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Census Forms Are Changing Again -- Because We Are

Clarence Page, Tribune Content Agency on

On his HBO show “Real Time,” comedian Bill Maher recently went after Democrats for “pandering” to minority groups for votes.

Poking holes in political posturing is right on brand for Maher, who turns sarcasm into an art form. That’s why I watch him sometimes when I feel my sunny optimism needs a dose of tough realities. Besides, even when I disagree with him, sometimes he’s right.

In this case, he was plunging into a controversy that more Americans need to talk about: How well do our racial agendas and remedies keep up with changing times?

Among his examples of how “outdated” race issues have become, Maher cited statistics that show a “276%” increase in Americans who identify as multiracial and how “1 in 5” newlyweds are in interracial marriages.

“My point is, look, you’re still building your politics around slicing and dicing people into these fixed categories,” he said.

“Democrats need to get the memo that you can’t win elections anymore by automatically assuming you’re going to get every voter who’s not these guys,” Maher said while showing a photo of white men in suits from the “Mad Men” era.

 

“The more you obsess over identity, the more you ignore the bread-and-butter issues that win and lose elections,” he said. “The real issue is class, not race. And the real gap is the diploma divide. And the real future of the party and maybe democracy depends on Democrats figuring that out.”

I nodded my agreement, mostly because I’ve been making the same point for years. As an African American — here come those labels again — I don’t want to obsess about race, but I don’t want to ignore real racism either.

Neither does the government, one hopes. That’s why — speaking of “slicing and dicing” — less than a week after Maher’s monologue the Census Bureau announced that the next national nose count in 2030, as well as other future federal government forms, will offer some additional boxes for us to check.

For example, new choices for “Middle Eastern or North African” and a “Hispanic or Latino” box will appear under a reformatted question: “What is your race and/or ethnicity?”

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