Tuesday, June 23, 2009


The OMB on Race

The Census on Race

What I've been thinking about lately: We collect a lot of data on race and ethnicity. We put people in boxes. When is it useful, and when is it not? It's useful when we work to combat racism, but then again, that means racism still exists, and that by itself is very painful. Is it possible to combat racism, and not put people in boxes? If so, how? And how would we know what we were doing was working?

Thoughts triggered by these comments, told to me by two different people:

"What is your race?" (Required question I asked someone for data collection purposes.)
"I'm in the human race."

"When I think about 'race' I think of winners and losers." (Former track team member.)

Which just made me wonder: how do we get to win-win solutions? Is tracking race and ethnicity necessary? Obviously the answer is "sometimes," but how do we discern when it is most useful? And how do we disentangle the effects of poverty, class, education?

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