I've been thinking a lot about race and discrimination lately, mostly because of the upcoming census. First I want to address a few concerns I have about the census in general....
It treats race as if they are clearly differentiated, even real categories that people belong to. Barack Obama is black, even though he is half caucasian. But what do these categories even mean in the first place? Michael Jackson is Black, but Eminem is not. There is very little evidence of a biological basis for the racial deliniations that people make.
Second, the increased number of categories in the census is an interesting response to the perceived discriminatory agenda of the census. People self-identify their race in many different ways. You may be a Latino, but others would call you Hispanic. You might consider yourself Mexican, and not Hispanic or Latino, but what you don't realize is that you fall in the exact same category as Native American. The upcomming census tries to offer a wide variety of categories for people to self-identify with, to reduce the number of people selecting Other. There are some people who self-identify as Negro, not Black or African American, thus Negro is now on the list of races to select from, but others find the term derogatory.
What's so important about people not selecting Other? Social services, outreach, minority benefits are all dependent upon what the census says. Political campaigns are built around census information. When people select other, they are reducing the possibility of themselves receiving benefits. They are not making it less likely they will be discriminated against, they're making it more likely that they will simply invisible to the government.
So on one hand, we have what I would call the Truth: There is no race. 44% of Native Americans die Caucasian. How does that happen? People self-identify their race. On the other hand we have what I would call the practical: Identifying your race will help prevent racial discrimination.