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Writers Against Racism: CENSUS 2010 – What’s Your ‘Label’?

Just a few days ago I was sitting at my mother’s home in Blue Mountain Lake, NY, pondering my upcoming student-led IDENTITY forum, when there was a knock at the door.  There stood a delightful, elderly man who asked if I could answer my mom’s census questions, since at the time she was at work. I gladly obliged, and then wondered if had he looked different, would I have been so trusting to let this perfect stranger inside. That’s another story. 

He sat down and started with his list of questions and about midway through, I couldn’t help but notice the term NEGRO listed in the category for African Americans. 

Shocked? Yes. Offended? No.
I immediately said to him, WOW! Negro is being used? He appeared indifferent by my dismay, and I figured it was probably because he was a white man in his mid 80s, who probably grew up identifying blacks as negro. Despite that interchange, we had a lovely conversation. 

Fast forward to today, and I am back at again, prepping for the forum, and found that CNN went a little farther with the Census 2010 categories. They also took to the streets, asking folks of all ethnic backgrounds their thoughts. 

Well, I went to the Census Bureau and my hunch was confirmed:

"The wording of the race category labeled “Black, African Am., or Negro” is based on Office of Management and Budget standards and Census Bureau research that showed a segment of the population still identifies itself as “Negro.” The Census Bureau has a research team dedicated to investigating issues and analyzing data on the nation’s diverse racial and ethnic groups." (quote comes via United States Census 2010: The Whole Story Real People, Real Questions, Real Answers

Now I am wondering if I should include this CNN segment in my symposium focused around IDENTITY. I believe students will have a different take. Yes?


  1. B Herrera says:

    I wonder how the people who do the census view citizens in different parts of the country. I was at my parents’ home in Oklahoma (they are Anglo) when they received their census. It was small, and quickly done. When I returned to Laredo (largely Hispanic) I got my census – with spots for eight more people than the one my mother got. My son, when he saw it, said, “Look, we got the Hispanic version made for a large familiy.” It was bilingual and indeed had been designed for a larger family than my mother’s census form. Is this just a coincident, or did they assume that we would have a larger family because of our last name? Also, I had trouble deciding what my chldren are – Hispanic or anglo. I thought they were both, but not according to the census.

  2. Recently, I found the 2010 Census form hanging on my door. As I began filling it out, I came across a dilemma. The U.S. government wants to know if my children are adopted or not and it wants to know what our races are. Being adopted myself, I had to put “Other” and “Don’t Know Adopted” for my race and “Other” and “Don’t Know” for my kids’ races.

    Can you imagine not knowing your ethnicity, your race? Now imagine walking into a vital records office and asking the clerk for your original birth certificate only to be told “No, you can’t have it, it’s sealed.”

    How about being presented with a “family history form” to fill out at every single doctor’s office visit and having to put “N/A Adopted” where life saving information should be?

    Imagine being asked what your nationality is and having to respond with “I don’t know”.

    It is time that the archaic practice of sealing and altering birth certificates of adopted persons stops.

    Adoption is a 5 billion dollar, unregulated industry that profits from the sale and redistribution of children. It turns children into chattel who are re-labeled and sold as “blank slates”.

    Genealogy, a modern-day fascination, cannot be enjoyed by adopted persons with sealed identities. Family trees are exclusive to the non-adopted persons in our society.

    If adoption is truly to return to what is best for a child, then the rights of children to their biological identities should NEVER be violated. Every single judge that finalizes an adoption and orders a child’s birth certificate to be sealed should be ashamed of him/herself.

    I challenge all readers: Ask the adopted persons that you know if their original birth certificates are sealed.

  3. Amy Bowllan says:

    I am so moved by your comment, Mara. This is its OWN blog post. I will be reposting, after some research.