Carding the Race Count

 This article starts with an initially interesting premise about the potential choices Tiger Woods has with regards to what to select when it comes to choosing his “race” on the 2010 census form.  Of course, the fact that "The Census Bureau explicitly defines “race’’ as “a self-identification data item in which respondents choose the race or races with which they most closely identify.’" means it is in effect meaningless in many ways or maybe more importantly a clear sign of the changes in identity over the last 200 years.  Here, citizens have the right to choose how they are represented/depicted rather than the long standing tradition where that choice is made for them. 

The discussion around "racial criteria" being "irrelevant" and no real need for it, especially in 2010 when we know there is no proven differences genetically speaking between the "races."  But to remove the question is to ignore history and I think that's something the article overall misses.  The primary reason of that race was put on the census form as near as I can tell is because of the 3/5's Compromise that was put into the U.S. Constitution.  Though changed by the 14th Amendment, the original wording of Article 1, Section 2 was "Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned  among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons."  However, even after the 14th Amendment, I'm not sure it would make entire sense to do away with asking for race or rather, I don't think there would be large enough political drive to remove the race question from the census--no more than one can find the political capital do do away with so many the archaic "blue laws" that still linger in many states.  However, those numbers probably (for detrimental reasons, most likely) came into use again towards the end of the 1800s and into the 1900s as the country entered into the legally-precedented period of segregation with Plessy. vs. Ferguson in 1896.  Decisions about allocation of resources were in many places based upon the racial make up of the communities and states.

That's all in the past, they say.  So there's no need to keep track of it.  But it's not.  We're still impacted in many different levels by the more insipid institutions and it's worth seeing the long term impact and (hopeful) recovery from such dubious and morally abysmal actions.

Further in the article, Jacoby calls for an end to including race on the census because of the "racial spoils system it fuels."  Well, that little phrase says a whole lot.  Particularly, when Jacoby condemns the NAACP for being a willful participant in it.  On its face value, Jacoby is saying that it's wrong to cling to race and racial identity because it creates a favoring system.  Any many would feel uncomfortable with that.  But again, when you remove it, and supposedly turn the census into a color-blind counter of human lives.  But if decisions are being made based upon the statistics generated by the census, and we have a long history of unequal treatment among races; it seems dubious and premature to disregard race.  We are after all, a country still filled with race issues

Other Questions on the Consensus

The other question here is why does Jacoby take an angle on race when there are clearly other questions on the census that are without any constitutional precedent.  Question #4 asks for the telephone number.  Question #6 asks for each person's sex.  This is an equally antiquated question as Race given that women can now vote too and unlike the precedence built into the Constitution that would stipulate race, there is no stipulation to clearly identify sex.  Question #7 asks for the ages/birthdays of each person.  and here they stipulation that "Asked since 1800, Federal, state, and local governments need date about age to interpret most social and economic characteristics, such as forecasting the number of people eligible for Social Security and Medicare benefits (which doesn't make since by the logic of the statement, since those were things that came into creation in the 1900s, not 1800s).  Furthermore, "The data are widely used in planning and evaluating government programs and policies that provide funds or services for children, working-age adults, women of childbearing age, or the older population."  Again, Jacoby doesn't take aim at the equally perplexing implications of Question #9:  "Is Person 1 of Hispanic, Latino or Spanish Origin?"

In Jacoby's final assessment, he desire to say, forget race, we're all Americans on face value seems valid and promising.  But again, let's think about what that means.  The term "American" is perplexing.  The US has co-opted the term to refer to U.S. citizens.  However, if we took the lead from what we call other people by continental-derived names, (Europeans, Africans, Asians), it should just mean someone from the continent of America, not just the United States.  Referring to U.S. Citizens as "Americans" is linguistically ethnocentric.  We are laying claim to the entire continent (North and South) when we use the term.  In fact, many are taken aback when they hear non-U.S. citizens claim to be "American."  Undoubtedly, people will have problems with this condemnation of the term, but I think it speaks (literally) loudly to our presumptions about our culture's presumptions about itself.  This isn't a derision of the US country's quality, but more a consideration of how its self-importance tramples upon other people who have equal (and chronologically better) claims to the term American but are denied or disregarded.  I point this out, but in Jacoby's attempt to create equality of racial identity by declaring U.S. citizens a "race", he relies then on a cultural bias (as well as another racial split between U.S. Americans and other "Americans") that has been at times, equally damning as the racial bias in U.S. history.

So, does the race question deserve to be on there?  What purposes does it serve?  If the race question shouldn't be there; what about the sex question?  The age question?  The "Hispanic, Latino or Spanish" question?  Where do they fit in?

What about the issues of categorizing and keeping track of the larger picture of national composition of the population and who is "what"?





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Comments

  1. When it comes to race, people should be able to clarify themselves as what they want. Identifying someone as African, American, or Asian is basically just referring to the continent in which they are from. I do not believe that the Census should delete the question of race. A couple hundred years ago, people were not allowed to choose their identification. The race question allows citizens to self-identify themselves as to what they are most alike. Although everyone should be seen as equal, the question of race should stay in the census. Like it stated in the article, deleting the question is taking away from the history of it. There is a lot of discrimination in the United States, even still in today’s society, but the question of race ensures the government who is living here. Although the sex question is debatable, race has always been an issue in America. Referring to a U.S. citizen as “American” could also be taken offensive. There are many U.S. citizens who are not American and have earned their citizenship here. People may become offended of having “U.S. Citizen” as their race because it does not define who they really are. It just states they have the rights of a citizen here.

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  2. I absolutely and totally agree with Brittney’s comments on race. They should not take the race question off the Census, even though it puts strain on the whole discrimination aspect. There has been racial discrimination and has been an issue for many years. This does give people the choice to identify who they are. Everyone should be seen as being equally, but some people do not get the concept of having individuality. Everyone is the same in many ways, but also very different. The questions about a person’s sex or age to me is more valuable information for the Census. The only question I have is why do they ask for what your race is? For example, government questions and other types of questions that people have to answer to apply for a job or college or anywhere. I just have a hard time understanding why they truly need to know if you are Hispanic, African American, Caucasian. It makes sense that test like these ask for age and sex of a person; it is basic information that is needed to be known. I also agree with what Brittney said in her comment about how people maybe offended by being referred to an U.S. citizen as an “American”. They might not be American, but the are an U.S. citizen.

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  3. I believe the Census should delete the question of race because it affects every single person who is a United State's citizen. The word "race" has been in our lives since we were born. It is a word that will always be used unless we take it out of our lives. A citizen of the United States is a citizen of the United States regardless of their ethnic background and by having a “race” question in the Census it shows that we have learned nothing since the time of slavery. Slavery was an awful time in the history of the world and there should not be questions that refer to people being different. In the Constitution, the creator gives everyone who is a citizen of the United States, the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This means that no matter what racial background someone comes from, they all have the same rights that can never be taken away unless people do not follow the laws of the society. By taking the race question out of the Census it allows everyone to be equal regardless of their race and skin color. If questions about race are not brought up, I believe people will began to realize that everyone is equal and the color of their skin does not matter and should not affect the way they want to live their lives.

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  4. I believe that the sex question should be removed from the census. Today you find many women fulfilling what use to be jobs solely for men. Asking what gender a person is only classifies what physical traits the person possesses. This question does not describe ones capability for the job at hand nor does it demonstrates if they obtained the skills required. In the business world of 2010, many women hold corporate jobs that in earlier times women wouldn't dream of. We have come a long way thanks to our first step of womens rights in the 1800s. Men also work womanly jobs which require more care and compassion. Male nurses, school teachers, daycare providers and even stay at home dads are more common in this decade then ever. So why should there be a question about gender when there is equality among males and females in the work force? Taking all this into consideration it is the same with voting. A man and a women have equal rights. When the census counts the population it does not matter the gender. A man will vote, a women will vote, yet it will always equal two votes by two people. On the Census for 2010 website they state they ask the gender question to "provide equal employment opportunity for women" in that certain area. This to me sounds like they are classifying jobs as specifically for men or women. I would translate this to they ask the question for the purpose of providing enough jobs requiring care and compassion, as i previously mentioned, for the amount of women in the area.

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  5. I completely agree with Kyle's comment on removing the question of race from the Census. I feel that the only thing that has any significance in this situation is that these people are American citizens. Their ethnic background should not play any type of a role or factor in this. Brittney said that these people should not just be classified as “American citizens” because that is taking away from what they truly are. I feel as though if these people wanted to come to America and earn their rights as an American citizen, then they should be classified equally with everyone as an “American citizen” and should not have to specify their ethnicity. Along with removing the question of race, I feel that the questions of sex, age, Hispanic, Latino and Spanish questions should be removed from the Census as well. All of these questions are showing that we, as Americans are trying to categorize the types of people who live in our country even though we are working hard to stop judging, categorizing and discriminating as a whole. These questions just make it seem like it is okay for us to be doing those things and it keeps them evolving in our culture.

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  6. After reading this blog and Jeff Jacoby’s article entitled “No Place for Race” I was interested in the discussion of “racial criteria” and how it seems to be unnecessary. Although, as it is stated in the blog and article, “...the Census Bureau defines ‘race’ as ‘a self-identification data item in which respondents choose the race or races with which they most closely identify'”. I fully agree when it is stated in the blog that removing the question would “ignore history”. I do not feel as though this question should be removed because it would not be right to remove a piece of an Amendment that has already been present for so many years.
    I agree more with what is written in the blog rather than what is written in Jacoby’s article. For example, I agree when the blog states that it would not seem right to disregard race altogether. The blog states that with such a long history of discrimination among races, it may be too premature to remove race. Ultimately, I do not feel as though it is the right time to remove the race question from the census. I do not think that it is discriminating to have to be questioned about race in a question on the census; the census asks this questions simply to gain information.

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