Black or biracial? Census forces a choice for some

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Census/Demographics, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2012-07-11 00:58Z by Steven

Black or biracial? Census forces a choice for some

Associated Press

Jesse Washington, National Writer
Associated Press

There were 784,764 U.S. residents who described their race as white and black in the last census. But that number didn’t include Laura Martin, whose father is black and mother is white.

“I’ve always just checked black on my form,” said Martin, a 29-year-old university employee in Las Vegas. She grew up surrounded by black family and friends, listening to black music and active in black causes — “So I’m black.”

Nor did it include Steve Bumbaugh, a 43-year-old foundation director in Los Angeles, who also has a black father and white mother. “It’s not as if I’d have been able to drink out of the white and colored water fountains during Jim Crow,” he said. “And I most assuredly would have been a slave. As far as I’m concerned, that makes me black.”…

…It’s impossible to know how many of the 35 million people counted as “black alone” in 2000 have a white parent. But it’s clear that the decision to check one box — or more — on the census is often steeped in history, culture, pride and mentality.

Exhibit A is President Barack Obama. He declined to check the box for “white” on his census form, despite his mother’s well-known whiteness.

Obama offered no explanation, but Leila McDowell has an idea.

“Put a hoodie on him and have him walk down an alley, and see how biracial he is then,” said McDowell, vice president of communications for the NAACP.

“Being black in this country is a political construct,” she said. “Even though my father is white and I have half his genes, when I apply for a loan, when I walk into the car lot, when I apply for a job, they don’t see me as half white, they see me as black. If you have any identifying characteristics, you’re black.”…

…But the logic is simple for Ryan Graham, the brown-skinned son of a white-black marriage who defines himself as multiracial.

“Say you’re wearing a black-and-white shirt. Somebody asks, ‘What color is your shirt?’ It’s black and white. There you go. People ask me, ‘What race are you?’ I say I’m black and white. It’s that simple,” said Graham, a 25-year-old sales consultant from Fort Lauderdale, Fla…

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Obama’s census mark reveals race views

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Census/Demographics, Identity Development/Psychology, New Media, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2010-05-01 04:45Z by Steven

Obama’s census mark reveals race views

The Washington Times

Joseph Curl

America’s first black president has deliberately shied away from spurring a national discussion on race, most recently by checking only “African-American” on his U.S. census form without offering a word of explanation about his choice.

The studied silence from the bully pulpit held by President Obama has frustrated multiracial organizations, giving rise to questions about whether the president acted out of political consideration and why the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas would not acknowledge his mother’s heritage.

“It’s frustrating from a point that there’s a lot of multiracial people out there who see Obama doing that, knowing that he is multiracial, and they think that maybe that’s the right choice,” said Ryan Graham, the product of a mixed-race marriage whose mother founded Project Race in 1991 to push for a multiracial classification on the census form.

“But there’s a lot of people saying maybe it’s the wrong choice,” he said…

…There is no question that Mr. Obama’s decision complies with the goals of U.S. census officials; the answer to Question 9 about race is exclusively about “self-identification in which respondents choose the race or races with which they most closely identify.”

“The racial categories included in the census form generally reflect a social definition of race recognized in this country, and are not an attempt to define race biologically, anthropologically or genetically,” the Census Bureau says in its “2010 Census Constituent FAQs.”…

…But the president’s decision to check only “black” on his census form makes complete sense to Charles W. Mills, a researcher on race and a professor at Northwestern University.

“Race is a social convention. For him to claim whiteness would be rejected by the social convention of the country. The way I see it, his decision was a perfectly reasonable one, given that this is how the American rules have been,” Mr. Mills said…

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