Richard e Hill - a Writer's Journal

The Census: But Who's Counting?

But, Who’s Counting?

In 1790 the cry went across the land “That all shall be counted” and the first of 23 Constitution Convention mandated decadal censuses was duly initiated.  Nearly a century later, the 1880 Census took eight years to complete and tabulate; the 1890 Census was estimated to take 12 ½ years for the burgeoning Republic using these manual door-to-door data gathering procedures.  Therefore a more efficacious methodology was in order.  Enter John Hollerith and his innovative punch card (iterations of this data collection device are still in use worldwide.  Remember the hanging chad in the 2000 Election Florida recount?) The Computer Age began with the 1890 Census which was accordingly completed in two years and the term “Race” was introduced.  Note: In February, next month a missive regarding Race would be disseminated during the personally disdained Black History Month. Briefly, this perceived Janus-faced discord is two pronged (1) The admittedly deserving presented selective nuggets re: Black Achievement and History are “surface mining” ignoring the intentionally buried minified rich veins, (2) Black History Month, Asian Heritage Month; et al implies the default value of History is Euro-centrically White.  The European explorers/conquistadors in the post-Colombian Age of Discovery did not bring Civilization to the New World ---- instead, they found Civilization.


In my opinion, analyses conclude that the social and economic data notwithstanding the major objective for censuses and related extrapolations is to both preserve and to identify White Euro-centricity.  Therefore the USA will not have Whites in the minority by 2040 or 2050.  The perpetual re-ordering and redefining of “Race” will prevent this phenomenon from occurring.  Furthermore the term race will vanish (with the exception of historical or literary usage) from the zeitgeist.   



An analysis of the 23 Censuses depicts:

a)      1790 - Only the male head of household was revealed, Number of free white males aged under 16 years, Number of free white males aged 16 years and upward, Number of free white females, Number of other free persons, Number of slaves

b)      1800 and 1810 -  the age question regarding free white males was more detailed

c)       1820 – Amplification of the questions asked in 1810 by asking age questions about the slaves who were formerly owned. Also the term “colored” enters the census nomenclature. In addition, a question stating “Number of foreigners not naturalized” was included

d)      1830 census, a new question which stated “The number of White persons who were foreigners not naturalized” was included. This reflected the growth of Native American society at this time as well as combining the number and age question of both slaves and free colored individuals

e)      1850 - A shift in the way information about residents was collected.  For the first time, free persons were listed individually instead of by head of household.  There were two questionnaires: one for free inhabitants and one for slaves. The question on the free inhabitants schedule about color was a column that was to be left blank if a person was white, marked "B" if a person was black, and marked "M" if a person was mulatto. Slaves were listed by owner, and classified by gender and age, not individually, and the question about color was a column that was to be marked with a "B" if the slave was black and an "M" if mulatto.

f)       1870 - The color (racial) question was expanded to include “C” for Chinese, which was now a category

g)      1890 - The Census Office changed the design of the population questionnaire. Residents were still listed individually, but a new questionnaire sheet was used for each family. Additionally, this was the first year that the census distinguished between different East Asian races, such as Japanese and Chinese, due to increased immigration. This census also marked the beginning of the term “race” in the questionnaires. Enumerators were instructed to write "White," "Black," "Mulatto," "Quadroon," "Octoroon," "Chinese," "Japanese," or "Indian" that[ReH1]  included all east Asians, as well as “I” for American Indians

h)      1900 – The “Color or Race” question was slightly modified, removing the term “Mulatto”.  There was an inclusion of an “Indian Population Schedule” in which “enumerators were instructed to use a special expanded questionnaire for American Indians living on reservations or in family groups off of reservations.”  This expanded version included the question “Fraction of person's lineage that is white.”

i)        1910 - Similar to 1900, but included a re-insertion of “Mulatto” and a question about the respondent's "mother tongue.” “Ot” was also added to signify "other races", with space for a race to be written in.  This decade's version of the Indian Population Schedule featured questions asking the individual’s proportion of White, Black, or American Indian lineage

j)        1920 - Questionnaire was similar to 1910, but excluded a separate schedule for American Indians. “Hin”, “Kor”, and “Fil” were also added to the “Color or Race” question, signifying Hindu (South Asia Indian), Korean, and Filipino, respectively.

k)      1930 - Enumerators were instructed to no longer use the "Mulatto" classification.  Instead, they were given special instructions for reporting the race of interracial persons.  A person with both white and black ancestry (termed "blood") was to be recorded as "Negro," no matter the fraction of that lineage (the infamous" one-drop rule").  A person of mixed Black and American Indian ancestry was also to be recorded as "Neg" (for "Negro") unless he was considered to be "predominantly" American Indian and accepted as such within the community.  A person with both White and American Indian ancestry was to be recorded as an Indian, unless his American Indian ancestry was considered “small”, and he was accepted as White within the community. In all situations in which a person had White and some other racial ancestry, he was to be reported as that other race.  Persons who had minority interracial ancestry were to be reported as the race of their father. For the first and only time, "Mexican" was listed as a race.  Enumerators were instructed that all persons born in Mexico, or whose parents were born in Mexico, should be listed as Mexicans, and not under any other racial category, in prior censuses enumerators were instructed to list Mexican Americans as White. President Franklin D Roosevelt promoted a "good neighbor" policy that sought better relations with Mexico.   The State Department, the Census Bureau, the Labor Department, and other government agencies therefore made sure to uniformly classify people of Mexican descent as White.  This policy encouraged the League of United Latin American Citizens in its quest to minimize discrimination by asserting their whiteness.  

l)        1940 - The first Census to include separate population and housing questionnaires. The race category of "Mexican" was eliminated in 1940, and the population of Mexican descent was counted with the White population. 1940 census data was used for Japanese American internment. The Census Bureau's role was denied for decades, but was finally proven in 2007.

m)    1950 - The questionnaire removed the word “color” from the racial question, and also removed Hindu and Korean from the race choices.

n)      1960 - Re-added the word “color” to the racial question, and changed “Indian” to “American Indian”, as well as added Hawaiian, Part-Hawaiian, Aleut, and Eskimo. The “Other” option was removed.

o)      1970 - Included “Negro or Black”, re-added Korean and the Other race option. East Indians (the term used at that time for people whose ancestry is from the Indian subcontinent) were counted as White. There was a questionnaire regarding racial “choices” that was asked of only a sample of respondents.

p)      1980 - Added several options to the race question, including Vietnamese, Indian (East), Guamanian, Samoan, and re-added Aleut.  Again, the term “color” was removed from the racial question, and specific questions re: color were asked of a sample of respondents

q)      1990 - The racial categories in this year are as they appear in the 2000 and 2010 Census. The following questions were asked of a sample of respondents for the 1990 Census: In what U.S. State or foreign country was this person born?  Is this person a citizen of the United States?  If this person was not born in the United States, when did this person come to the United States to stay?  The 1990 Census was not designed to capture multiple racial responses, and when individuals marked the “Other” race option and provided a multiple write in, the response was assigned according to the race written first. “For example, a write in of "Black-White" was assigned a code of Black, a write in of "White-Black" was assigned a code of White.”

r)       2000 - The race of people based on their ancestral country of origin. This is the country race categorization that was used for the 2000 U.S. Census.  Race was asked differently in the Census 2000 in several other ways than previously. Most significantly, respondents were given the option of selecting one or more race categories to indicate racial identities. Data show that nearly seven million Americans identified as members of two or more races. Because of these changes, the Census 2000 data on race are not directly comparable with data from the 1990 census or earlier censuses. Use of caution is therefore recommended when interpreting changes in the racial composition of the US population over time.

s)       2010 - The 2010 US Census included changes designed to more clearly distinguish Hispanic ethnicity as not being a race. That included adding the sentence: "For this census, Hispanic origins are not races."  Additionally, the Hispanic terms were modified from "Hispanic or Latino" to "Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin".  Although used in the Census and the American Community Survey, "Some other race" is not an official race, and the Bureau considered eliminating it prior to the 2000 Census.  As the 2010 census form did not contain the question titled "Ancestry" found in prior censuses.  The Census Bureau warns that data on race in 2000 Census are not directly comparable to those collected in previous censuses.  Many residents of the United States consider race and ethnicity to be the same.





To reiterate, this analysis concludes that the social and economic data notwithstanding, the major objective for censuses and related extrapolations is to both preserve and to identify White Euro-centricity.  Therefore the USA will not have Whites in the minority by 2040 or 2050 as noted historians, anthropologists, and demographers proffer.  The perpetual re-ordering and redefining of “Race” will prevent this phenomenon from occurring.  Furthermore the term race will vanish (with the exception of historical or literary usage) from the zeitgeist in ten years.




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