To fight discrimination, the U.S. census needs a different race question

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Latino Studies, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2020-03-10 14:48Z by Steven

To fight discrimination, the U.S. census needs a different race question

Science News: Independent Journalism Since 1921

Sujata Gupta, Social Sciences Writer

An accurate sense of racial diversity is hard to achieve with current U.S. census questions.
Delphine Lee

The government has asked people their race since 1790

Wendy Roth has been arguing for years that the U.S. Census Bureau should ask about race in a different way. The race box that people check for themselves on the census doesn’t always match the box someone else might have checked for them. And that, Roth says, is a problem.

Roth, a sociologist at the University of Pennsylvania, began researching that mismatch in racial identification in the early 2000s. She recruited 60 New Yorkers who had been born in Puerto Rico or the Dominican Republic, showed them the census race question and asked them how they would answer. The responses surprised her.

Consider the case of Salvador, a kitchen worker in the Bronx. “Many Americans observing him would consider him to be black,” Roth wrote in December 2010 in Social Science Quarterly. But Salvador told Roth that he checks “white.”

While attitudes in the mainland United States have been shaped by the long legacy of the “one-drop rule,” in which a single drop of “black blood” conferred “blackness,” Puerto Ricans believe the opposite — that even dark-skinned people can’t be black if they have “white blood.” Puerto Ricans use terms like mulatto or trigueño to describe those falling somewhere between white and black. But when presented with race checkboxes that offer no intermediate options, Salvador simply goes by what he knows…

A slippery sense of self

As minority groups fight for greater visibility, and the race question gets wound up in ideas about self-affirmation and group empowerment, the census data have been getting more difficult to decipher since the 1960 shift to self-identification.

With the power to check their own race box, many people previously identified as white have embraced a nonwhite or mixed-race identity. That’s evident in the American Indian numbers. From 1890 to 1960, the American Indian population grew from 248,000 to 524,000, with an average annual growth rate of just 1.1 percent. But over the next several decades, and coinciding with the shift to self-identification, that population grew to almost 2 million by 1990 — with an average annual growth rate of 4.3 percent. That meteoric growth extends well beyond what is possible through births alone, [Carolyn] Liebler says…

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Reverse Passing

Posted in Articles, Law, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2018-04-09 01:39Z by Steven

Reverse Passing

UCLA Law Review
Volume 64, Issue 2 (2017)
pages 282-354

Khaled A. Beydoun, Associate Professor of Law
University of Detroit, Mercy School of Law

Erika K. Wilson, C. Ivey II Term Professor of Law, Associate Professor of Law
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Throughout American history untold numbers of people have concealed their true racial identities and assumed a white racial identity in order to reap the economic, political, and social benefits associated with whiteness. This phenomenon is known as passing. While legal scholars have thoroughly investigated passing in its conventional form, the corollary process of reverse passing—the process in which whites conceal their true racial identity and present themselves as nonwhite—has not been closely investigated within legal scholarship.

Rachel Dolezal provides a timely study of the process of reverse passing. Dolezal—an Africana Studies Instructor and head of the Spokane, Washington NAACP—was outed as being white after years of phenotypically and culturally presenting herself as a Black woman. Dolezal’s “outing” generated much popular debate and scholarly discourse, most of which tended to frame her actions as a one-off occurrence by a deviant actor. This Article takes a contrary position.

Though reverse passing is often framed as deviant or irrational, this Article demonstrates how the U.S. Supreme Court’s affirmative action jurisprudence creates tangible and intangible incentives for white actors to identify as nonwhite. It suggests that the Court’s entrenchment of the diversity rationale as the primary compelling state interest that can be used to justify race-conscious affirmative action programs generated situational value in nonwhiteness. That situational value in nonwhiteness now creates incentives that previously did not exist for whites to reverse-pass in order to obtain access to opportunities in education, employment and beyond.

This Article is the first to coin, analyze, and propose a theory of reverse passing. It also deepens the rich and rising scholarship examining performance theory and the pliability of racial identity. Finally, given the reconsideration of the diversity rationale by the Supreme Court in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, this Article also provides an opportunity to critically examine the merits and shortcomings of the diversity rationale.

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A Demographic Threat? Proposed Reclassification of Arab Americans on the 2020 Census

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Law, Media Archive, United States on 2017-03-13 18:11Z by Steven

A Demographic Threat? Proposed Reclassification of Arab Americans on the 2020 Census

Michigan Law Review (Online)
Volume 114, Issue 1 (August 2015)
8 pages

Khaled A. Beydoun, Associate Professor of Law
Mercy School of Law
University of Detroit


Arab Americans are white?” This question—commonly posed as a demonstration of shock or surprise—highlights the dissonance between how “Arab” and “white” are discursively imagined and understood in the United States today.

These four words also encapsulate the dilemma that currently riddles Arab Americans. The population finds itself interlocked between formal classification as white, and de facto recognition as nonwhite. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the government agency that oversees the definition, categorization, and construction of racial categories, currently counts people from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) as white. The United States Census Bureau (Census Bureau), the agency responsible for collecting and compiling demographic data about the American people, adopts these definitions and classifications for the administration of its decennial census. Since the racially restrictive “Naturalization Era,” Arab Americans have been legally classified as white.

Within the context of the pronounced and protracted “War on Terror,” the OMB and Census Bureau may be the only two government entities that still identify Arab Americans as white. Heightening state surveillance of Arab Americans, combined with still escalating societal animus, manifests a shared public and private view of the population as not only nonwhites, but also “others,” “terrorists,” and “radicals.”

Although not a new phenomenon, the association of Arab American identity with subversion, warmongering, and terrorism intensified after the September 11th terrorist attacks. Fourteen years later, broadening antiterror policing coupled with emergent “preventative counter-terrorism” initiatives, or Countering Violent Extremist (CVE) policing, signals that suspicion of Arab American identity is still trending upward. And perhaps, is yet to reach its apex.

This Essay argues that the establishment of a standalone MENA American box on the next U.S. Census may erode Arab American civil liberties by augmenting the precision of government surveillance and monitoring programs. The proposed reclassification of Arab American identity is not simply a moment of racial progress but, I argue, a mechanism that evidences the state’s interest in obtaining more accurate “macro and micro demographic data” about Arab Americans. By illuminating the causal state interests facilitating reform and reclassification, I highlight how more precise and extensive demographic data—collected and compiled with a MENA American box on the U.S. Census form—expands the reach of federal and local antiterror and counter-radicalization policing amid the fluid yet evermore fierce War on Terror…

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