The Chicago Tribune
Arthur Caplan, Director of Division of Medical Ethics
Department of Population Health
New York University
The U.S. Census Bureau announced that it wants to make a number of changes in how it counts membership in a race. The change is based on an experiment the bureau conducted during the last census in which nearly 500,000 households were given forms with the race and ethnicity questions worded differently from the traditional categories. The results showed that many people who filled out the traditional form did not feel they fit within the five government-defined categories of race: white, black, Asian, Pacific Islander and American Indian/Alaska Native. If Congress approves, the bureau says it plans to stop using the word “Negro” as part of a question asking if a person was “black, African-American or Negro.” There are a number of other changes planned for counting Hispanics and Arab-Americans.
These changes may seem like improvements. They are not. The bureau and Congress ought to be considering a more radical overhaul of the census — dropping questions about race entirely. There are a lot of reasons why.
First, the concept of “race” makes no biological sense. None. The classifications Americans use to divide people into groups and categories have nothing to do with genetics or biology…
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