Throughout American history, government at all levels has used race to categorize, enslave, segregate, regulate human behavior, and limit immigration with “nationality” quotas that served as substitutes for race. Categorizing by race was essential to racist agendas.
In response, classical liberal civil rights activists struggled to eliminate government-mandated racial categories. They were anything but naive: racism was real, categories or no categories, but the government stamp of approval made things worse–and caused constant mischief in the ever increasing addition of group categories in the census or in immigration statutes. The only feasible solution was the most radical one: the complete elimination of government racial categories. Individuals might discriminate but would no longer have the support of the State. With time, classical liberals felt, the irrationality of racism and xenophobia would give way to better human relations.