Congress Should Tell the OMB to Stop Dividing the Country

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2016-10-27 14:13Z by Steven

Congress Should Tell the OMB to Stop Dividing the Country

The Heritage Foundation
Issue Brief #4614 on Office Of Management And Budget

Mike Gonzalez, Senior Fellow
The Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy

On the first day of Congress’s recess, the Obama Administration recommended the most sweeping changes to the nation’s official racial and ethnic categories in decades. The two most significant proposals were creating a new ethno/racial group for people who originate from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and taking from those who identify as Hispanic the option to identify their race. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Notice asked for comments to be submitted within a month—the shortest window possible—for what it described as a “limited revision” of data collection practices. Far from limited, the proposals would have long-term consequences for how one-fifth of all Americans are defined demographically and would create more societal conflict over racial preferences and political gerrymandering. The American people deserve more than a month to debate such significant changes, and Congress must weigh in.

Racial Reclassifications

The Obama Administration’s proposal would mean that, as early as the 2020 Census, those of Middle East and North African origin, who have been classified as white for over a century, would now be reclassified as a single and unified minority group. At the same time, people of Latin American or Iberian origins would no longer be able to declare whether they are also white, black, or another race, effectively making “Hispanic” their only racial identifier. This would be the biggest change to the nation’s official demography since OMB created Hispanics in 1977 and the Census divided the country into an ethno-racial pentagon that also included White, Black, Asian and American Indian in 1980. The Clinton Administration tried to create MENA and make Hispanics “a racial designation rather than an ethnicity” but failed, settling instead for the addition of “Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander” as a sixth group in 1997, the last major change…

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