WEFOUNDRace and Identity in Barack Obama's Dreams Of My Father: A Collection of Critical Essays


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When it comes to reporting their racial identity, Latinos stand out from other Americans. In the 2010 census , for example, 94% of the U.S. population selected at least one of the five standard, government-defined racial categories – white, black, Asian, American Indian or Pacific Islander. But among Latinos, just 63% selected at least one of these categories; 37% of Latinos, or 19 million, instead selected only “some other race,” with many offering write-in responses such as “Mexican,” Hispanic” or “Latin American.”

Federal policy defines “Hispanic” not as a race, but as an ethnicity. And it prescribes that Hispanics can in fact be of any race. But these census findings suggest that standard U.S. racial categories might either be confusing or not provide relevant options for Hispanics to describe their racial identity. They also raise an important question long pondered by social scientists and policymakers: Do Hispanics consider their Hispanic background to be part of their racial background, their ethnic background or both?

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The Census Bureau is experimenting with new ways to ask Americans about their race or origin in the 2020 census – including not using the words “race” or “origin” at all. Instead, the questionnaire may tell people to check the “categories” that describe them.

Census officials say they want the questions they ask to be clear and easy, in order to encourage Americans to answer them, so the officials can better collect race and Hispanic data as required by law. But many people are confused by the current wording, or find it misleading or insufficient to describe their identity .

Race is not biological. It is a social construct. There is no gene or cluster of genes common to all blacks or all whites. Were race “real” in the genetic sense, racial classifications for individuals would remain constant across boundaries. Yet, a person who could be categorized as black in the United States might be considered white in Brazil or colored in South Africa.

Like race, racial identity can be fluid. How one perceives her racial identity can shift with experience and time, and not simply for those who are multiracial. These shifts in racial identity can end in categories that our society, which insists on the rigidity of race, has not even yet defined.

That all said, unlike race and racial identity, the social, political and economic meanings of race, or rather belonging to particular racial groups, have not been fluid. Racial meanings for non-European groups have remained stagnant. For no group has this reality been truer than African-Americans. What many view as the promising results of the Pew Research Center’s data on multiracial Americans, with details of a growing multiracial population and an increasing number of interracial marriages, does not foreshadow as promising a future for individuals of African descent as it does for other groups of color.

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When it comes to reporting their racial identity, Latinos stand out from other Americans. In the 2010 census , for example, 94% of the U.S. population selected at least one of the five standard, government-defined racial categories – white, black, Asian, American Indian or Pacific Islander. But among Latinos, just 63% selected at least one of these categories; 37% of Latinos, or 19 million, instead selected only “some other race,” with many offering write-in responses such as “Mexican,” Hispanic” or “Latin American.”

Federal policy defines “Hispanic” not as a race, but as an ethnicity. And it prescribes that Hispanics can in fact be of any race. But these census findings suggest that standard U.S. racial categories might either be confusing or not provide relevant options for Hispanics to describe their racial identity. They also raise an important question long pondered by social scientists and policymakers: Do Hispanics consider their Hispanic background to be part of their racial background, their ethnic background or both?

About Follow My Account Log in View Account Log out Donate

When it comes to reporting their racial identity, Latinos stand out from other Americans. In the 2010 census , for example, 94% of the U.S. population selected at least one of the five standard, government-defined racial categories – white, black, Asian, American Indian or Pacific Islander. But among Latinos, just 63% selected at least one of these categories; 37% of Latinos, or 19 million, instead selected only “some other race,” with many offering write-in responses such as “Mexican,” Hispanic” or “Latin American.”

Federal policy defines “Hispanic” not as a race, but as an ethnicity. And it prescribes that Hispanics can in fact be of any race. But these census findings suggest that standard U.S. racial categories might either be confusing or not provide relevant options for Hispanics to describe their racial identity. They also raise an important question long pondered by social scientists and policymakers: Do Hispanics consider their Hispanic background to be part of their racial background, their ethnic background or both?

About Follow My Account Log in View Account Log out Donate

The Census Bureau is experimenting with new ways to ask Americans about their race or origin in the 2020 census – including not using the words “race” or “origin” at all. Instead, the questionnaire may tell people to check the “categories” that describe them.

Census officials say they want the questions they ask to be clear and easy, in order to encourage Americans to answer them, so the officials can better collect race and Hispanic data as required by law. But many people are confused by the current wording, or find it misleading or insufficient to describe their identity .

Race is not biological. It is a social construct. There is no gene or cluster of genes common to all blacks or all whites. Were race “real” in the genetic sense, racial classifications for individuals would remain constant across boundaries. Yet, a person who could be categorized as black in the United States might be considered white in Brazil or colored in South Africa.

Like race, racial identity can be fluid. How one perceives her racial identity can shift with experience and time, and not simply for those who are multiracial. These shifts in racial identity can end in categories that our society, which insists on the rigidity of race, has not even yet defined.

That all said, unlike race and racial identity, the social, political and economic meanings of race, or rather belonging to particular racial groups, have not been fluid. Racial meanings for non-European groups have remained stagnant. For no group has this reality been truer than African-Americans. What many view as the promising results of the Pew Research Center’s data on multiracial Americans, with details of a growing multiracial population and an increasing number of interracial marriages, does not foreshadow as promising a future for individuals of African descent as it does for other groups of color.

INSTRUCTIONS FOR MAILING YOUR GOVERNOR OR MAYOR FOR MULTIRACIAL HERITAGE WEEK IT’S SO EASY!   THINGS TO KNOW You must be a resident of the state. Proclamations are only good for ONE year. Even if you received one last year, we need a new one this year. Proclamations must be received by Project RACE by […]

Happy Holidays from your friends at Project RACE! Now you can purchase a stylish and wonderful gift for a special someone in your life, while also supporting Project RACE!  We could not be more excited to become a part of the BE BRAVE campaign by offering you chance to order a unique piece of quality […]

November and December 2015 YES MAYBE NO Comments AFLAC The inclusion of “multiracial” on forms will be reflected beginning in the third quarter of 2016 Intel   In talks AARP Ryan Dowski of AARP wrote to us, “Unfortunately, due to other existing relationships and contractual obligations, at this point we cannot accommodate your inquiry.” American […]

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When it comes to reporting their racial identity, Latinos stand out from other Americans. In the 2010 census , for example, 94% of the U.S. population selected at least one of the five standard, government-defined racial categories – white, black, Asian, American Indian or Pacific Islander. But among Latinos, just 63% selected at least one of these categories; 37% of Latinos, or 19 million, instead selected only “some other race,” with many offering write-in responses such as “Mexican,” Hispanic” or “Latin American.”

Federal policy defines “Hispanic” not as a race, but as an ethnicity. And it prescribes that Hispanics can in fact be of any race. But these census findings suggest that standard U.S. racial categories might either be confusing or not provide relevant options for Hispanics to describe their racial identity. They also raise an important question long pondered by social scientists and policymakers: Do Hispanics consider their Hispanic background to be part of their racial background, their ethnic background or both?

About Follow My Account Log in View Account Log out Donate

The Census Bureau is experimenting with new ways to ask Americans about their race or origin in the 2020 census – including not using the words “race” or “origin” at all. Instead, the questionnaire may tell people to check the “categories” that describe them.

Census officials say they want the questions they ask to be clear and easy, in order to encourage Americans to answer them, so the officials can better collect race and Hispanic data as required by law. But many people are confused by the current wording, or find it misleading or insufficient to describe their identity .


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