I live with four people. Three of them are white and one is Asian, at least that’s what I would normally write on a form if asked. And if things were fair and balanced with this year’s Census, I would say one is Italian, one is Irish, one is Korean, and I would probably check other for the last one. She’s white, but beyond that, I scratch my head. Sorry Census folks, I don’t know their names. As for racial categories on the 2010 Census, it’s good thing I don’t have a Hispanic roommate because the option of selecting “Hispanic” as a racial category no longer exists. It’s there but in another question and in a million little pieces. No explanations are provided.
The Racial Contract (1997), a book written by Charles Mills asserts that the racial contract is a set of agreements between white people to categorize non-whites as inferior. To support this belief, whites set up a “two-tiered moral code” and in turn a hierarchy of rights, with the power being bestowed to individuals who were considered white. Of course, no system is as obvious as pre-slavery to Jim Crow times but we would be foolish to believe the continued use and manipulation of racial categories is a not a modern day version of old school ideology. Know your place! If “nationality” and “ethnicity” are so important as the Census would have us believe, why not provide options for whites to list their specific cultural affiliations? Why is “white” still a racial category and not Italian or Irish? And while the “Black” category remains virtually unchanged, the continued use of the term “Negro” is not because (as I’ve heard) older people still identify with the term–it is simply to remind everyone what box Obama will be checking.
As for “Hispanic,” it looks like the Census Bureau decided to use the old divide and conquer method in this decade’s questionnaire. Another important point made in The Racial Contract was the idea that definitions could be changed at any moment to exclude groups (i.e Arabs, Irish, and Jews) who were at one time believed to be part of the dominant (white) group. Thus even though Hispanic populations aren’t typically assumed to be white, they do represent one of the fastest growing minority populations in America and are a force to be reckoned with. Looks like the Census Bureau has gotten a bit shook up. httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z5Yg79zbra4
In the end, there is a reason the Census Bureau continues to juggle racial terms. Every racial group, with the exception of those who are “White” has to always consider what and who they are in ways the dominant group does not. Isn’t it the goal of the Census to record population changes among other things? So what sense does it make to continue to change things? When’s the last time you heard of an experiment, research or any kind of legit study with no controls? It seems, if the Census is itching for change, why not do something simple like put the racial categories in alphabetical order? Go figure.