Paul R. Lehman, The use of race creates problems for whites

October 2, 2011 at 12:34 pm | Posted in blacks, Ethnicity in America, Race in America, whites | 1 Comment
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For
months this writer has been commenting on the confusion caused by the U.S.
Government in general, and the U.S. Census Bureau specifically, regarding the
use of the words race, black and white relative to ethnic identity. The fact
that neither has ever defined the words race
nor ethnicity compounds the problems
as well as add to the confusion. The primary problem for society comes from the
fact that these words are misused with careless disregard for their uniqueness.
The result is a system that is dysfunctional in that the data collected is
corrupted, inaccurate, misleading, and inconsistent. If one starts with a false
premise, the results must also be false. So it is with the use of the words as
a form of ethnic identity.

Hope Yen, in an article from the Associated Press entitled “Hispanics’
census responses fuel white population growth,” focuses on one of the problems
caused by confusion and ignorance. The U.S. Government has evidently ignored
the findings of the scientific community for years and continued to use the old
connotations for the word race. Rather than correcting the mistake, the
Government continues to add to the confusion. Part of the results of this
dysfunctional system is the subject of Yen’s article. She asks the question:
“What is ‘White’? Some demographers say the broadened white category in 2010
could lead to a notable semantic if not cultural shift in defining race and
ethnicity.” She goes on to explain that “because of the impact of Hispanics,
the nation’s fastest-growing group, the Census Bureau has previously estimated
that whites will become the minority in the U.S. by midcentury. That is based
on a definition of whites as non-Hispanics, who are now at 196.8 million.” She
notes that “That could change, if the common conception of white were to
shift.”

What
all this means is that the category of white is growing because people who
usually are identified as Hispanic are now given a choice to select white as a race
category, and they are doing so. With this shift comes data that reflect a growth
in whites and a slow-down in Hispanics. Yen explains the reason for the shift
and in so doing shows the confusion associated with the lack of a specific
definition for race and ethnicity: “The shift is due to recent census changes
that emphasize “Hispanic” as an ethnicity, not a race. While the U.S.
Government first made this distinction in 1980, many continue to use the “some
other race” box to establish Hispanic identity.” She points to the problem by
noting that “In a switch, the 2010 census forms specifically stated that
Hispanics origins are not races and to select a recognized category such as
white or black.”

When
one examines the census data regarding race the information reflected is not
consistent with the expectations. If one were to use the common definition of
white and try to apply it to the data, the results would be misleading. For
example, the criteria for some ethnic groups selecting an identity is confusing
in that Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans, and so-called white Americans can
all select the race category white. Because no clear definition of race and
ethnicity is provided, the individuals select the category that best suits
them. Their selection of white creates not only a shift in the white category,
but causes conflict and concern relative to the ethnic population.

Yen’s
article indicates that “…California and Texas were home to nearly half of
Hispanics who identified as white, followed by Florida and New York. Together,
these four states comprised nearly two-thirds of the “white alone” population
who were Hispanic.” One wonders if the Hispanics will over-take the traditional
“white” before too long and cause the category to become meaningless. The fact
that many Hispanics consider themselves white makes the white population very
diverse and not dependant on skin color. Yen reports other changes as well.

The number of Americans identifying themselves
as partly white has more than doubled, according to Yen. Interestingly, no
category seems to exist for those who might want to identify themselves as partly
black. However, in spite  of the fact
that race is not defined, Yen notes that the census shows the number of
black-whites reporting “exceed the number of multiracial who identified as
being white and “some other race,” composed of mostly Hispanics as well as
white-Asians and white-American Indians.” The way this dysfunctional system is
working presently, what would happen to the data collected by the census if all
those citizens who are partly white decided to select white as their race
category? With the exception of those citizens who list themselves as purely
ethnic Americans, the entire society would be divided between blacks and
whites. That division does not mean a division of African Americans and
European Americans, because they are ethnic groups, but one of black and white
races that actually do not exist.

The
problem as well as the confusion surrounding this issue of race as a form of
identity indicated through color is irrational and lacking in any kind of
factual evidence to justify it. The use of race and color for identity purposes
creates more problems and confusion than it solves, and make it an unreasonable
and undesirable system. The time has come for the government to realize that
the system for identifying American citizens according to their ethnic group
and not race is needed now. If the Census Bureau continues to use this same
system for the next census one can imagine the mass confusion that will result
when so-called partly whites begin to list themselves as “white alone.” The
primary question will still be “what is white”?

The
problem can be addressed by eliminating the words race, black and white as form
of identity.’ Then, American citizens can identify themselves based on their
ethnicity alone where being mixed makes sense. One can easily make sense of a
person being part of two or more ethnic groups but identifying with one
particular culture for identity, like, for example, Tiger Woods. Race should
never be the problem where human beings are concerned.

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1 Comment »

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  1. While I have been told by more than one of my Hispanic friends that they choose to answer White to the race question because that is what’s on their birth certificate. What’s distrubing is some seem rather proud of it. The construct is still firmly in place and working against us all. Please keep working to enlighten and education.


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