A Washington state business owner is taking a page out of Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s playbook in trying to register his company as minority-owned.
But Ralph Taylor, who has gone through his life as a white man, now claims his sense of identity and a genealogy test that revealed he has 4 percent African DNA, should qualify him for the minority status of his business, according to Huffington Post.
The Seattle business owner applied for an affirmative action program and has been working to expose the flaws in the system after being rejected for minority status by the Office of Minority and Women’s Business Enterprises.
“The system the way it is now needs to break,” he told HuffPost’s Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani in an interview and report published Thursday.
Taylor applied for a certificate after a conversation about how easy it would be to certify his business, Orion Insurance, as a Minority Business Enterprise (MBE), according to HuffPost. Washington state awarded Taylor with the MBE in 2014 but his application for a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise certificate was denied by the Office of Minority and Women’s Business Enterprises because he reportedly did not meet the qualifications to be considered a minority.
“I asked, ‘What is the Black culture?’” Taylor said, recounting his communications with the OMWBE which questioned his claims of minority status.
“‘Is it Condoleezza Rice, is it Snoop Dogg? Is it Dr. Dre? Or is Ludacris? Or is it Colin Powell? I mean, that’s a wide variety of people there, so what is Black culture?’ They said something to the effect that, ‘If you don’t know what it is, that’s because you’re not Black,’” Taylor said.
He sued the OMWBE and claimed that affirmative action programs are flawed since he believes one’s racial makeup is “just genetic mutations at the end of the day.”
Taylor, who considers himself multiracial, changed his birth certificate in 2017 to a multiracial status of being ‘Black, Native American and Caucasian’, according to HuffPost.
“I cross them all. Hispanic is to embrace the Hispanic culture. They’re self-identifying statements,” he said.
Taylor also argued that he was a member of the NAACP, subscribes to Ebony Magazine and takes “a great interest in black social causes,” as proof.
When pressed about the similarities of his argument to that of Rachel Dolezal, Taylor said he felt sorry for the woman who, in 2015, sparked outrage when she was exposed as a white woman who had been posing as a black woman through her adult life.
Taylor “wished he could have told her that all she had to do was identify,” according to HuffPost.
“Being able to tip-toe back and forth across a line between ‘now I’m Black, now I’m white, now I’m multiracial’ ― that’s not identity. You’re playing a game,” writer and HuffPost Black Voices Editor Taryn Finley said. “It’s a very nefarious way of using your privilege, and I don’t think that you’re genuinely trying to expose a flaw in the system.”
Finley, who found in her own DNA test that she is 10 percent European, told HuffPost, “I’m a Black woman. My lived experience as a Black woman cannot be passed [as white].”
Taylor, who said he has received death threats over his story, took a polygraph test to counter critics.
“It was never about the money,” he said, insisting his MBE status has not benefited him financially and he has spent his time and “hundreds of thousands of dollars” on the lawsuit which he sees as for the greater good.
According to HuffPost:
He attempted to submit scores of Excel spreadsheet data with the names of people who were awarded federal minority status alongside hyperlinks to the LinkedIn profiles or company websites, in an effort to reveal how many people were, he says, “gaming the system.” Taylor claims that his own research into states’ minority business owner programs shows that 65% of enrollees were white, based on his perception of their photos. The spreadsheet was ultimately disallowed by the 9th Circuit court as evidence.
That court unanimously ruled against Taylor in December 2018 and in favor of the OMWBE.
Taylor continues to maintain that affirmative action programs shouldn’t be focused on race but more on socioeconomics. Conversely, he is arguing that his 4 percent African DNA results should qualify him for status as a black man.
Taylor told the news site he plans to reapply to the OMWBE for certification and “jokes that he’s willing to live out of his car if it means seeing this through to the end.”
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