Yes, this seems to be the latest genius plan coming out of the White House. For the 2020 census we may be breaking out yet another group of people by ethnicity to further separate the population into individual pigeonholes. This time the goal is to identify everyone of Middle-Eastern heritage so we don’t insult them by calling them “white.” (USA Today)

The White House is putting forward a proposal to add a new racial category for people from the Middle East and North Africa under what would be the biggest realignment of federal racial definitions in decades.

If approved, the new designation could appear on census forms in 2020 and could have far-reaching implications for racial identity, anti-discrimination laws and health research.

Under current law, people from the Middle East are considered white, the legacy of century-old court rulings in which Syrian Americans argued that they should not be considered Asian — because that designation would deny them citizenship under the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act. But scholars and community leaders say more and more people with their roots in the Middle East find themselves caught between white, black and Asian classifications that don’t fully reflect their identities.

My gut level reaction is pretty much the same as when any new racially divisive proposals come along so we may as well get it out of the way up front. Isn’t America supposed to be the great melting pot where everyone is treated the same? Rather than wondering about what new categories to add in terms of ethnicity, why aren’t we asking why we still bother classifying people by race at all? Of course that’s just crazy talk in the era of the Social Justice Warrior so I may as well go back and sit in the corner.

Assuming we really do need to break down the racial parsing even further, how did we arrive at “Middle-Eastern” as the category most sorely needed? It seems to me that combining that classification with “North African” takes in a lot of folks who might feel that their own unique ethnicity is tied up in there. Do you really want to wrap the Saudis in with the Moroccans? But let’s say for a moment that there actually is some pressing need for this. What about the rest of the groups around the world who send people to our shores? We’re apparently still fine with lumping all Europeans in with “white people” in general, but I can assure you that there is a very distinct cultural and genetic heritage which splits out the Irish from the Scandinavians and from there to the Italians. The Germanic tribes go back a long way genetically and I wouldn’t exactly call them indistinguishable from the people of Finland.

We already include Other Asian, Other Pacific Islander and Some Other Race. Precisely how far do you want to slice and dice this? Or could it be (and I’m just spitballing here) that we’re subdividing everything as far as possible to limit the number of people who self-identify as “white” on such forms? Even if we start with the assumption that you need to identify everyone by some racial demographic profile, for purposes of the census are you really gaining anything by dividing it past five basic groups? (White, black, Asian, Hispanic, Native American)

Pretty soon the census form will be twenty pages longer. But if nothing else we’re probably creating three or four more jobs just for people to separate the documents into neat, racial piles.

census