I've long pointed out that how the government decides to divvy up individuals for the purposes of affirmative action and disparate impact has long-run social constructionist impact on politics. Smart ruling classes practice divide and rule, but dumb ones, like Republicans, practice unite and submit.
For example, in the early 1970s, the Nixon Administration might have looked at people from south of the Rio Grande and said to themselves, "Wow, those folks will go to war with each other over a soccer game
. Back home, they get all insulted if anyone insinuates they aren't pure Castillian. They won't be hard to keep fractured and under our thumb." Instead, the Nixonites decided that it would be bureaucratically convenient to call them all "Hispanics" and give them money and prizes for identifying as "Hispanic."
Four decades later, the newspapers run articles everyday insisting that Hispanics hate the Republicans and the Republicans are electorally doomed unless
, according to disinterested Hispanic spokes-experts, they let in lots more
So, changes in bureaucratic classification systems can matter a lot.
WASHINGTON — To keep pace with rapidly changing notions of race, the Census Bureau wants to make broad changes to its surveys that would treat "Hispanic" as a distinct category regardless of race, end use of the term "Negro" and offer new ways to identify Middle Easterners.
The recommendations released Wednesday stem from new government research on the best ways to count the nation's demographic groups. Still it could face stiff resistance from some racial and ethnic groups who worry that any kind of wording change in the high-stakes government count could yield a lower tally for them. ...
... The wording in census surveys can also be highly political: census data are used to distribute more than $400 billion in federal aid and draw political districts and thus can elicit concern if a change were to yield a lower response.
Terry Minnis, director of census and voting programs at the Asian American Justice Center, said more tests are needed to ensure that Asian-Americans are fully counted under a new question format. ...
"As the Census Bureau looks to develop new strategies that maximize measurement and reporting on race and ethnicity, it must ensure that nothing compromises the quality and detail of data on Asian Americans," Minnis said.
You'll notice that none of the groups consulted are white or Republican or conservative or anti-racialist or citizenist or whatever. Who are these losers to have a say in how their country is run?
... The research is based on an experiment conducted during the 2010 census in which nearly 500,000 households were given forms with the race and ethnicity questions worded differently. The findings show that many people who filled out the traditional form did not feel they fit within the five government-defined categories of race: white, black, Asian, Pacific Islander and American Indian/Alaska Native; when questions were altered to address this concern, response rates and accuracy improved notably.
For instance, because Hispanic is currently defined as an ethnicity and not a race, some 18 million Latinos – or roughly 37 percent – used the "some other race" category on their census forms to establish a Hispanic racial identity. Under one proposed change to the census forms, a new question would simply ask a person's race or origin, allowing them to check a single box next to choices including black, white, or Hispanic.
The other changes would drop use of "Negro," leaving a choice of "black" or African-American, as well as add write-in categories that would allow Middle Easterners and Arabs to specifically identify themselves. ...
"This is a hot-button issue," said Angelo Falcon, president of the National Institute for Latino Policy in New York City and a community adviser to the census. "The burden will be on the Census Bureau to come up with evidence that wording changes will not undermine the Latino numbers." ...
While individual Hispanics have expressed dissatisfaction with census forms that don't count Latino as a race, Latino political groups have been reticent about pushing for a change. The main reason: Past research has sometimes shown that treating Latinos as a mutually exclusive group on survey forms leads to a lower Hispanic count.
"Why would Latinos want to give up their own question on the census form that specifically asks if they are of Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin?" asks Falcon of the National Institute for Latino Policy. He notes that the current wording, which first asks people if they are of Latino origin and then prompts them to fill in their race, fostered a strong count in 2010 that yielded a new census milestone for Latinos of 50 million, or 1 in 6 Americans.
People like Angelo Falcon make their living by claiming to represent over 50,000,000 Hispanics. And the more the better. Right now, Hispanics have their own special Census category, Ethnicity, which nobody else gets. This allows them to be both white on the Race question, which is very, very important to some of them, and get money and prizes for being Hispanic on the Ethnicity question. Falcon is worried that if Ethnicity is dropped Hispanic / Latino gets turned into one answer to the Race question, some of the individuals he claims to represent will choose to be white over Hispanic, thus making him seem like the leader of a smaller power bloc.
The Census Bureau answers that they tested for that, and there's no problem: they've figured out how to word it so that Mr. Falcon will come out just as important.
My solution would be to eliminate from the Census the Ethnicity concept and the Hispanic/Latino answer. Just have Race, and let people identify as mestizo
if they feel like. We need to be sensitive to Latin American cultures, and those words are central to their cultures.
Arab-Americans said they strongly support the Census Bureau's efforts. "The Census Bureau's current method for determining Arab ancestry yields a significant undercount of the actual size of the community, and we're optimistic that the new form should be significantly better at capturing ancestry data," the Arab American Institute said in a statement.
Of course they do. At present, Arabs are classified as white and thus get the fuzzy end of the lollipop along with other whites when it comes to affirmative action and disparate impact discrimination lawsuits. (Remember, without a count to facilitate a claim of disparate impact discrimination, people can only sue for disparate treatment discrimination.)
Thirty years ago, I'd sometimes hang out with this fellow in northwest suburban Chicago, a nice guy who seemed like the quintessential upscale suburban Chicago kid. (In fact, he's now a local politician, the village president
of a posh suburb. I see in Wikipedia that he ran for Congress recently as the Democratic nominee but lost in that Republican district full of corporate executives.) At the time, his father was CEO of the most famous bank in Chicago and had recently appeared on the cover of Fortune
with a headline asserting he was The Toughest Boss in America. The only thing slightly different about this young guy from all the other suburbanites was that he had an Arab surname and looked Levantine. (His grandparents were Lebanese Christian immigrants.)
For reasons of obvious self-interest, I want Arabs and other Middle Easterners in the bureaucratically white tent with me. How in the world does it do me any good for the government to start carving out one set of white people and give them the bureaucratic infrastructure to bring disparate impact lawsuits whenever the numbers happen to work out to their disfavor?
Many demographers predict a wider range of responses on census forms and blurring of racial categories over the next 50 years as the minority population grows and interracial marriage becomes more common.
Sure, but Census Bureau categories work to prevent identities from becoming realistically blurry. For example, consider Xochitl Hinojosa
. She may look and live like the affluent and fashion-conscious young white lady she is, but she earned her paycheck as the Obama Justice Department Civil Rights division's Aztec warrior princess / spokesmodel.