A project of Brooklyn Historical Society
U.S. Census: Rationalizing Race

This event was recorded live at Brooklyn Historical Society on April 18, 2013 as
 part of the Crossing Borders, Bridging Generations public programming series

People living in the U.S. are asked to fill out the Census forms every 10 years, and for many people it has not always been easy to accurately represent our racial and ethnic identities using the Census' racial and ethnic categories. 

For example, prior to the year 2000, multiracial people could only check one box in the Race category of the U.S. Census. Now, according to the 2010 U.S. Census, multiracial Americans are the fastest growing demographic group.

Thinking towards the 2020 U.S. Census, people are asking: Does Latino heritage represent race or ethnicity?  How do people of Middle Eastern and Arab heritage self-identify according these racial categories?

This discussion about the history of racial and ethnic categories and all there is to learn from the U.S. Census was moderated by Eric Hamako, doctoral candidate in Social Justice Education at the University of Massachusetts Amherst:
  • From Nicholas A. Jones, chief of the U.S. Census Bureau's Racial Statistics Branch, we hear about exciting new developments for the 2020 census form.
  • Josh Begley, creator of Racebox.org, explains why he scanned U.S. Census forms from 1790 - 2010 to make them available online.
  • Data vizualization artist, Jonathan Soma, creator of A Handsome Atlas gives us a look into what Americans in the 19th century were interested in counting and measuring.
  • And sociologist Ann Morning, author of The Nature of Race: How Scientists Think and Teach about Human Differencetalks about how the U.S. Census categories change over time and what that says about our uses for this demographic data: whether defining who is to be accorded rights of full citizenship and who is to be excluded; or monitoring inequalities and imbalances in an effort toward equity.

This event was presented in collaboration with MAVIN