Video Thursday: Thinking Outside the Census Box

Author Chang-Rae Lee speaks about what box he’s going to check on his census, and how little it says about him:

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more about "Chang-Rae Lee on the Census", posted with vodpod

Most interesting to me is his comments on the white box as opposed to the many Asian boxes. There are eleven subcategories of Asian, including two fill-in options. The American Indian/Alaska Native box comes with a fill-in to list your tribe. Black and white, however, only get one box each. It doesn’t differentiate between Black people of Caribbean, Sub-Saharan African, Northern African, or “descended from slaves” heritages. It doesn’t differentiate between WASPs, Ashkenazim, Scandinavians, or Irish.

Maybe it has to do with the assumption of privilege. White people are assumed to be privileged and black people are assumed to be disadvantaged; that assumption wipes away all internal distinctions. Asian Americans aren’t painted in such broad strokes, which allows a greater level of distinction to take place. But, as Chang-rae Lee says, even that doesn’t tell us much.