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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, April 11, 2010

Repping a whitish shade of pale

By Charles Memminger

Raise your hand if you haven't sent in your 2010 census yet. One, two, three ... looks like a few million people missed the April 1 deadline. Book 'em, Danno.

Trouble is, you need a couple hundred thousand Dannos to track down the million census scofflaws. I suspect a lot of people didn't get their census in yet because the form doesn't make sense, especially when it comes to saying who we are. Consider this:

"In October 1997, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) announced the revised standards for federal data on race and ethnicity. The minimum categories for race are now: American Indian or Alaska Native; Asian; Black or African American; Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander; and White. Instead of allowing a multiracial category as was originally suggested in public and congressional hearings, the OMB adopted the Interagency Committee's recommendation to allow respondents to select one or more races when they self-identify. With the OMB's approval, the Census 2000 questionnaires also include a sixth racial category: Some Other Race. There are also two minimum categories for ethnicity: Hispanic or Latino and Not Hispanic or Latino. Hispanics and Latinos may be of any race."

That's the hairy explanation by the U.S. Census Bureau as to why this latest census form seems to fall all over itself in trying to determine the race and ethnicity of respondents. That four-sentence, fish-in-a-blender monstrosity of the English language shows that the committee that created it had ceased to operate as a group of sentient human beings and degenerated into a mob of deal-makers and appeasers just to get to the finish line. The clue that the architects of that jumble of words finally threw their hands up in despair or laid on the ground pounding their little fists on the carpet is that after sloppily dissecting race and ethnicity classifications into an inconsistent, nonsensical mush, they simply added as last "catch all" category: "Some Other Race."

"Some Other Race" no doubt invited a few crazies to consider whether they can claim some extraterrestrial origin other than "human race."

The various a la carte offerings of race and ethnicity on the census form simply don't make sense. How can you have eight flavors of "Hispanic" (Hispanic, Latino, Spanish, Mexican, Mexican American, Chicano, Puerto Rican and Cuban), three for "Black" (Black, African American or Negro) and only ONE for "White"? (The selections for "Asian" are too long to list here.)

As I've said previously, I suspect that if the founding fathers, when considering the idea of counting everyone in the country every 10 years conceived that it would involve more than 300 million people, they would have come up with a different plan, like "guesstimation." And if they thought such a count also would involve allowing respondents to categorize themselves into every imaginable racial and ethnic stripe imaginable, they would have laid on the ground pounding their little fists on the hemp carpets.

I did get my census in. I considered listing myself under "Some Other Race," like "third race at Churchill Downs." Instead, I think I just put "White-ish."