Newly Minted

Newly Minted
Right after I was hooded

Friday, January 8, 2010

Counting Negros in 2010

...Self-identified Negros of course

A student sent me this link:

This is a link to a brief article about the 2010 census. What is remarkable is that a student from over a year ago was impacted enough by the Examining Mixed Race course to still be concious of the value of such an article. I am feeling pretty good about that. It was the first incarnation of the course and students like Rachael have continued to shape the way I teach and think about mixed race. Thank you Rachael.

In Rachael's email she asked me what I thought about the inclusion of the word negro on the 2010 census. During our class we had spent time being critical of the occurrence and disappearance cycle of the category mixed race, in varying forms, on the United States census. Never in a million years did I think I would find myself talking about the word negro as cyclic or reoccurring beyond the realization of the African American identity.

I have to admit I am reacting to one online article and will spend a lot more time researching this. And, I have to say that this is what happens when we discount something like the census because we know it is flawed and systemically oppressive. I have not only not been paying attention; I have been ignoring the impending census on purpose hoping that it would not come. This is clearly something that I should have caught as the creation of the race question was being discussed. I was deeply aware of the very public debate about adding "Other" or any of its variations to Census 2000. That said, it is unfathomable to me that this has not been a more high profile conversation that would have caught the attention of even the most disconnected citizen.

I wonder if they discussed this with our new president or if there are statements or thoughts that he has already shared on the inclusion of negro in the census. What about the tenants of civil rights, are they weighing in on this? I am sure my research will uncover either a suppression of this conversation or my complete ignorance. My sense of it though, since 2010 is here, is that my committee or cohort would have rushed this to my attention knowing that I have used the census in my research and that I would be most interested in this. I am very curious about what my research will disclose about how this decision was made and by whom.

The most important thing I want to think about with all of you is this: What are we counting? What I have learned about census' role in socio-racial construction is not what the question on the form is; rather, what was the thought process and intention that led to that question. What we have learned about the race question in the United States, in its current form, is that the race question was added to count slaves; to access human property. Mulatto was added to make sure that mixed race bodies were counted as slaves and were not left out of that count because of aesthetic ambiguity. Mulatto then went away after the one-drop rule made it unnecessary to count mixed race bodies separately from black bodies. So, if negro is being recreated as a category on the 2010 census, what are we counting? If I read this article correctly, it would seem we are simply counting African-Americans over the age of 80.

More soon...

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