2010 Census Offends Some Americans With Handling of Race

Should 'white' and 'black' be the only color choices for race?

ByABC News
April 1, 2010, 5:21 PM

April 1, 2010— -- In the increasingly well-mixed melting pot that is the United States, listing race and ethnicity on a multiple-choice form is not easy, and to some, the exercise is downright offensive. Hispanics, African-Americans, biracial Americans and others have criticized the 2010 census form questions for failing to document race in an effective and sensitive manner.

The Census Bureau says it has been asking Americans about race since 1790, saying in an explanation on its Web site that the question is "key to implementing many federal laws" and essential "to assess fairness of employment practices."

Attempting to include all blacks in the nation, the Census Bureau went so far as to include the description "Negro" on this year's form, but one question may have excluded the largest ethnic minority in the U.S. -- Latinos.

The eighth question on the form asks whether one is "Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish," but the next question asks about race, and that's where a lot of people are getting stuck.

On question No. 9, you can check "White," "Black," "Asian Indian," "Filipino" or "Samoan," among 10 other choices, but there is no obvious category for Latinos, Arabs, or mixed race people. Instead, there's a place to write in "Some other race," and that has plenty of Americans confused.

The bureau doesn't categorize Latino or Arab as races, but if race is defined by the color of one's skin for some people, why are the only color options "black" and "white" and not "yellow" or "brown"?

"We can't be specific about certain people and leave other people off completely," said Shereen Meraji, a reporter/producer for NPR who is of Puerto Rican and Iranian heritage.

Meraji chose "Hispanic" for question No. 8, but for her race? She wrote in "Iranian."

"As a Puerto Rican/Iranian, I don't consider myself white," Meraji said. "Checking that box does not work for me."