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As someone who uses Census data in my own research, I have to say that even though I can get behind the sentiment here, I’m not a fan.
I agree with Oliver. Unfortunately, we still need to be able to track racial inequality.
For how much longer?
Until it stops.
I’m with the other posters–the sentiment here is awesome, but there needs to be a way to track racial inequality. Also, it’s very, very easily twisted to right-wing purposes.
Whee, fucking up correct racial demographics that can be used to help minority-based reform is HILARIOUS.
The only person who can get away with this is Stephen T. Colbert. Anybody else is just screwing around.
I suspect that a whole ton of Mexican-Americans list their race as “Other” – note that whether you are Hispanic is a completely separate question.
I’m not sure whether the image associated here is from Charli’s census form or EJO’s, or what the basis for the title here, since she neglects to give us any links, and a google search doesn’t turn anything up.
But, basically, after saying they’re Latino/Hispanic, and what particular sort of Latino/Hispanic (Puerto Rican, Mexican, or Other), they then have to identify whether they are Black, White, Multiple Races, or Other. A lot of Hispanics write “other”. That’s basically fine, since the racial data for Hispanics is mostly confusing and beside the point, anyway. According to the census, for example, East Los Angeles is 64% White. That’s because this virtually entirely Hispanic area has about 2/3 of its Hispanic residents calling themselves White, and 1/3 marking themselves as Other.
Charli marking herself as “Other” seems a different matter entirely.
I think that Charli’s referring to this speech by EJO at the UN.
Not funny, McGee.
Spoiler ! For a while it looked like he might be Cylon.
I agree with the other commenters. I wish people would stop thinking of politics as yet another forum for self-expression. From tea partiers to the “look-at-me” kid who was yelling “what about the public option” when Obama spoke in Iowa this week, a lot of Americans seem unwilling to think of themselves as part of a larger entity (i.e. as Americans). If we insist on romanticizing every voice who cries out in the wilderness, how can we fulfill the constitutional mandate to “promote the general welfare”?
If you want to express yourself, go to karaoke night. Treating the census this way is as irresponsible as using your right to vote to write in Donald Duck or Bart Simpson.
If y’all follow the link sylphstorm posted at 8:05, and then click on one of Jesse’s link in the article, you’ll get to this map based on 2000 Census Data. It is the white, rural South that writes in “American” on these forms. These are the folks who think they are “real Americans,” Palin’s “pro-America parts of the country.” I too am behind the sentiment acknowledging that race isn’t real by writing “human” — but race is socially real, and the “Americans” who won’t participate are bigots. If we all wrote in “human” we would be a lot less able to work on our issues.
I too am behind the sentiment acknowledging that race isn’t real by writing “human” — but race is socially real,
Race, as you point out, is real. Yes, there is no biological basis for it, but simply because it is a social construct makes it no less real. It seems better to acknowledge its existence, even if you want to minimize its importance.
As Emile Durkheim says, you have to treat social facts as things. And race is a social fact. And a very big one, at that.
They don’t write down “American” as their race. They write it down as their ethnicity (on the long form only, I assume). It’s strongly correlated with areas with lots of people of Scots-Irish descent, because they have almost no connection to any European country – their ancestors came from Ireland, but had only been there for a couple of generations before coming to the US, and they’ve mostly been in the US since the 18th century.
I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks this is a terrible idea. If too many people do this, there would be no way to track any patterns of segregation (or, optimistically, integration) in cities, suburbs or small towns. The Census isn’t a form of political expression, it’s necessary in order to get a handle on what the country is really like in 2010. I’m just surprised that a “liberal” or “progressive” would endorse something that would mess up any way to see if our country is living up to our ideal of full equality.
Am I the only one who thought this was a not just a terrible idea, but becoming more common here at LGM? I had to resign myself to Farley creaming his jeans over any kewl military tech, which was bad enough. That this post comes from a white person isn’t exactly surprising. Olmos’ utopianism may be something to aspire to, but it ain’t happening this century either, sorry to say. From Ann Althouse after a box of cheap wine I could believe this post, from an LGM’er it’s a disgrace.
“But becoming more common here at LGM? I had to resign myself to Farley creaming his jeans over any kewl military tech, which was bad enough. ”
This has been a feature of LGM since it’s inception…
Actually, the more frequent feature at LGM is people writing annoying comments complaining that LGM just isn’t as good as it used to be for whatever reason they feel like giving.
That’s a feature of the Internet, I’m afraid. (Check out the comments at Photoshop Disasters, for example.) Or possibly of human nature.
I appreciate the heterogeneity of LGM, including things I think are wrong or pointless. As for this one, I’m afraid I’m with the chorus of choleric chommenters — of all the places to resist racial classifications, the census form is the most innocuous, making the protest irrelevant and arguably harmful.
I gotta go with the majority of commenters on this. It’s a nice sentiment, but still just a utopian one. And really, at this point, only white people like me pretend that being color-blind is even possible, let alone good.
No, we see color. We see race. It’s a part of our society whether we like it or not. Ignoring it doesn’t make it go away, it just makes us less willing to admit to it and talk openly.
It doesn’t make us color-blind, it makes us color-*mute*. And that just makes the problem worse, not better.
Poverty is frequently race based in the US. Trying to hide the demographics of race from the census is a neat way to disguise race based economic inequality.
A rather childish protest. Did you feel like an outlaw for a few minutes?
As other commenters have noted, the people trying to stop, for example, the New Jersey Police from collecting race data on traffic stops aren’t really objecting because collecting the data is racist.
just adding to the unprecedented consensus here: bad idea. serious question: what were you thinking?
I like the Confederate Southern American idea.
Makes it easier to send them to the FEMA camps.
Fine, I’ll be the dissenter: I’m with EJO on this one. One footstep at a time…
Wow. You guys really need to calm down.
People are free to mark the racial identifiers on their census forms however they like.
Look at Barack Obama. How does he mark his? He would no doubt go for the many race option, but what about his kids? If you are one-fourth white we know socially you are considered black just as Obama is at half-white, but what do they consider themselves?
IF I’m enough Lakota to get a tribal number but I look white, what do I put on my census form? If enough people want to mark ‘human’ or ‘american’ they should be options on the form and studied just like any other racial identifier.
“Look at Barack Obama. How does he mark his? He would no doubt go for the many race option, but what about his kids? If you are one-fourth white we know socially you are considered black just as Obama is at half-white, but what do they consider themselves?”
That would be up to them, I suppose, or right now their parents. At any rate, this is completely different from the census form under discussion, which claims that Charli is of no race at all. Unfortunately, that’s not possible in the America we live in, more’s the pity.
No one is saying that people aren’t free to fill out their census forms however they like, but they are saying that simple idealism is not a good enough reason not to provide information.
It seems odd to criticize the sentiment in the OP as “utopian” while also believing that computing racial demographics is a critical component of addressing racial inequality and segregation. You can’t manage what you don’t measure but let’s say we discover that black people have lower incomes than white people. What do “we” do next?
I’m going to presume you know that (1) black people do, in this country, have lower incomes than white, and (2) we’ve been discussing this issue for a century or more. Given that you know both these things, but pretend not to, maybe you are really a douchebag.
No, you’re totally right. Social inequities are difficult to address, and it’s much easier just to make sure we don’t become aware of them, because if we knew about them then we might have more reasons to make sure that all Americans had access to decent health care and a good secondary education. For example.
Wait, so black people have had lower incomes than white people for a really long time? And this has been known for a really long time? But “we” (political administrators in our own minds) haven’t solved this problem yet? How can that be?
Look, I’m not going to pull the Colbert bit on race on you guys. Personally, I tend to be of the school of thought that more data is always better. I’m not advocating some bullshit story about how collecting data on race is the only thing preventing us from achieving a post-racial utopia, and that the only real racism is the US Census Form. I was just asking a question: what does the race data actually give us?
So Vance Maverick writes that we’ve had the relevant race data for a hundred years. He seems to think that that proves I’m a douchebag, when I think that it shows that my question is not crazy.
Warren Terra says that race data provides a stronger case for universal access to decent healthcare and secondary school education. But is that true? If everyone in America was of the same race, would the arguments for universal healthcare and education become weaker? Is there anything in the healthcare bill that is particularly focused on removing race-specific barriers?
In terms of general politics, racial data cuts both ways: conservatives can quite easily rationalize racial inequalities by saying that these differentials are genetic, intrinsic, hereditary, natural.
No, I think the source of the outrage here comes from the fact that racial inequality provides a large part of the foundation for American liberalism. Slavery, segregation, Jim Crow laws — these are obvious, explicit race-based injustices that whites were clearly *responsible* for. Decades after the fact, virtually no one can say of slavery or Jim Crow that “that’s just how the world naturally is.” And thus we have a basis for a commitment to a certain type of social justice. Steps that may undermine this commitment are threatening and outrageous, even if most of the outraged can’t name any legislation or government actions based on the collected data.
But that’s just my two cents; I must be a malicious, evil douchebag for my wrongthink; I probably vote Republican.
Sounds like you’re annoyed if we can’t specify what policy a given piece of socioeconomic knowledge would suggest (because if we can’t, then what’s the point?), and you’re annoyed if we do (because then we reveal that we want the data to support our liberal policy preferences). And yet you say “more data is always better”. ;-)
I was calling you a douchebag (following your lead) for your tendentious argumentative style, not for your opinions.
Me, I’m a liberal, no surprise. But I think good data should help us to refine and revise our policies — it ought to be possible, for example, to learn that a certain policy (even a liberal one!), intended to bring about some change in people’s conditions, wasn’t working, and improve or reject it.
It’s a real question what data the Census should be trying to gather, and how. Let’s talk about that, rather than anger and insinuation. (Charli’s followup post is a step in that direction.)
The French don’t collect data on race in France because they believe everyone is just French. It’s hell for anyone who wants to study the effects of race in France, not just academics, of course, but those who want to argue that there is racism in France and that there are problems that need to be addressed to solve racial disparities there.
One person choosing not to accurately report their race isn’t going to undermine our ability to know the demographics of our society, but it’s a selfish thing to do given that these data are used for real purposes. It’s also a short-sighted thing for Charli to do, given that I suspect she supports most, if not all, of those purposes.
What the census data users need to know is how society at large sees me, not how I see myself.
My recent ancestry covers four continents, mostly NE Europe. However, in the USA, I’m black.
I believe this kind of entry gets you classified as insufferably smug.
In 2004 Census coughed up 1,000 pages on hapless Arabs cut by zip and national origin for convenient witch-hunting. So my nationality is FUCK-YOU-Big-Cocksucking-Brother, and so is every other data item.
Confidential by law my fucking ass.
I mark off “other” and type “Sicilo-Tuscan.” Just because.
“You know there’s a lot of people in the world who don’t believe that, that people whose skin color may not be the same as ours can be free and self governing. I reject that. I reject that strongly. I believe that people who practice the Muslim faith can self-govern. I believe that people whose skins aren’t necessarily, you know, are a different color than white, can self-govern.”
-George Walker Bush
I marked down other “Anglo-Saxon”, put “Iberian” for my wife and “Anglo-Iberian” for my kids, as I did in 2000.
I find it absurd that as long as the government is collecting information about race, that there is one kind of “white”, one kind of “black”, but apparently a broad variety of “Asian” and “Latino” choices.
And why is any more important for census data users to know how society sees us than how we see ourselves as a society? There is something fundamentally wrong in telling people what group they have to belong to – the “one drop” rule being a prime example.
“I marked down other “Anglo-Saxon”, put “Iberian” for my wife and “Anglo-Iberian” for my kids, as I did in 2000.”
It’s really a shame that your census form is read only by a computer and not by a person, so no one will know how clever you are. But I guess that’s what this blog is for.
“I find it absurd that as long as the government is collecting information about race, that there is one kind of “white”, one kind of “black”, but apparently a broad variety of “Asian” and “Latino” choices.”
Can you think of any reasons why many black people, for instance, might have a less precise idea of their specific origins than Asian-American people might?
“There is something fundamentally wrong in telling people what group they have to belong to – the “one drop” rule being a prime example.”
Completely irrelevant to the subject at hand.
[…] from the herd (a hallmark of progressivism) I must actually be a faux progressive. Recently, for challenging my government’s use of racial classifications on the census form, I have been called a selfish, irresponsible, childish bigot by an audience readership of this blog […]
So, if there’s a question about service in the armed forces on this thing, can I put down “KISS Army” even though I no longer rock and roll all night and party every day? Cool!
Census data is also used to help health care providers decide where to place urgent care facilities. I think it’s also used to compare concentrations of racial types against data for disease so as to help identify which sorts of diseases which racial types might be more prone to. So that preventative measures can be concentrated in those areas. Shit like that.
[…] evidence (instead of a rant) to make my point. Similarly at LGM, my casual and un-elaborated-on refusal to choose a “race” on a census form led to accusations that I was a racist and a faux liberal, prompting me to write […]
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