Politics, Moderate

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Politics

Census racial data can unite instead of divide

Esther J. Cepeda on

CHICAGO -- According to conservative thinkers Ward Connerly and Mike Gonzalez, the Census Bureau should stop collecting data about race and ethnicity.

Writing in a Washington Post op-ed titled "It's time the Census Bureau stops dividing America," they argue that the classifications are divisive and amount to "arbitrary racial straitjackets."

It's an interesting read. It also contains this kernel of truth: "[T]he official categories often shed little light on policymaking," write Connerly and Gonzalez, the president of American Civil Rights Institute and a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, respectively. "Groups such as 'Asians' and 'Hispanics' do not capture the different life experiences of Indian Americans and Korean Americans or Mexican Americans and Cuban Americans."

Oh, those pesky kernels of truth -- always acting like Rorschach inkblots upon which any number of wild ideas can be projected!

Let's just agree on this: Official U.S. census race and ethnicity designations are broad and general. They were created before data granularity and analysis were as sophisticated as they are today.

But, as it happens, the only ones complaining much about them are young people who turn their noses up at anything giving off even a slight whiff of racial or gender specificity.

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Just a few years ago, the term "Hispanic" was devalued in favor of "Latino." How quaint.

In the past year or so, the navel gazing about that term exploded into something of a culture war that sped through the iterations "Latino/a," then "Latin@" and, most recently "Latinx."

Yawn.

Obviously, words matter. But they don't matter more than issues like the high prevalence of obesity and Type 2 diabetes among Hispanics, segregated schools with few resources, professional pay disparities, the Trump-era insecurity about immigration status, and so many other challenges Hispanics face.

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