The Census Bureau is struggling to find survey terms that enable people to identify themselves according to "race" and "ethnicity" in the words that they themselves use. As the demographic mix of the country changes, the terms in which people understand their own identities also change. The result will undoubtedly seem jarring to some people, while to others it will simply state the obvious. According to Hope Yen:
I'm fascinated that many Latinos, just at the moment when they are making their communities felt within the national polity, apparently want to label themselves a "race." Historically in the United States, where "white" and "black" defined who was on top and who was held down, getting out of a race check box and assimilating as a kind of "white" was part of coming into full citizenship. But current Census research apparently finds that Hispanics or Latinos want to be called a "race."
Other interesting findings about our racial understandings turned up in this Census research:
- "Removing the term 'Negro' from the census form did not hurt the response rates of African-Americans. While some people in 2000 indicated that the term still had relevance to them, this number has steadily declined since then."
- "Under the proposed changes, the number of people who reported multiple races increased significantly. The multiracial population is currently one of the nation's fastest growing demographic groups."
- "When provided write-in lines, as much as 50 percent of people who checked their race as 'white' wrote in an ethnicity such as Italian, Polish, Arab, Iranian or Middle Eastern. More than 76 percent of black respondents also wrote in an ethnicity, such as Jamaican, Haitian or Ethiopian."
When change is accomplished, it ceases to be notable.