, one that they feel does not identify the children accurately.

Henry Robertson, who has a Japanese mother and a white father, said he supported the proposed change because it would solve the dilemma he has every time he is confronted with a form.

``I’ve had to fill out forms where they demand that you check the group you mostly identify with. ... I just check whatever I feel like that day,″ said Robertson, 25, a computer programmer. ``If some days I feel white I check white. Other days, if I feel Asian I check Asian.″

Others say a new category would eliminate the hurt they sometimes feel when forced to make the choice.

Dawn Loftus, 16, said when her class had to fill out a form for a test, she complained to the teacher that the form did not have an ``other″ category on it.

``She said you just consider yourself as black,″ said Dawn, one of Gwen Loftus’ three daughters. ``I was confused about it. ... I didn’t want to deny my father.″

Steve White, a teacher and one of the speakers, had this advice for parents:

``When your child gets one of those dreaded forms, go to the principal and ask, which part of my child should I deny? What kind of a lie are you asking me to tell our government?″

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