A Washington Bad Cop/Bad Cop Story
Susan Graham for Project RACE (Reclassify All Children Equally)
Everyone knows about the U.S. Census Bureau (CB), but not everyone has heard of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The CB counts important things in the United States, including people—by things like race and ethnicity. The OMB decides what race and ethnicity people can be in the United States. They are both bad cops. Sometimes they try and play a game called Bad Cop/Good Cop, in which they go back and forth trying to get the public to place blame on the other. The 2020 Decennial Census is only a few years away. Planning for it takes a great deal of time and actually began as soon as the 2010 Census results were made public.
The CB recently released its recommendations for approval by the OMB. Project RACE had attempted to have input into both the CB and OMB by letting them know how we wanted the multiracial population to be listed, counted, known, treated, etc. The CB pretended to be the Good Cops and pretty much said they cared what we had to say. OMB played the Bad Cops and would not return our calls, email, letters, etc. or answer our questions.
I will cover some of the more salient requests and salacious responses to revisions to OMB’s Standards for Maintaining, Collecting, and Presenting Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity. Most of the items had nothing to do with the multiracial population, so first I’ll cover those that did. It’s a very short list.
- In addition to people being able to check all of their races, we gave many examples of how to include the term “multiracial,” which is very important. Correct wording in race and ethnicity is very important, particularly for children. Just ask the people who were once “Colored,” then “Negro,” then “Black,” and now “African American.” Yes, terminology is important. However, CB and OMB will not call the multiracial community “multiracial.” We were denied even though they were taking “Relevance of Terminology” into consideration. For the next ten years, we will remain the “two or more races.”
- Some people write in “multiracial,” “biracial,” “mixed” or some other term instead of checking the little boxes. They should be put in the category of what is called “two or more races.” They are not. They will be placed in the “Some other race” category. They will not be multiracial. Denied again.
- It appears that the way the race question is asked is important, although not important enough to use the wording that our community wants. What they have decided is this. Drumroll please. Instead of instructing people to “Mark all that apply,” we will be instructed to “Select all that apply.” That’s what we got. We’ll know when we see our 2020 Census forms.
Project RACE is not recommending that our members bother to write further comments to the Census Bureau or the Office of Management and Budget at this time.
So there we have it. If you’re interested, a few other interesting things having less or nothing to do with the multiracial population were put forth for further input. Well, not really. CB and OMB have actually already decided on the following points, but they very quietly put out a Federal Register notice for comment.
- A new category will be added for Middle Eastern or North African people. The acronym is MENA. You can be a MENA person or you can still report more than one. By the way, Israelis are now Middle Eastern. If I had been checking say “White” for my entire life, but was now given the choice to be MENA, I would probably check white and MENA, but that’s just me. They still don’t seem to know if a MENA will be a racial or ethnic category.
- The Subgroup proposes that OMB issue specific guidelines for the collection of detailed data for American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, Black or African American, Hispanic or Latino, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, and White groups for self-reported race and ethnicity collections. However, the Subgroup plans to continue its deliberations as to whether OMB should require or, alternatively, strongly support but not require Federal agencies to collect detailed data. If you know what this means, please let me know.
- Should it use the NCT format, which includes separately Native Hawaiian, Samoan, Chamorro, Tongan, Fijian, and Marshallese? If neither of these, how should OMB select the detailed Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander race and ethnicity categories? Apparently, these small populations are more important than the multiracial population.
- Relevance of Terminology: The Subgroup proposes that the term “Negro” be removed from the standards. Further, the Subgroup recommends that the term “Far East” be removed from the current standards.
- The Subgroup proposes further clarifying the standards to indicate the classification is not intended to be genetically based, nor based on skin color. Rather, the goal of standards is to provide guidelines for the Federal measurement of race/ethnicity as a social construct and therefore inform public policy decisions.
- The Subgroup also considered whether referring to Black or African American as the “principal minority race” is still relevant, meaningful, accurate, and acceptable. Given that many of the groups classified as racial and ethnic minorities have experienced institutionalized or State-sanctioned discrimination as well as social disadvantage and oppression, many consider it to be important to continue identifying the principal minority group in Federal data collections and reporting systems. However, it is not clear if the referent groups should change given changing demographics. Whew!
- Should Hispanic or Latino be among the groups considered among “principal minorities”? Would alternative terms be more salient (g., “principal minority race/ethnicity”)? Hispanic or Latino usually is considered an ethnicity while “minority” is usually used when referencing race.
Yesterday the US Census Bureau and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) handed down their recommendation for a new race and ethnicity classification in the US: Middle Eastern and North African (MENA). This means that every Israeli in the US who formally was classified as White will be Middle Eastern. -Susan Graham, Project RACE
Why You Should Care
by Susan Graham
If you don’t know what a “data dump” is, you should because Don and his people are dumping our important data at record rates and the result is that we, the public, will have no idea what the truths are. Without data, we just don’t know where we stand. They can say what they will and make up their lies and half-truths and we have no data to fight them with.
For example, since Don has moved in, The White House removed data from its portal of searchable federal data. The site previously included data on everything from budgets to climate change to LGBT issues. It now displays a message telling people to: “Check back soon for new data.” If that doesn’t piss you off, consider this: Some USDA data on animal testing, puppy mill cruelty and company audits has been completely removed since Trump’s inauguration.
As most of you know, I deal with the U. S. Census Bureau and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). For almost 30 years, my email box has been crammed daily with information from them, including how the public can best weigh-in on all kinds of issues and Presidential moves. Now, since Don, what came daily (including weekends) is now there barely three times a week. I’ve emailed government people I’ve had almost immediate turnaround from for years, and not received responses at all. I think they are all very afraid and we should be, too.
What is the government up to now?
Last week I sat through three hours of the 2020 Census Quarterly Program Management Review just to see how things are progressing for the multiracial community. It was pretty dull, with presentations about everything from address canvassing to systems readiness to partnerships and so much more.
I picked up on some hesitation which usually doesn’t come with the usual “everything is great here at the bureau” mantra. They said they have “paused” some activities and are delaying a few things. It seems like they just don’t know what is going to come from the new administration yet and they are just a bit nervous. They should be. Who knows what will happen before Census 2020?
Anyway, there was a lot of talk about Census Day on April 1, 2017, when 80,000 housing units will be tested. They glossed over the race and ethnicity question very quickly and mentioned they will continue using the existing wording unless something changes from testing done in 2016 and comments to OMB. Of course they will.
We are one of the communities that should be included in partnership engagement so that the multiracial participation in the census can be increased and accurate. But are we? Hell no. In fact, the census bureau contracted with Young and Rubicam (Y&R) to the tune of $415 MILLON to help get a complete count of households. Y&R subcontracts with corporations that represent every racial and ethnic group except the multiracial one. They will make sure that every Alaskan Native in the country knows about filling out the census, but multiracial people? Not so much. In fact, not at all. Do they think we don’t know this?!
The big question in my mind is this: Does the multiracial community even care if our numbers are skewed? This is all a numbers game—it always has been—and we should care a lot. The lower our population numbers, the less we matter to the government, businesses, advertising agencies, retailers, the medical system, and on and on. Do we only exist for the annual party, movie, or book signing? Do we really want to go back to the days when the one-drop rule was the law? Does number tabulation and voting redistricting mean anything to us? Should you even have to think about whether interracial marriages are allowed? Will we be deported because we’re not 100% white? Or do we want respect for our identity choices, political clout, appreciation for the diversity our children bring to their schools, and the end of the tragic mulatto stories once and for all? Does it really matter if our history is accurate? Let me know what you think. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org
Project RACE, Inc.
What will President-Elect Trump do for or against the Multiracial Community?
by Susan Graham
Since November 8th I’ve seen the so called “leaders” in the so called “multiracial community” avoid this question. The majority of them are Democrats, Libertarians, Independents, or something other than Republicans. They are all over the map geographically. They like to call themselves “academics” and give that as a reason to avoid writing real political papers. Now that they have confused what the academics think, they slink back into their tiny university closets and lock the doors.
If you read any of the online community sources like Facebook, Mixed Studies, Swirl. MASC and more, you have a hard time finding anything other than pleas for money, reviews about the “Loving” movie, or pros and cons about President Obama’s personal racial identification. Let me digress for a moments and add my own feelings on this. I would have loved nothing more than for Barack Obama to embrace a multiracial identity, but he just wasn’t feeling it, his reason being what his white mother and black father advised him, how his white grandparents raised him, how politics work best, or any other number of things. Our loss.
We can’t talk about the election without bringing in Hillary Clinton. She never did anything for the multiracial population and trust me, she was asked several times, as was her husband when he was President. So, she didn’t actually cancel out our community, she ignored us, which was worse. The Clintons were so pro-minority that they were clearly in favor of the one-drop rule by default. An office in Harlem and a residential compound in the white area of town. Maybe that makes them think they are some kind of multiracial citizens. And I really do like them!
Speaking of liking people, I believe you can like someone and not have the same political views that they do. Honest. I like a few Republicans because I can pick and choose individuals who I like from groups of people without selecting an entire group.
Let’s look at where things stand for the multiracial community now. Yeah, I’m sharing with the people in the movement who are clueless—you know who you are and so do we. I don’t “report” on what multiracial star is mad at who, stories about families in Zimbabwe, or the history of Thomas Jefferson, so I’ll keep it to policy issues if you know what those are.
OMB, which stands for Office of Management and Budget has a director. His name is Shaun Donovan. He’s never returned our calls, letters, or emails. He would much rather we just didn’t exist. Oh, wait a minute! President Elect Trump has nominated a new OMB Director, along with the new regime. His name isRep. Mick Mulvaney (R.-S.C.). Max Stier wrote in The Hill,
”While OMB has a reputation for being “the agency of no” because of its role protecting the president and the administration’s budget and policy priorities, it can do more to clarify where agency leaders have flexibility to test new approaches, identify areas that are off-limits, provide air cover to test new ideas without fear of reprisals and serve as an incubator for change.”
What might this mean? Actually, your guess is as good as mine with this new president. But wouldn’t it be nice if they did some real housecleaning at the OMB and The Census Bureau?! Can you imagine what life would be like without Nicholas Jones in it? Now that would be a nice indication of smaller government.
By the way, Katherine Wallman at OMB retired January 1st, just in time to make decisions on race and ethnicity issues. She’s the same Wallman who pretty much screwed us over when it came to nomenclature and tabulation of “two or more races” in the 1990s. Could things get better? Nah.
They could actually do away with the Census Bureau if it wouldn’t mean all those lost jobs for Washington demographers and statisticians. But on the other hand, does this government have a real need to know where all the Muslims and Jewish citizens and immigrants live? Maybe, just maybe there will still be a working Congress with some possible roadblocks. Perhaps some checks and balances will work just a bit.
Oh, and one more thing. There is a public hearing this week in Chicago hosted by the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking, which is involved in decision making for the multiracial population. Good luck trying to get information on it. If you do, please let us know. After all, we can’t know everything.
MASC Did WHAT!
I have a lovely wood recognition plaque in my office given to me in 1995 from the Multiracial Americans of Southern California (MASC). It hangs right under a letter to Project RACE and the Association of Multi-Ethnic Americans also dated 1995 and signed by President Bill Clinton. We were known then as MASC, Project RACE, and AMEA. MASC apparently no longer advocates for the multiracial community, Project RACE does, and AMEA is defunct. A great deal has happened in the past 25 plus years. Not all of it is good.
I will forever defend the work of Project RACE (Reclassify All Children Equally), but most of you know the history of the multiracial movement, so I won’t go back over that now. Suffice it to say that different organizations went different ways, but we all—or at least it seemed—wanted some form of recognition for the term “multiracial.” We were making progress. AMEA fell apart. Hapas moved on. MAVIN couldn’t decide what it wanted to be and the founder disappeared. The academics saw a way to “get published or perish” and began publishing papers and books like crazy with or without actual facts. Podcasts popped up, Loving Day gained momentum, and even comics took their best shots at us. We somehow endured. Project RACE kept doing what we did in 1990 and advocated for a multiracial identifier on racial classifications. We won some; we lost some.
Now it’s 2016 and decisions must be made by 2017 for the 2020 census. It must be done quickly for many reasons, which is why OMB issued a 30 day notice instead of the usual 60+. One more chance to take our best shot.
Then a few weeks ago the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the government people who decide on race and ethnicity in this country published a notice in the Federal Register, that obscure publication that half-heartedly asks for public opinion, suggesting that John Q. Public let them know what they think of the proposed plans. They laid out (as best they could) these areas under consideration:
- Whether to continue to have one category for Hispanic origin and one for race, or one combined answer;
- Have a distinct new category for respondents of Middle Eastern or North African heritage (MENA);
- The description of the intended use of minimum reporting categories; and
- Terminology used for race and ethnicity classifications.
Look back at those areas of consideration. Number 1 has been on the table for years and it is already a done deal. Number 2 has been in contention since before the multiracial question even came up, but it’s become a messier MENA category than previously. I’m not sure what number 3 even means completely.
Then…BINGO! Number 4 gives us a chance to bring up terminology again.
Project RACE jumps on the terminology question, gathers our members and supporters, and starts our answers to the open comment period! We gain momentum and wait for other “multiracial groups” to join in. MASC. The MULTIRACIAL Americans of Southern California stuns us. They openly advocated for number 1, the Hispanic race/ethnicity question.
Thomas Lopez is the president of MASC. He strongly favors Hispanics becoming a race instead of an ethnicity on forms. There are many reasons for the combined question to be considered. There are still organized groups fighting for it and the MENA question. Lopez glosses over consideration 4 with this: “In a combined question format this would simply be another version of ‘Two or more races.’” This would have been the perfect place to advocate for multiracial wording—for an acceptable, respectful term for our children. What were Lopez and the board of directors of MASC thinking?! Apparently, they should change their name to:
The Hispanic and Two or More Races Americans of Southern California
The article below is a perfect example of how reallocation of “two or more” data are mistakenly re-tabulated by the U.S. Census Bureau and others. The ten individuals in the example should be “two or more” races, or preferably, “multiracial,” not five African American and five white. –Susan Graham
Methodology: How We Analyzed the Data on Race in N.H.’s Criminal Justice System
Source: New Hampshire Public Radio
Little research has been done in New Hampshire on race and the state’s 10 county jails, which are run by county government. No comprehensive data is available regarding these jails’ populations. But in our recent story, Racial Disparities Increase At Each Step Of N.H.’s Justice System, data provided to NHPR by the Valley Street Jail in Hillsborough County allows a glimpse into the details of who is incarcerated here, and why.
Here are the numbers behind our analysis.
This analysis primarily uses the 2014 Census Population Estimates for Hillsborough County, New Hampshire, and the United States.
Two or more races
The 19,074 people who identify as “two or more races” in New Hampshire present a wrinkle, however, as the jail and arrest data does not have a corresponding category. To accommodate this discrepancy, a distribution is created from the more detailed 2010 decennial Census, and then applied to the 2014 estimated total for individuals identifying with “two or more” races. The counts are distributed evenly among mixed races. For example, if 10 individuals identify as both African American and white in 2010, the “white” category receives 5, and the “African American” category receives 5. If, hypothetically, there were 100 people counted in the “two or more” category in 2010, and 110 in 2014, these would be counted as 5.5 additional whites and 5.5 additional African Americans for the final totals.
WHERE DID ALL THE MULTIRACIAL PEOPLE GO?!
Every five years or so, the Census Bureau gathers statistics on businesses owned by people in the United States. On December 15th, they sent out “Statistics for All U.S. Firms by Industry, Gender, Ethnicity, and Race for the U.S., States, Metro Areas, Counties, and Places: 2012 Survey of Business Owners.”
Just in time for your first of the year reading, our friends at the bureau circulated their latest and greatest data dump to date. Let’s take a look at the categories they included in their survey. Apparently, they used data from Los Angeles County, and then flipped back and forth, massaging their “microcosm” between LA and the nation. This is about business owners and ferreted out their “microcosm” that included the following:
Black or African American
American Indian or Alaskan Native
Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander
The report is made to be statistically confusing and they certainly attained that. Oh, and they left out multiracial business owners completely. One would think that out of 631,218 minority-owned businesses in Los Angeles, at least a few would have multiracial owners. Could this just be another in a growing series of Census Bureau reports that completely miss the multiracial community? We’ll be watching.
U.S. Census FACT
John H. Thompson is the Director of the Census Bureau. He’s the big shot. He has been sending out updates about planning for the 2020 Census. He recently gave this update about their goals:
- Increase reporting in the race and ethnic categories as defined by the U. S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
- Increase the accuracy and reliability of the results, and
- Elicit detailed responses for all racial and ethnic communities (e.g., Chinese, Mexican, Jamaican, Lebanese, etc.).
He also said this:
“We’re also engaging in an ongoing discussion about race and ethnicity among statistical agencies and various population stakeholder groups.”
Oh geez, did the multiracial community—a population stakeholder—miss a meeting? Nah, we were never invited. By the way, Director Thompson also had a lovely meeting in sunny Mexico recently with Hispanic stakeholders. From the pictures, he looked like he was having a great time!
The multiracial community must understand the games played between OMB and the Census Bureau. The Census Bureau does what they feel is the appropriate “testing.” They give the results to OMB with their suggestions. OMB then adopts the suggestions of the Census Bureau. Then one points to the other if a population group is not happy. Welcome to the bureaucracy in Washington.
A few days ago, I received a notification from the Census Bureau that they were accepting applications for ACS Data Produces Redesign Group. ACS stands for American Community Survey, which is a big deal at the Census Bureau. It’s their bread and butter, and takes place continually, unlike like the census, which they do every ten years.
Later, as if it were a sign, I was reading The New Yorker and there was a cartoon of six people sitting around a conference table. The caption read: “I know we didn’t accomplish anything, but that’s what meetings are for.” It’s a perfect message about a meeting at the Census Bureau. The announcement is below. The highlights are mine.
Accepting Applications for ACS Data Products Redesign Group
DEADLINE IS THURSDAY, OCT. 29, 2015
In partnership with the U.S. Census Bureau, the Population Reference Bureau (PRB) is soliciting applications for membership in a
new American Community Survey (ACS) Data Products Redesign Group (DPRG). The purpose of establishing this group is to provide the Census Bureau with an efficient and effective means to collect feedback from a broad range of ACS data users on new ACS data products and dissemination channels. This ongoing exchange will help the Census Bureau develop innovative data products and dissemination tools that best meet ACS data users’ needs. The DPRG will have approximately 20 members and will be informal and non-advisory. As such, the DPRG will not be providing the Census Bureau with consensus recommendations resulting from group deliberation or discussion.
So, I’m trying to get this straight. This new group is to provide feedback about the ACS. No! Wait! They will not be providing feedback. They will just be meeting. It’s curious, as is the message I get from my browser whenever I try to open any email from the Census Bureau: “Thunderbird thinks this message is a scam.” Most of the time they’re absolutely right.