After benefiting from the advantages of white privilege for decades, a Washington-based entrepreneur is demanding to qualify for government initiatives designed to aid minority business owners after he learned from a DNA test that he is part indigenous American and African.
Ralph Taylor, 55, looks like and has always identified as a white man, up until 2010 when he took a home DNA ancestry test and discovered that he is 90% Caucasian, 6% Native American, and 4% sub-Saharan African. Now, because of his results, Taylor is fighting for his company, Orion Insurance Group, LLC, to be classified as a minority-owned business so he can take advantage of state and federal programs created to ensure historically marginalized groups can compete for government contracts after generations of discrimination.
To gain more transportation contracts for his Lynwood-based company, Taylor applied for a state certification with the Washington Office of Minority and Women’s Business Enterprises (OMWBE) in 2013. His application was approved at the state level, but rejected at the federal level because — get this — he failed to prove he was a minority; nor has he shown any evidence that his race caused him to suffer socially or economically.
“With no criteria defining a minority race or ethnicity, OMWBE eventually approved Taylor. But that same state agency, which also manages the U.S. Department of Transportation certification, decided he was Caucasian under that program’s procedures and denied his application,” reports The Seattle Times.
In turn, Taylor is suing Washington state and the federal government because he was denied a minority-business certification under a program created decades ago to level the playing field for disadvantaged business owners. “There’s no objective criteria and they’re picking the winners and losers,” Taylor argued.
A state judge dismissed his case, but his lawyer made an appeal with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which is currently pending. According to Taylor, it doesn’t matter what he looks like or that he has lived the mass majority of his life as a white man. Instead, he now claims to be multiracial and even changed his birth certificate from Caucasian to identify him as black, Native American, and Caucasian.
In addition to his genetic results, Taylor argues that he’s a person of color based on the “one drop of blood rule,” which has been historically used by white institutions to discriminate against anyone who had an ounce of black blood in their heritage. The world, however, sees Taylor as a white man, which has given him an edge over women and people of color. Plus, experts note DNA results are estimates with varying margins of error.
“It’s quite scientifically inaccurate,” said Jennifer Raff, an assistant professor with the University of Kansas anthropology department, adding there is little science behind DNA ethnicity results. “Most in the scientific community would repudiate it.”
Likewise, Alondra Nelson, a sociology professor at Columbia University, said it’s misguided for people to redefine themselves based on DNA results. “To think of identity as a few genetic markers is woefully inadequate and incomplete,” said Nelson, the 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. 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.”
As a white businessman, Taylor has never been subjected to barriers to equal contracting opportunities or been questioned of his competency because of his race or gender. It’s also likely he has never experienced a lack of access to business networks and information. That’s what makes his latest conquest so insulting.
Furthermore, becoming a subscriber to Ebony magazine and a member of NAACP member – two arguments Taylor actually made to strengthen his case – does not make you black. It just further proves feelings of white entitlement have no chill.