Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Gender, race and the census

By Leigh Greaney

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This morning I drank my coffee from a Census 2010 mug that was completely in Spanish that just happened to be in my house. Not so ironically, they don’t make these mugs in Chinese or any other language than English or Spanish.

This choice of multi-lingual mug is most likely aimed to warm up the Spanish speaking crowd for Question 8 on the new Census. The Census doesn’t ask about a person’s race or ethnicity – it only asks if a person is Hispanic, Latino or of Spanish origin. Apparently Question 9 that asks what a person’s race is just isn’t enough. Being Spanish puts you in a whole other category and a whole other question. Strange?

According to the official website for the 2010 Census, this is done to “monitor compliance with anti-discrimination provisions.” I guess separating people out and blatantly pointing out ethnic differences could not possibly be an act of discrimination in and of itself. The website also claims that the data will “help plan and administer bilingual programs for people of Hispanic origin.”

Maybe those programs should exist regardless. For that matter, why don’t they set up bilingual programs for native English speakers to learn Spanish? What a thought.

Favoring a language over another language causes discrimination. Education on both sides will create harmony, shared knowledge, and understanding. Pigeon holing people into racial, lingual and ethnic categories will only create discrimination, ignorance and misunderstanding.

Moreover, it creates a glass ceiling on achievement.

The social psychology of race and racism leads to the idea that genetic and cultural discrimination causes poorer educational achievement when individuals are constructed to believe racial stereotypes suggesting inferiority.

In a study done by Joshua Aronson and Claude Steele in 1995, the social phenomenonbecame fact. After giving the Graduate Record Examination to both European Americans and African Americans, they measured each group’s intelligence after splitting each group in half.

The African Americans who were told they were only being tested for their intelligence – which they have been socially programmed to believe is inferior – did much better on the test when they were not told what was being measured.

Steele told The Atlantic Monthly in 1999 that “when capable black college students fail to perform as well as their white counterparts, the explanation often has less to do with preparation or ability than with the threat of stereotypes about their capacity to succeed.”

If students are not asked to provide their race on their forms before they fill them out, then the pressure is off; they can be invisible to the prying eyes of stereotyping.

So, how is race identification helping? It seems to only cause mental harm.

Furthermore, how is Census 2010’s sex identification helping? Question 6 asks for a person’s sex and makes it clear that only one box may be marked.

What if this person in question is going through a sex change? What if they aren’t and still identify with a gender that isn’t their own? What if they think the entire idea of gender is oppressive?

According the Census website, “Census data about sex are important because many federal programs must differentiate between males and females for funding, implementing and evaluating their programs.” Why don’t they fund, implement and evaluate based on something like – necessity and merit? Equal opportunity will come as soon as people stop looking at women as inferior.

Once sex becomes less important than skill, then change for the better can be invited in.

Psychologist Mara Cadinu did an experiment on the role of negative thinking within women’s minds and how it could act as a potential threat to performance. Sixty participants were either threatened with stereotypes or not during a mathematic evaluation. Women under the stereotype who were asked to write their sex showed a sharp decline in performance. The negative thinking and social conditioning directly caused them to hit the glass ceiling society has built for them.

Women are bred to believe that they’re worse at math than men just the same way black people are conditioned to believe that they’re academically outwitted by white people. This is poisonous. This “stereotype threat,” as Joshua Aronson calls it, is psychologically crippling the nation.

Minorities and women have been looking through the veil of double consciousness for too long. Every individual knows their own ability to succeed lives within them and it’s their own fire to fan.

When societal stereotypes and constant obsession with labeling of identity becomes more important than a person’s self worth, nothing is gained. White males will continue to claim superiority. Understanding of others will wither.

Minorities and women will keep wearing the chains of mental oppression until differences become too inferior to cause feelings of inferiority.

Keep that in mind this April when you’re spilling stereotyped identity all over the Census.

Leigh Greaney is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at [email protected]

1 Comment

One Response to “Gender, race and the census”

  1. Mara on March 14th, 2010 1:15 pm

    Recently, I found the 2010 Census form hanging on my door. As I began filling it out, I came across a dilemma. The U.S. government wants to know if my children are adopted or not and it wants to know what our races are. Being adopted myself, I had to put “Other” and “Don’t Know Adopted” for my race and “Other” and “Don’t Know” for my kids’ races.

    Can you imagine not knowing your ethnicity, your race? Now imagine walking into a vital records office and asking the clerk for your original birth certificate only to be told “No, you can’t have it, it’s sealed.”

    How about being presented with a “family history form” to fill out at every single doctor’s office visit and having to put “N/A Adopted” where life saving information should be?

    Imagine being asked what your nationality is and having to respond with “I don’t know”.

    It is time that the archaic practice of sealing and altering birth certificates of adopted persons stops.

    Adoption is a 5 billion dollar, unregulated industry that profits from the sale and redistribution of children. It turns children into chattel who are re-labeled and sold as “blank slates”.

    Genealogy, a modern-day fascination, cannot be enjoyed by adopted persons with sealed identities. Family trees are exclusive to the non-adopted persons in our society.

    If adoption is truly to return to what is best for a child, then the rights of children to their biological identities should NEVER be violated. Every single judge that finalizes an adoption and orders a child’s birth certificate to be sealed should be ashamed of him/herself.


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