Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Too Melted

I gots me a beef. I just filled out the 2010 census for our household. I have no political, moral, social, economic, psychological or gastrointestinal objections to complying with the census. I am not any kind of genealogical scholar, but I have done enough family history to know the value of being counted (and named). The form didn't feel intrusive--it asked only one economicish question--and the one question was about whether the home was owned, rented, or mortgaged. This is hardly asking under which mattress they could find (and therefore steal) my life's savings (they already did that with the stimulus package). Yes, I did feel a moment's pause at putting my children's names and birth dates on the forms (My blog readers don't even know that, I thought), but then remembered that they have that information PLUS their social security numbers in a little file at the IRS building. No, my issue is with something that speaks to our supposed Great American Melting Pot.

Under everyone's name, gender, date of birth and relationship, we were supposed to check the box next to our race. The options were written as follows:

  • Mexican, Chicana, Mexican American

  • Puerto Rican

  • Cuban

  • Other Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish Origin (Argentinean, Colombian, Dominican, Nicaraguan, Salvadoran, Spaniard and so on)

  • Black, African American, Negro

  • American Indian, Alaska Native (Space for principal tribe) Are they no longer even trying to use "Native American?"

  • Asian Indian

  • Chinese

  • Filipino

  • Japanese

  • Korean

  • Vietnamese

  • Other Asian (Hmong, Laotian, Thai, Pakistani, Cambodian and so on)

  • Native Hawaiian

  • Guamanian, Chamorro

  • Samoan

  • Pacific Islander (Fijian, Tongan and so on)

  • Some other race


  • White

Several conclusions come to mind. One. Am I so melted in to this big pot that my possible Irish/English/Russian/Italian/Australian heritage doesn't count anymore? Two. Since my Dutch/Danish/Austrian/South African/Jewish heritage has light skin, does that make my race the same as my German/Czech/Ukrainian/Polish/French husband? Three. My skin is not white. I am wearing a white sweater as I type and there is a marked difference. Four--and this is the point I really want to make. Aren't we past that already? Why can't we just be American? For the sake of census and understanding immigration (legal or illegal, I don't care for this purpose), maybe there could be two boxes. One that says American (if you are a legal citizen) and the other that says Other, with an option to fill in your country of origin. How many generations does it take to say I am American--not Dutch, Mexican or African? Today, St. Patrick's Day, is a perfect day to make this rant, because I am not suggesting you forego your cultural heritage. Drink your beer in Oktober, dance the Polka on Ground Hog Day, beat the Pinata on your birthday, make matzo balls for your celebration. Yahoo! Keep the traditions alive!

But check the box that says American on your census form. That's what you are. Please, let's finally dispense with the name calling and sub-dividing.


  1. Well said!!!!!!!!!! As a genealogist, I was very disappointed with the blandness of the questions.

  2. I'm also wearing a white sweater as I type. But unlike you, there aint much difference at all! (My classmates at Kahuku used to call me "freezer burned" ha ha.) I'm fine with whatever they wound up putting on the form. I don't particularly care about the "why." I find myself feeling sorry for the guys composing that section because I've already heard quite the rant on NPR's Native America Talking about how there's no section for individual tribes, The Louisiana Creole were campaigning hard to get people in their tribe to specificy "Louisiana Creole" as a write-in.

    I'm sure that section was much shorter years ago. In ten years it will probably be much longer. Much ado about nothing.

  3. Do NOT get me started about the census. Here in Chicago, Census data is used in the admissions process to the magnet/gifted schools in the public system. So that question about your residence being owned or rented? That came back to bite a friend of ours -- her son's test scores were at the top of the chart, his mom works at and graduated from the school to which he applied, but because "too many" people own their own homes in their area, he was not admitted. They're going private instead. There's more to add, but I'm kicking around doing my own post (will definitely refer my humble handful of readers here). We're marking that four people live here and that's it, end of story.