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CHAT: US ancestry [was Re: FWD [OT but interesting] Arctic

From:John Cowan <jcowan@...>
Date:Monday, August 19, 2002, 2:08
Thomas R. Wier scripsit:

> I got those from the US Census website. I looked for other > kinds of ancestry listed, but I didn't find any then. It may > well be that all caucasian ancestries are grouped to gather, > all mongoloid ancestries, etc. Which would still be worrisome, > since it implies that race *does*, somehow, have meaning.
Of course it has meaning. Socially constructed meaning, to be sure, still meaning. Thirty years ago, I happened to read the requirements for receiving a scholarship from the United Negro College Fund: not that I had the slightest expectation of receiving one, but merely out of mildly bored curiosity. One requirement has stuck in my mind for those three decades: "The candidate must be generally known as a Negro by his family, friends, school, and/or community." (I have not seen how, as is likely, this language has been updated.) For this purpose, at least, being an African-American is a matter of what other people believe about you, and its connection with ancestry or appearance is indirect. As for the Census, the data directly reflect the questions asked, which give people a list to check off including various categories: the categories are not given any classifying label such as "Race" or "Ancestry", IIRC. There is also a separate section that asks you if you are of Hispanic origin or not. For census purposes, you are white if you say you are, and there is no way to specify a particular ethnic origin except by way of the "Other" category. (This has some personal application to me. My daughter's birthparents were unquestionably Hispanic, and she has a typically Caribbean appearance, but is not Hispanic in culture in any meaningful way. She is an "Other.") -- John Cowan <jcowan@...> Unified Gaelic in Cyrillic script!


Thomas R. Wier <trwier@...>