Orion Insurance Group owner Ralph Taylor presents as white and has always believed himself to be white, but now wants to be known as a person of color. For business purposes, anyway.
According to the Seattle Times, the 55-year-old took a home DNA ancestry test and found out he was 90 percent Caucasian, six percent indigenous American and four percent sub-Saharan African.
Because of these results, Taylor believed he qualifies as a minority business owner.
Washington state has a program to help minority business owners in bidding for transportation contracts; black business owners were getting shut out due to racism, and this was the state government's way of trying to make sure black business had a fighting chance of winning lucrative contracts. Should Taylor be deemed a black business owner, he could see an uptick in revenue.
So wait … he basically just tried to resurrect the one-drop rule … for a few more bags?
Taylor applied as a minority business owner with the Washington Office of Minority and Women's Business Enterprises (OMWBE), which oversees the program. While his application was approved at the state level, the businessman's application was denied at the federal level.
Leaning into his 90 percent white male entitlement heritage, Taylor decided to sue the state of Washington and the federal government for denying his application.
“There’s no objective criteria and they’re picking the winners and losers,” Taylor argued.
“We work really hard to be fair, nothing is just black and white,” Gigi Zenk, former OMWBE communications director said. According to Zenk, OMWBE assesses each application on a case-by-case basis, and said, “It’s never just one piece of evidence.”
Applicants who aren't “visibly identifiable” as a particular race must submit additional paperwork such as a birth certificate or tribal-enrollment papers. Applicants are also encouraged to provide proof of hardship or discrimination they have faced due to their minority status; Taylor elected not to include any proof of hardship in with his application.
“To think of identity as a few genetic markers is woefully inadequate and incomplete,” said Alondra Nelson, a sociology professor at Columbia University and author of The Social Life of DNA: Race, Reparations and Reconciliation After the Genome.
“You have two facets of identity: who you think you are and what other people say you are,” Nelson continued. “People have lived their whole lives and generations have been disadvantaged based on what they look like, how they talk or where they come from. That’s not insignificant or subjective.”
Since receiving his DNA test results in 2010 and subsequently applying for minority business owner status in 2013, Taylor had changed his California birth certificate to identify him as black, Native American and Caucasian.
The businessman's case is currently pending with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
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