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.
Announced by the Census Bureau 6/23/2016:
- The second fastest-growing racial group was those who claim two or more races, government officials said.
- The number of people who claimed two or more races grew 3.1% to 6.6 million.
- This group was also the youngest group of all racial or ethnic groups with a median age of 20 years old.
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.
A Heads Up to the Multiracial Community-IMPORTANT
Not all leadership in the Multiracial Community are looking out for your best interests. Be very careful. One “leader” took a position recently about a report that came out by an unofficial source, a slick report called “Race and Ethnicity in the 2020 Census: Improving Data to Capture a Multiethnic America.” What’s wrong with that? Plenty is wrong in the 36-page tome and who is promoting it.
First, the small collaboration that supports this report is made up of three small organizations: The Leadership Conference Educational Fund (LCEF), Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC), and the National Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO).
Let’s look at the LCEF. Its president and CEO is Wade Henderson. Gosh that name sounds familiar! Ohhhhhh, wait, Henderson was the Washington Bureau director of the NAACP back when we were fighting for a place at the table and for multiracial people. He was adamantly against a multiracial box and/or multiple check-off boxes.
The AAJC is afraid of losing population numbers, just like the rest of us. I’m not sure they belong on this bandwagon except when it comes to adding Asian sub-identifiers.
NALEO is Arturo Vargas’ organization. Uh oh, his name is familiar, too. He’s on the National Advisory Committee on Racial, Ethnic, and Other Populations. Arturo is a likeable guy—unless you cross him and/or the Hispanic population. They do deserve a place on the NAC Committee, and in this report, although it is just another reminder that the Census Bureau is really running the show instead of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), where the decisions on race and ethnicity are really made. Arturo is the guy to do this, and we’re glad they didn’t choose somebody else like a Hispanic/Latino advocate who is pretending to represent the multiracial community.
Speaking of the Census Bureau, Terri Ann Lowenthal was the principal author of the report. Big surprise (yawn). Terri Ann was a staffer for Representative Thomas Sawyer during the 1990s. She was no friend of the multiracial community, although she shared with me once that she had a “mixed” kid. She left the government so that she could work for the government. Yes, you read that right. She became a kind of consultant to OMB, the Census Bureau. She is a good soldier and writes whatever the bureaucrats want her to write.
One more interesting thing about this report is that “the staff of the U.S. Census Bureau” helped with this report. OK, so the usual suspects are in bed together again and still. Business as usual. Just don’t get too cozy thinking this is an independent undertaking.
I’ve read the report—twice, so you don’t have to, It’s a big report in very small type, but I urge you to come to your own conclusions. You can read it here: http://civilrightsdocs.info/pdf/reports/Census-Report-2014-WEB.pdf
My job is to go through these things for you and report the truth. I have highlighted the most important parts. I do believe that anyone commenting on the report should read it thoroughly and report back to the multiracial community on those things that concern us, not only one race or ethnicity (i.e. the Hispanic question). So here we go.
First, the writers pat everyone on the back. They applaud everyone from A to Z, but that’s the custom. If you ever get a chance, listen to any Census Bureau Internet webcast and hear it for yourself. You’ll feel like a Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader.
I will say that the report gives excellent background on the history of the U.S. Census until it gets to page 4, which is also the first of only a handful of times the word “multiracial” is used. The point of reading through all the text is to get to the standards that were set by the 2000 census, but then comes the BIG OMISSION: it gives the five racial categories and two ethnicity questions, and doesn’t as much as mention the big deal of checking two or more races! Trust me, it was the question leading up to the 2000 census, and they completely overlook it in an important place in the report.
So what does this all mean to us? It means that sometime between September, 2015 and April 1, 2017, revisions could (and let’s face it, will) set off an OMB review. They do this via a Federal Register notice, which will only be seen by those OMB intends for it to seen by. We are not on their list. Why? Because the one guy, Brian Harris-Kojetin, who handles these things at OMB will not answer our calls and emails. Hmmpffff, we’ve been ignored by bigger people! Like Nicholas Jones, who is the Chief of Racial and Ethnic whatever at the Census Bureau. The multiracial community is precisely the kind of stakeholder that should be notified so we can write letters.
PUT A NOTE ON YOUR CALENDER AFTER SEPTEMBER 1, 2015 TO CHECK BACK WITH PROJECT RACE ABOUT WHEN YOU WILL NEED TO WRITE A LETTER TO OMB. WE’LL TELL YOU EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW. THAT’S THE ONE CHANCE WHEN YOU WILL BE ABLE TO HELP THE MULTIRACIAL COMMUNITY WITH THE 2020 U.S. CENSUS!!!
They talk about AQE testing, which is yet another acronym for something that means testing. OK, I can share. It stands for Race and Hispanic Origin Alternative Questionnaire Experiment. They go into requests for new categories (i.e. MENA, which stands for people of Middle Eastern and North African descent), voting rights, redistricting, employment, education, fair housing, healthcare, poverty, and even criminal justice and how they are all affected by clarity in civil rights. They sum it up thusly: “First, for purposes of implementing and enforcing many civil rights laws—especially in the voting rights arena—data on the Hispanic or Latino population are treated on par with data on the five race groups, experts note.” Wait a minute. Where are the multiracial groups, which they refer to as “combination people”? Oh, that’s right. They don’t take our group into consideration for civil rights matters.
Stay with me now. Here it comes. Right on page 17:
“The updated Education Department categories do
not ask Hispanics to report a race; they also collapse
multiple race responses into one, unspecific category of
“Two or more races,” instead of assigning multiracial
individuals to their respective race choices.(Endnote 65) The latter
practice is especially worrisome to civil rights data users,
given the growth in the multiracial and multiethnic
populations. The percentage of the population reporting
multiple races grew by nearly a third (32 percent) between
2000 and 2010, compared to an overall 10 percent
growth in the U.S. population.(Endnote 66) Failure to capture multiple
race responses as part of specific race groups can
adversely affect the ability of educational institutions to
meet minority student enrollment thresholds under various
Do we really need to be reminded of what a mess the Department of Education (DOE) made with their interpretation of OMBs guidelines and the fact that OMB left enough loopholes land for them to do this? They don’t even mention that the Census Bureau not only collapses multiple race responses into one, unspecified category of “Two or more races,” but calls us Two or More Race (TOMR!!) people. This entire paragraph is unnecessary unless the authors are looking to follow DOEs horrible civil rights injustices like taking students who check Hispanic and anything else and making them only Hispanic. They conclude that: “Civil rights advocates note that census race and ethnicity data are the most comprehensive, objective tool for understanding the intersection of issues that can be barriers to equality of opportunity and social justice.” Oh yes! We get that, but are we included? Not so much.
We finally get to the RECOMMENDATIONS chapter. What are these folks trying to get to? What do they want to see? Let’s look at the question of whether there should be a combined format question. It’s really none of our business with the exception of whether they would retabulate the Hispanic numbers into only one category, in which case, it certainly is our business because we would lose numbers. We can play this game, too, if only we were invited to play. On the MENA question, again, not our business unless….By the way, if they decide not to add the MENA category, watch them blame us–little, insignificant in every other way, us.
There it is: our BIGGEST problem. They don’t have any recommendations about the multiracial community. They don’t address the evil retabulation. They don’t say a word about our request to be recognized respectfully as “multiracial,” and not “combination people,” “Two or More Races” (TOMR) folks, or their other name, the “Mark One or More” (MOOM) population.
My very favorite paragraph of the entire report comes on page 19:
- The Census Bureau and OMB should keep civil rights
stakeholders apprised of research and testing plans and
outcomes, and establish opportunities for meaningful
and timely dialogue and consultation with civil rights
leaders, experts, and organizations, before key decisions
are made with respect to the 2020 census race and
ethnicity questions and the Standards for Classification
of Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity and related
We’re civil rights stakeholders. All I could note in the space next to that paragraph is, “NO SHIT.”
There are 17 recommendations in all. But the endnotes are fun, too. For example, the report refers to a day-long roundtable in July 2014 hosted by the three organizations that ordered this report. It refers to them as “respected” civil rights yada, yada, yadas, Endnote 4 adds this tidbit:
The July 31, 2014, roundtable, “Race and Ethnicity
Data in the 2020 Census: Ensuring Useful Data
for Civil Rights Purposes,” was an invitation-only,
closed door, and off-the-record event. It took place in
OK, full disclosure, but come on! It sure sounds like they are pretty proud of their special invitation only, closed door, and off-the-record selves. I certainly understand how multiracial population leaders would not want to do the in-depth work to detangle this mess. Yes, this is still about the multiracial group. We don’t mind playing bad cop to a good cop, as long as that cop is doing the same in-depth work that we’re doing. It’s only fair.
Below is information distributed by our U.S. Census Bureau this week. The numbers are incorrect. The group numbers are inflated because the bureau takes apart the multiple race checks of multiracial people and assigns them back into one race. They call this “bridging” from one time period to another. The problem remains when they don’t put the numbers back together and give us current multiracial data. They don’t show how multiracial people really self-identified. Again, we are invisible at the federal government. -Susan
The total estimated black population in the United States.
The total estimated black population in the United States.
The estimated percentage of the U.S. population that was black.
The estimated percentage of the U.S. population that was black.
The total estimated Hispanic population in the United States.
The total estimated Hispanic population in the United States.
The estimated percentage of the U.S. population that was Hispanic.
The estimated percentage of the U.S. population that was Hispanic.
The total Asian and Pacific Islander population in the United States.
The total estimated Asian population in the United States.
The percentage of the U.S. population that was Asian and Pacific Islander.
The estimated percentage of the U.S. population that was Asian.
The total American Indian, Eskimo and Aleut population in the United States.
The total estimated American Indian and Alaska Native population in the United States.
The estimated percentage of the U.S. population that was American Indian, Eskimo and Aleut.
The estimated percentage of the U.S. population that was American Indian and Alaska Native.
Due to the lapse in government funding, census.gov sites, services, and all online survey collection requests will be unavailable until further notice.
Pacific Islanders: a Misclassified People
Imagine that you’re a parent, teacher, or counselor who helped a promising student apply for financial aid. She’s an underrepresented minority, so you encouraged her to apply to several scholarships for minority students. A few weeks later, she receives a wave of responses from them, all saying the same thing: She’s not eligible to apply. Why? Because the colleges have misclassified her; even though she’s an underrepresented minority student, they’ve decided to treat her as if she’s not.
Now imagine that instead of one student’s being misclassified, this is happening to every student who belongs to one of the fastest-growing minority groups in America. Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders don’t need to imagine any of this. This is their reality.
For more than 20 years, U.S. Census data have shown that Pacific Islanders are far less likely to graduate from college than is the general population. The statistics have fluctuated slightly over time, but the trend is that Pacific Islanders are about half as likely as the general population to hold bachelor’s degrees, and even less likely to receive advanced degrees.
Despite the clear data, Pacific Islanders are not eligible for many scholarships and fellowships designated for underrepresented minorities. I learned about this firsthand when I was an undergraduate. A friendly, well-intentioned representative from a scholarly program explained to me that, basically, “Pacific Islanders are Asian Pacific Islanders, and Asians are not underrepresented, so Pacific Islanders are not underrepresented.”
Source: The Chronicle of Higher Education
To read entire article: http://chronicle.com/article/Pacific-Islanders-a/139577/
Project RACE thanks PALCUS for including biracial and multiracial data in their survey. -Susan
PALCUS RELEASES SURVEY REPORT
Should Portuguese Americans be officially classified as Hispanic/Latino?
An analysis of survey findings
Responding to a request for information regarding the attitudes of Portuguese Americans towards the possibility that this population group might be counted in Census 2020 under the “Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin”, the Portuguese American Leadership Council of the United States (PALCUS) launched a survey to gauge the sentiment of its constituency. Asked what position PALCUS would take on the issue, the Board of Directors felt strongly that it would not adopt an official position without consulting the constituency that it was created to serve.
Clearly this topic has raised much impassioned debate over the years regarding the pros and cons of classifying Portuguese Americans as “Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin”. PALCUS undertook this survey in good faith in an attempt to provide an objective view of the self-identification of Portuguese Americans. Such a survey, to our knowledge, has not been previously attempted. The results of this survey shed light on the attitudes of Portuguese Americans toward their racial and ethnic identification in America and provide a basis for further advocacy on this topic.
PALCUS now makes public the findings yielded as a result of its efforts to engage Portuguese Americans in voicing their own preferences concerning how they are classified racially and ethnically in the United States Census. PALCUS will continue to participate in the dialogue with officials of the U.S. Census Bureau to represent the opinions of its constituency.
PALCUS gratefully acknowledges the work and expertise of Dulce Maria Scott, Ph.D., Professor, Dept. of Sociology, Social Work, Criminal Justice and Family Science, Anderson University, Indiana and PALCUS research consultant, for the design of this survey, analysis of the results, and preparation of this report. The executive summary and the full report follow.
Subject: This report analyzes the results of a survey conducted by the Portuguese American Leadership of the United States (PALCUS) which attempts to measure the attitudes of Portuguese Americans concerning the official ethnic classification attributed to them by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Methodology: A short survey questionnaire was prepared and sent to PALCUS’s membership and to pertinent community organizations, which subsequently forwarded it to their respective memberships. The questionnaire was also published on various online sites and venues from February 25, 2013 through March 11, 2013. After the elimination of incomplete answers, the survey yielded 6,051 complete responses, many of which, in addition to answers to the questionnaire, included narrative comments.
Findings: Of the 6,051 complete responses, 90.2 percent of respondents indicated that they had identified themselves as not being of Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin or Non-Hispanic in the 2010 Census. Among all respondents, 83.7 percent were not in favor of Portuguese Americans being ethnically classified as Hispanic/Latino in Census 2020, 11.6 percent were in favor, and 4.5 percent were undecided.
When asked whether they identify themselves as Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish, 87.2 percent indicated that they do not This sentiment is pervasive among Portuguese American respondents of all adult ages, generations, and race categories in the United States. The majority of biracial and multiracial Portuguese Americans (73.2 percent) also prefer not to be defined as Hispanic/Latino.
Of the 6,051 respondents, although only 12.8 percent identify themselves as being Hispanic/Latino, 26 percent would indicate that they were of Hispanic, Latino/Spanish origin if Portuguese were added to this ethnic category in the 2020 United States Census. Thus a small but significant percent of respondents, across all age, generation and race categories, would comply with Census procedures even though they do not identify as Latino/Hispanic.
Among those who supported the addition of Portuguese to the Hispanic/Latino/Spanish Census classification (11.6 percent), the geographical and linguistic similarities between Portugal and Spain are the main arguments that justify their position. That is, given that people from Spain can be classified as Hispanic/Latino in America, so should people from Portugal. However, for those who are opposed to the Portuguese being considered Latino/Hispanic (83.7 percent), the prevailing sentiment is that as a largely white and of European origins, Portuguese Americans should not be classified under an ethnic/racial category that was created to identity people who have origins in Central and South America.
Conclusions: The results of this survey shed light on the preference of Portuguese Americans concerning their racial and ethnic identification in United States official data and statistics, a classification that has the potential to affect their destiny and path of integration into American society. The data collected in this survey show that Portuguese Americans, who responded, overwhelmingly prefer to continue to integrate into American society as a white population of European descent rather than as part of the Hispanic/Latino population.
Recommendations: During the implementation of this survey, officials at the Census Bureau stated that this agency will not designate the Portuguese population as Hispanic/Latino in Census 2020. As such, there is no urgency at this time for the community to come together and take action to influence the Bureau’s decision process. Nevertheless, PALCUS will make these findings known to the general public and to U.S. government officials to work toward ensuring that all concerned constituencies are aware of the preferences of Portuguese Americans relative to their official racial and ethnic classification in the United States of America.