ATLANTIC: How Racial Data Gets 'Cleaned' in the U.S. Census
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From The Atlantic, an article implying (without quite stating) a conspiracy theory that the government fiddles with the Census counts by race to victimize nonwhites:

How Racial Data Gets ‘Cleaned’ in the U.S. Census

The national survey offers more identity choices than ever—until those choices get scrubbed away. An Object Lesson.


ROBYN AUTRY is an associate professor of sociology at Wesleyan University. She is the author of Desegregating the Past.

At a doctor’s visit, on a college-admissions application, or even in a consumer-marketing survey, Americans are regularly asked to classify themselves by race. Some protest this request by “declining to answer,” as forms often allow. After all, racial categories are social constructs. They don’t connote biological or genetic difference.

As an African American, I have never had difficulty knowing which box I am meant to check. Whether I do so depends on my understanding of why the information is being collected. Similar questionnaires in the late 19th and early 20th centuries didn’t afford such choice. At that time, before the current practice of self-identification, an enumerator or census taker would have visited my home and classified me as free or enslaved, and then determined whether I might be colored, mulatto, quadroon (one-quarter black), or octoroon (one-eighth).

Professor Autry seems to be even hazier on the exact years of the Civil War than Quentin Tarantino.

But in this wholly Socially Constructed world, the only constant is White Supremacy. Thus, Professor Autry concludes:

Even so, some of the choices haven’t changed. Since the first census in 1790, one category has remained stable, or at least been modified the least on the national census and other official government forms: “white.”
It’s okay to be white.

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