A collection of officials convened by the Biden administration to reconsider racial categories in the United States Census has proposed changes to how the census asks questions about race.
As reported by forbes, most notably the committee has proposed creating a new racial classification for people from the Middle East and North Africa. The experts also recommended re-categorizing Hispanic and Hispanic identities as a racial category.
These changes are among recommendations recently made by a task force tasked by the Office of Management and Budget to reconsider the racial and ethnic categories that exist in the US Census. The group also recommended additional changes for the 2030 census, including removing the term “Negro” as an alternative to black, and removing terms such as “minority” and “majority” to describe different racial groups.
The current census lists a handful of broad racial categories, including American Indian or Alaskan Native, Asian, Black, Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, and White. Many of these categories allow alternative labels, such as “African American” or “Negro” for Black. Others divide the categories into different nationalities or subgroups; For example, the Asian category includes options like Asian, Indian, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, and more. However, various scholars and proponents have argued that these categories are inadequate, insufficient, or unnecessarily confusing.
There is currently no separate category for people of Middle Eastern or North African origin, also known as the MENA region. Many of these individuals are technically considered white under census rules and other state classifications. For years, however, Arab-American activists have objected to white labeling, arguing that it is not the case reflect their actual experiences in the United States and that it is difficult to collect data on their communities. Activists have welcomed the proposed addition of a MENA category to give their communities more visibility.
Similarly, Hispanic and Latino activists have questioned the way their identities have been classified.
The current census lists Hispanic or Latino identity as an ethnicity that is considered a separate category from race, and gives individuals the ability to identify as Hispanic or Latino and choose from the various racial categories.
While this allows for the detection of multi-faceted identities such as Afro-Latino, many people have argued that this system is unnecessarily confusing and leads to people accidentally misidentifying themselves when completing the census.
This confusion can contribute to Hispanics not being included in the census. Black Americans also tend to be underestimated, according to recent research. It also contradicts the definition of “race,” “the group or groups you may identify with because they share similar physical characteristics that are considered common among people of a common ancestry,” and ethnicity, which “something that you acquire based on where your family comes from and with which group you share cultural, traditional and family ties and experiences.”
This is per Merriam-Websterwhich states, “People may have racial similarity but ethnic dissimilarity.”
The recommendations of the working group are now being evaluated. The OMB will spend several months collecting public opinion on the proposed changes. Any new or changed racial categories will be implemented beginning with the next census in 2030.
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