Multiracial Recognition in the 2000 Census: A Personal Perpective

Multiracial Recognition in the 2000 Census: A Personal Perpective

Winter 2003
pages 48-58

Ikeita Cantú Hinojosa, JD, MSW
National Women’s Law Center, Washington, D.C

The census classification scheme chosen for race and ethnicity has become a prominent social fact in its own right and involves serious political and cultural consequences beyond its explicit policy purposes. Thus, it is not surprising that fierce controversy surrounded the federal government’s decision to rescind its “check only one race” rule for the 2000 Census and implement a “mark one or more races” option in its place. The multirace option signals an official acknowledgment of a growing multiracial, multiethnic, multicultural population in the United States. As a black Chicana often required to select either the “black, non-Hispanic” or “Hispanic” option in answering demographic inquiries that mandate a single selection, I appreciate the opportunity to provide a more accurate description of myself by choosing both applicable categories; however, I question whether the scheme chosen to count race and ethnicity in the 2000 Census was the most appropriate approach to transition from the archaic “one drop of blood” conceptualization of race to a more fluid and complex understanding of the intersectionality of multiple identities. This paper provides a personal perspective on the recent 2000 Census racial and ethnic identity debate. I argue that the multirace option chosen, though not without fault, is preferable to both the retention of the old single-race classification and the creation of a new “Multiracial” category. The single-race option of the past reinforces a view of racial identity as exclusive and rigid, the proposed “Multiracial” category could cause a harsh blow to the progress made by the oppressed to date, and the multirace option implemented for the 2000 Census has the potential to blur psychological and sociological racial and ethnic lines without detracting from civil rights initiatives, signaling a new era in the social attitudes of Americans…

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