Ralph Taylor of Lynwood, Washington, looks white. But after taking a DNA test showing that he is 6 percent indigenous American and 4 percent sub-Saharan African, he began to identify as multiracial and applied for minority-owned business status to win more business from state and federal government contractors.
Taylor's application was denied, and now he's suing.
What are the details?
In 2010, Taylor took a DNA test through a company called AncestryByDNA, which confirmed to him what he already suspected: "I've always known that I'm multiracial," he told The Washington Post.
The test concluded that Taylor was 90 percent Caucasian, but Taylor considers the results showing his multiracial heritage to be proof that he is a minority. In 2013, he applied for his business, Orion Insurance Group, to be recognized by the state of Washington as being minority-owned.
His application was first rejected by the state's Office of Minority & Women's Business Enterprises on the grounds that he was not "visibly identifiable" as a minority. But after he appealed, the Office eventually approved his application before reversing its decision again and ultimately denied him the certification in 2014.
In issuing its decision, the state of Washington dismissed the DNA test, questioning its accuracy. The OMWBE wrote, "The documentation that Mr. Taylor provided was insufficient to prove that he has held himself out to be a member of either [the Black American or Native American] group(s) over a long period of time."
Taylor had provided two letters from third parties who vouched for his claim of being multiracial, and had explained in his appeal that he "is a member of the NAACP, that he has a subscription to Ebony magazine, and that he is concerned about Black social issues."
But the state determined Taylor did not provide enough evidence that he was multiracial, nor that he was disadvantaged enough to qualify for minority status as a business owner.
What about his legal battle?
Ever since, Taylor has been in a legal battle trying to prove his blackness to the state, and his case is currently pending with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. His goal with the case, he told The Atlantic, is to expose the unfairness of the "disadvantaged business enterprise" program.
Using the DNA results, Taylor was able to officially update his birth certificate last year, showing that he is actually black, Native American and Caucasian.
Taylor told The Post, "I'm a certified black man. I'm certified black in all 50 states. But the federal government doesn't recognize me."