“I told her … I am a black person.” The little girl looked at Twanna for a minute and said nothing else for the rest of the hour. When her mother picked her up, she said to her mother “Mommy, that grown-up doesn’t know her colors. She doesn’t know that her skin is brown not black." How would you react to this? There are plenty of people in the United States that must have felt this similar state of unsettlement during the 2010 Census.
The 2010 Census was not able to collect useful and accurate data based on the questions and options provided. Question Six asked what race the participant was. The options provided were quite abundant. They included: 1) White 2) Black, African Am., or Negro 3) American Indian or Alaska Native 4) Asian Indian 5) Japanese 6) Chinese 7) Native Hawaiian 8) Korean 9) Guamanian or Chamorro 10) Filipino 11) Vietnamese 12) Samoan 13) Other Asian 14) Other Pacific Islander 15) Some Other Race. Despite the large quantity of options, I find myself unable to relate to any of them. Some categories are favored more than others. Quantitatively speaking, there were many options rooting from the Asian continent. There are barely any relating to those with Hispanic heritage. How did these options even get to be on the census?
I recognize that there is a whole overview provided by the U.S. Department of Commerce explaining the reason behind having Question Six and its options. In addition, Question Five is “Is this person of Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish Heritage?” Which I can identify with, but my dilemma is that Question Five is a completely different question. Just because Question Five is provided, does not mean I can identify with the options provided in Question Six. Those who create the census are simply avoiding the race relating to those who lay somewhere in between the original five categories established in 1987 -- White, Black or African American, American Indian and Alaska Native. The opportunity to check off bi-racial helps, but only to those whose previous generations do relate to the options provided.
To begin with, race is such an ambiguous concept that makes its contemporary definition quite unclear. Upon researching the origins of race, “race” was supposed to be a construct that proved there were certain biological and genetic aspects that separated certain types of humans from others. I used to think my race was “brown” because I knew the other two dominating were white and black, and I knew I was somewhere in between the two. However, what I relate to is not even an option. Because of this, I was always inclined to check off “American Indian” because my family had embedded into my mind that my ancestors were Aztecs many generations before. However, I have not had any personal relation to this part of my heritage. I have not had any teachings or customs on the culture that would allow me to relate to it. This separation causes an internal conflict and makes me feel ineligible to claim to be an American Indian.
The options provided by the 2010 Census include a mixture of ethnicities, geographic locations, and skin colors. I strongly believe that the options given by the race question will not lead to useful qualitative results. The options are not consistent, thus the results will not be consistent. Since I don’t culturally identify with American Indian and the other definitive options, such as Vietnamese, Japanese, and White, seem to be unfitting, I should, by process of elimination, choose “Some Other Race.” Yet somehow, that does not seem to take into account my race, and that of millions of others who are in a similar situation. It degrades the value that we take pride in for being part of this race that cannot even be named. The options also seem to have no proper structure. Black and white capture color of skin, while the others seem to be a combination of geographic location (Japan, Vietnam, Korea, Pacific Islands) and longevity in a region (Native Indian, Native Hawaiian).
Now, there are two options that might help solve this situation. One could be to add more options to the ones already provided. We can add “Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, South American, North American, Hispanic, etc.”. All of which cover a wide range of places and cultures. However, one problem that arises with that potential solution would be to figure out what those other options seem fit to include. What else could be integrated, more ethnicities? One of the problems with the “races” provided by the census, which includes Filipino, Korean, and Chinese, is that these are all ethnicities. I believe ethnicities are labels provided to groups of people that can relate to one another based on ancestral, social, national, and sometimes linguistic similarities. By providing certain ethnicities as options, and not others, the surveyor is ignoring the importance and value those just as important and dominant groups, such as ones with Hispanic heritage. As a consequence, people who do not feel attached to any of these groups provided will feel underrepresented, which defies the whole point of this survey in a questionnaire or census. A solution to this problem could be that those “fill-ins” in Questions Five and Six could be incorporated onto other surveys and census. It would be a representation because it incorporates the identities, specifically races, that those filling out the surveys can identify with.
The other option is to eliminate completely the race question and focus more on the ethnicity one. I understand the importance of race. As a “minority” in this country, I think it is necessary to talk about these distinctions and the result of the obvious differences that race brings to society, including discriminations, bias, and of course, hate crimes. However, if surveyors are not representing the participants properly, how can they shed light on these problems?
In what way is this race question benefiting anyone if it is not rightfully representing a majority of the participants? What do the results of these answers say? The surveyors are receiving a wide range of results, but I do not think the answers are giving accurate profiles of the participants. This census had only benefitted predominantly Asian cultures. The survey does not have options like “Nigerian”, “Guatemalan”, or “South African”. Those are equally distinguishing groups of people, yet there is a clear favoritism given to those who are not considered minority or “colored”, including Asians. An inaccurate portrayal of race in the surveys as important as the census only shows how far behind the United States is in incorporating and properly representing all of its people.