Why Does the Government Care about Race?

Why Does the Government Care about Race?


Every 10 years in the US folks celebrate a
time honored tradition that most of us wish we could forgot and many of us do: the collection
of the national census. Because let’s face it: it only happens once
every 10 years and filling out a questionnaire is hardly the highlight of the average person’s
decade when compared to other major life events like graduations, deaths, newborn kids, buying
a home, or avoiding social media spoilers for our favorite shows. But if the census is supposed to be a relatively
impartial record that keeps track of how many people are located in the country at a given
time then why does the census ask us about our race Well the answers tells us about a history
of voter disenfranchisement that stretches back to our country’s inception. So stay tuned because this week Origin of
Everything is getting very…civics-y. Civic-ish? Civics minded? Let’s settle for the last one. One thing I’ve heard repeated over and over
again about the census is “why does the government need to know our race?” The argument usually goes, “We’re all
more than our race. So, why is the federal government keeping track
of this sensitive information? And of course we all have many intersecting
identities, among which race is one. But while race became a major category that
public and private institutions started tracking systematically throughout the 20th century,
the federal census was preoccupied with race since the 18th century. The first census conducted in 1790 included
questions about, “gender, race, relationship to the head of household, name of the head
of household, and the number of slaves, if any” according to the US Census Bureau,
so the question of race has been baked into the cake since the census’s beginning. But although the original census document
was pretty short and sweet, it was actually a reflection of the limited scope of citizenship
at the country’s beginning. As more and more people were granted access
to citizenship, residency, asylum, and government aid, the questions became more
complex through time. Now the census is as much about keeping track
of folks as it is about preventing things like voter suppression and gerrymandering,
and also allocating state and federal spending for infrastructure, housing, education, and
healthcare. It also allows us to measure life outcomes
for different groups, track the efficacy of government programs, and determine how many
representatives and electoral votes each state gets. That’s right. Filling in a bunch of bubbles can determine
how many federal resources your state (and, indirectly, you) get every year, as well as
how much your state matters in the next federal election. Which means in some ways info we bubble in
on the census can have as lasting an impact as the votes we cast. So to get to the bottom of this question today
we should first talk about how the census emerged and what exactly those early enumerators
(no really that’s what census-takers are called) were even looking for. Next we need to think about how it evolved
from a 6 question survey to become a 50 plus question laundry list of information for the
federal government before being whittled down to 10 questions again. And the answer demonstrates how we went from
recording 6 answers per household across 13 states, 3 districts and 1 territory to spreading
to over 300 million people today. And finally we’ll discuss why race (among
other new questions) seems to be here to stay on this nationwide poll. The early history of the census runs pretty
much parallel to the history of the first US Presidency. George Washington had been in office for 1 year
when the first census was conducted in 1790. And nearly every one of the original 6 questions
was about race in one way or another, because the number of eligible voters was entirely
determined by race and gender. Census workers were asked to collect these
answers from every household: Names of heads of families
The number of free White males aged: under 16 years and
of 16 years and upward Number of free White females
Number of other free persons Number of slaves The 3 of the questions explicitly ask for
the number of white residents in a household while the last two ask to record “other
free persons” (other being the coded word here for “not white”) and number of slaves
(with an understanding that the overwhelming majority of enslaved persons at this time
were of African descent). So the original census design was largely
concerned with race. But why? Well keep in mind that only free, white men
who owned property and were 21 or older could vote. So the earliest purpose of recording race
on the census wasn’t to evenly distribute voter rights, but to limit enfranchisement
to all but one specific group. And in order to guarantee that limitation,
the federal government had to ask about race (since it was a prerequisite of voting). But because voting rights were guaranteed
to a relatively slim number of people, the early census didn’t require much more information
outside of race, gender, age, legal status (in regards to slavery and freedom) and whether or not
you were a property owner. The founding fathers shared a belief that
men who didn’t own land, poor people, white women, and all racial minorities were incapable
of casting a decent vote or deciding the future of the country. So the original reasons for recording race
on the census were aimed at disenfranchisement, and limiting the rights of full citizenship
to a small percentage of the overall population. If that’s the case, then why did race as
a category on the census stick around? Well the answer comes down, again,
to how we were voting or really who was being excluded from the voter rolls. After 1790 and throughout the 19th and 20th
centuries, key pieces of legislation and historical shifts increased both the size of the country
and the number of citizens eligible to vote. That included people of color, emancipated
slaves, all women, and men who didn’t own land. But the road to a fairer census was still
very fraught. According to journalist Becky Little, by 1820
“all other free persons” was converted to “free colored males and females.” And in 1850, the census expanded to include
the category of “mulatto” under the ranks of races that people could check off. But that was because legislators saw the country
pivoting toward the civil war, so they were thinking about which states would remain in
the union, and about how to count millions of African Americans and people of color who were either enslaved or considered legally free but still largely barred from casting a ballot. And Professor Melissa Nobles, a political
scientist at MIT, noted that the 1850 designation of “mulatto” was added at the request
of racial scientist Josiah Nott, who hoped to use this information to prove his false
theories about biological differences between people based on the degree of African blood
they have. In 1890, for just one census cycle, categories
like “mulatto” “quadroon” and “octoroon” were available on the census. But by 1930 statisticians acknowledged these
categories were subjective and largely insignificant and replaced these subcategories with “Negro”
while also adding categories for people from South and East Asia, Native Americans, and
Mexicans or Mexican Americans. But the spread of Jim Crow from 1850 into
the 1960s, meant that the census’ data collection on race was often tied to ensuring that certain
people could not vote rather than providing an accurate and objective number on the population. So race has been a contentious, and often
very negative, category on the census for most of its history. So why did it stick around to today? Well, arguments by both the Census bureau
and supporters of keeping race on the census point out that the issues with recording the
race on the census (namely to gerrymandering or realigning congressional districts) can easily
be flipped on its head. Just as race has been used to redistrict certain
areas that are largely populated by racial minorities and people with fewer financial
resources, those same numbers can be used to raise cases in court against unfair redistricting
lines that favor one party over another. For example, people still live (either through
social organizing or through economic stratification) in neighborhoods that can be racially or economically
homogeneous, and race and class often align with people’s political affiliations. So, census data can prevent congressional
districts from being drawn in ways that guarantee one party or type of candidate will always
win a certain district, even if the majority of voters living in that district support an opposing party or candidate. And because as of today the census is mandatory
(unlike voting) it gives a fuller scope of the number of people actually residing in
a state than the turnout of voters on election day. So the census is the federal government’s
best chance to record the accurate number of people in each state, to make sure that
everyone’s vote can count equally, and to determine how federal funds are spent based
on population. And recording race on the census helps support
redistricting in states like North Carolina as recently as this year (where congressional
lines were found by federal courts to disproportionately disadvantage minority voters). It’s also been included as key evidence
in a number of redistricting cases throughout 20th and 21st century. So this seems to be the matter of same data
with different objectives. It doesn’t downplay that the history of recording race on the census was alarmingly negative, but rather says
that the recording of race isn’t the inherent issue at hand but rather how lawmakers choose
to use that information for the public good (or not). And every time a new question is added to
the census or removed, it sparks ongoing debate about what should be recorded and how that
information is being used, whether it be for the public good or for more partisan efforts. This debate is rearing its head yet again
as we head towards the 2020 census. Well there you have it. The only two things that have stayed
pretty much consistent in collecting data for the census is recording race…and calling
census workers “enumerators.” And while that name comes across as pretty
dry, the debate about how and why the government is recording race is anything but. And while the history of race on the census is largely rooted in disenfranchisement, that same info has
often been taken in the last several decades to fight disenfranchisement. Because the questions that researchers ask
are often just as critical if not more so than the information they collect. Our personal perspectives and arguments influence,
shape, and change the outcomes of studies just as much as the results themselves. And that means there aren’t really any strictly
objective questions because those questions are driven by very real, sometimes good and
sometimes not so good, human motivations. So what do you think? Anything to add on how recording race on the
census impacts your vote? Any other information to share? Be sure to drop all of those comments, questions,
and debates down below, subscribe to Origin of Everything on Youtube and follow us on
Facebook and I’ll see you here next time!

Posts created 19620

100 thoughts on “Why Does the Government Care about Race?

  1. Because libtards are obsessed with race and want to contaminate everything with racial politics. I always refuse to answer any race based questions.

  2. Please talk about latinos having problems with the census, I'm talking about african latino, white latino and asian latino, we are not all mestizos who speak spanish

  3. As a middle aged white guy from the midwest…. I love this channel.

    In school we learned a very male and euro-centric perspective. Glad to see this type of educational resource available to the next generation.

  4. Could you guys do an episode on this topic applying to Job Applications? I am from Cuba originally so when applying for jobs they some times mix Latino (ethnicity) with white(“race”). Even this had nothing to do with the job, I suppose its there to ensure equal opportunity but would love a video on this all the same.

  5. Danielle repeatedly states that all women were barred from voting but that wasn't technically true. Women who were heads of sufficiently wealthy households could and did vote, it was just very uncommon since head of household was the husband by default. Voting for women was essentially limited to rich widows and women who never married.

  6. Unfortunately Western countries has not come over the race question, and it is really will put them in trabal by the time more and more…

  7. There is no such thing as race. Skin tone is just one, highly visible marker of ethnic ancestry. Unless you are a member of the royal family, we all have complex mixed ancestory. Which has mostly been lost in the mystery of time. There is no such thing as "white". There are nordics, anglo-saxons, slavs, arabs, Italians, jews, etc…. DNA tests show that the average "African American" has 25% European DNA. That is approximately one European grandparent.

  8. This practice is absolutely banned in Europe. But I guess it's needed in a country so diverse as the US. A 200 y.o country made up of immigrants that doesn't actually have a history to go back to for jus sanguinis to eve make sense. A country of immigrants and mixing, where to mixed people stay? They can't just create a "mixed" category can they?

  9. Mexican American here got my DNA test says my haplogroup is Anasazi Half native American half Spanish. So will add my Nativeness this coming census. Booo yea Trump!

  10. I truly enjoy and have learned so much from this channel. I recommend it to many others. The commentator is a lovely young woman but would it possible for her to slow down, just a bit? A lot of information going by so quickly. For me a little difficult to keep up with. Thank for all your hard work and integrity!

  11. I have studied early US census data for my family that has the number of owned slaves and country of parents' origin. Now people don't want their race identified. It has gotten less clear as we have more mixed races. Like globalization in economics and cultures, human racial (and gender) identities will become less distinct and less meaningful.

  12. Oh ffs "social discrimination"? Dude, race is the fastest way to identify a person without going into details, it's a really important and useful metric!

  13. Exactly thats why I keep saying oh now race doesn't matter now that we know Africans are the original man and woman. Well if it doesn't matter then why does the federal government need to know? I keep on telling my black people especially stop falling for that nonsense. Of course it matters. It shouldn't but I know it does. As soon as it was proven Jesus was a man of color white people who painted Jesus white now say oh race doesn't matter. GTFOH.

  14. I’m mixed but I’m mostly African but and my skin is very light it looks white so I always get weird looks whenever I circle African on any document 😂

  15. I was super disappointed when Canada moved to a "short form" census & very pleased when the "long form" was brought back. So called "Big Data" is not inherently bad. It can be used well or poorly, just like everything else.
    …plus, what's all the hate for "enumerator"? They are literally enumerating, what do you want them to be called??

  16. Data can always be used for nefarious reasons, but if a road block to doing good is lack of data, it's one of those situations where the good comes with the bad.

  17. I've honestly never really understood race. Like there is White and Black, but then there are Pacific Islanders and stuff like that.

    Like legit just make it North American, South American, European, etc. Or just do ethnicity.

  18. Ok in my part of the world except for country of origin the "Race" & "Cultural Background" questions are either optional or have an ethnic neutral option, why isn't this a thing in the States, that way those who think of themselves as 'Merican instead of some Hyphen can be "Merican.

  19. 🥀 Written & Hosted by: Danielle Bainbridge, for me was certainly MORE APPEALING than the cold, hard reality behind the history of the U.S. Census. Danielle possesses that "WoW" factor that leaves an intriguing impression long after she finishes speaking. In other words, she's fascinating. 💝 (S.F.)

  20. I still think it's outrageous there will be no Middle eastern category as a racial or ethnic option….
    They lobbeyed hard for it but it was denied. So middle easterners are white for another ten years?

  21. Being Latino/Hispanic makes the race question confusing. Most of my peers are of Mexican descent, and while some of us have pretty dark skin tones, we all fill out white. The history of Latinos is mixed racially, so it feels like more of an ethnicity, yet there are some people who are clearly white, black, or Asian Hispanic. The whole race construction seems to fall apart when considering Latinos/Hispanics.

  22. The stupid one is the commerce one where it asks how how long you are out of your house and what hours are you gone. Seriously, do they expect anyone to answer that?

  23. I live in NC and my district is one of the ones most impacted by racial gerrymandering. The districts are true to name– they look like twisted salamanders on week two of being road kill…

  24. Hey, non-american here with no experience about the census. How does it work? Do the enumerators go house to house asking questions? If yes, do the people who are either homeless or living in hotels etc get missed? And what if you go to a house to find immigrants, say international students, living there. Do the enumerators ignore them and move on to the next house or are they also recorded?

  25. Germany doesn't ask that sort of thing at all but has mandatory residency registration and will ask you to update it upon move, marriage and child birth.
    All other information is collected trough other sorts of surveys.
    With automatic voter registration and changes in voting district size being administration focused (rather than only relating to votes).

  26. I love your presentations. The info is excellent and topical, BUT your flighty hand movements drive me nuts. Please control your hands better and do continue to deliver great content.

  27. As an ethnic mutt I’ll just check the least specific answer. Hopefully it’ll make some beaurocratic office worker frustrated

  28. As an afro-latino, I'm often conflicted about the proper boxes to tick when asked about race. Why does the census specify black non-hispanic?

  29. so glad i came across this youtube page! i literally could sit and watch your videos back to back! i love history and i’m obsessed with it! knowing the origin of things explains how things are how they are now ❤️

  30. Well, I'll be able to accurately record my religion in 2020. In 2010, I was still living with my parents and they put my religion down as Christian (which it wasn't by that point in time).

  31. I'm more concerned if they ask about citizenship. Even though I'm a naturalized citizen it offends me enough, that if they ask, I wont bother filling that census out. They can go screw themselves.

  32. If American society got rid of its "obsession with race" blacks would be the first to complain because they would lose all their privilege the race cards gives them.

  33. Like I know racism isnt over, but whenever I hear about the past concerning things like race and gender I'm so glad I was born today. I'm a white male so I'd be fine but a government decided by only one race and gender sounds real shitty.

  34. Why is it that when Americans speak or Black-Americans get to express their views on any topic they always end up referring to the slave trade or at least slavery as a key point in their stories? Same with Jewish people. Besidesthese arguments often overshaduw everything black people stand for. if you are not getting compensated in the sense of lets say precedence with housing or jobs or the way Jewish people are, then move on from it.
    Thicking boxes should not be made as high of a priority as it is right now it should rather be made irrelevant.

  35. I think the census is flawed.
    It still doesn't take in consideration the homeless or the undocumented immigrants.

  36. It’s even funnier that my spouse is someone who was born in Africa but became an American citizen, and is technically a white African American! Also what about black folks who aren’t from Africa?

  37. As a French person I’ve always found the way Americans talk about race disturbing in a way. We are not used to using this term to refer to humans in my country, only animals. It’s seen as offensive by minorities actually. We generally prefer to ask about people’s origins as it seems more relevant to their identity specificity, but also recognizes that they have participated in the building of a shared French culture as a result of that origin story. It’s weird that American racial demographics would count a recent white French expat in the same pool as white Americans, but would consider black Americans to be an entirely different demographics with different ideologies. Culturally white Americans have more in common with black Americans than with me for sure. It’s also disturbing that many make the assumption that we have so much in common because of some ancient genes. Like « oh I’m French too, my great great great grand-father moved here but I love croissant and Paris and oh la laaaaa » 😅

  38. This video is incredibly slanted. Antebellum census takers asked about race because slaves were counted, but counted differently, for the purposes of congressional representation.
    And how did the Jim Crow laws of the southeast have anything to do with a national censuses?

  39. I am Mexican and I just check off white because my mom is a white green eyed Mexican so I figure it is the most correct. But it is pretty ridiculous when a brown skinned Mexican feels the obligation to check off white when it's clearly not the case.

  40. There was movie called Bulworth offering a very intriguing solution on how to end racism. Now, if I could just remember the exact quote…

  41. I'm not even gonna watch this dumb shit. They ask you, your race, because they wanna know how many of that one race there is in the USA. 😑😑

  42. Humans don't have races! It is just a tool for divide and conquer politics. Humans are a stupid self-destructive species that is also capable of greatness and compassion.

  43. I was taught from my grandma that God made all people. Red , yellow , black or white we are precious in his sight. God loves us all EQUALLY

  44. As an amateur historian, I want to have as much info as humanly possible on the census, since that is a fantastic way to find out a lot of information about folks who otherwise would be lost to history.

  45. In Europe we ask for Nationality so we know in what language we can communicate. Nobody here would dare ask for race. That is a big no no. And rightfully so. Peace.

  46. the gerrymander example she shoed isn't actually gerrymandered. The top and bottom of the shape are made up of mainly Hispanics and portion in the middle is mainly African American. The district makes sure both these group are represented correctly.

  47. I know in Canada it is seldom asked in government forums. Mostly for indigenous aboriginals for tax season so they get the correct rebate aswell as extra forums for write offs.
    However I have had online job applications ask me my race and I feel that is just fucking wrong. I have an unusual name and during a blind interview had a company assume and boldy state "they thought I was black because of my name". They even directed the only black girl in the room by my name. Her name was Nicole… I got the job but turned it down when they called me to start.

  48. I once worked for the US Census and it was a good job. I was an independent contractor meaning I worked when I wanted. They pay good money. They pay you everyweek. I hope to do it again next year.

  49. Always very interesting!
    I think the objection is that the word “race” is outdated. Until we find a better one, just stick with what all people (“folks”?) understand.
    Which leads to my suggestion: differences in English vocabulary. Example: in Canada we never use “folks” as a synonym for “people.”
    The Canadian census asks origin question as a cultural group.
    These questions are necessary until they stop being important. If a definable group needs support, you need to know how many there are in the group to define it.
    I would like it if the census asked about orientation, and differentiated sex and gender.
    In Canada of course we also ask questions about language use (“mother tongue,” language used at home and at work) because we are a bilingual country and French and Native language speakers get extra protection.
    Does the US census ask language questions?

  50. Interesting and weird in the same time. I’m from Kuwait and we never mention race or ethnicity in the census even though we have different ethnicities like mainly Arab, African , Persian and others.

  51. National Geographic magazine has an article that says there is no such as race, can this channel do a video about that?

  52. Part of it is for health reasons. For instance, the more people who report being Native American means that more money will be set aside for Native American health issues.

  53. While I understand how the data can be used to protect gerrymandering and identify groups from being targeted, I still don't understand the way that the Census identifies those of Hispanic or Latino origin. How does one justify categorizing people as a separate race based (sometimes it seems) solely on their mother tongue? That doesn't tell us what their race is; it often just tells us who conquered the lands of their origin.

  54. This young lady is excellent in explaining the US Census as well as the racial component in questions dating back to the first US Census held in 1790, just one year after our first President George Washington took office. There are so many different options on how a person can respond to the “race question,” that it’s very difficult to not be able to report your race as well as that of all members living in the household. The question of Citizenship will be decided by the US Supreme Could on April 26, 2019 in an expedited appeal due to the the US Census printing

  55. Absurd to count illegal immigrants and treat them the same as legal residents
    in Congressional Representation. 5 out of California's 55 Electoral Votes
    is because of their illegal immigrant population and also 5 of their 53
    House Members. This terrible rule disenfranchises legal citizens.

  56. This something ALMOST EVERYONE in this s KNOWS Z , buy doesn't UNDERSTAND.In AMERICAN SOCIETY there are s GREAT MANY SOCIAL PROBLEMS and ILLS .Sometimes to COVER UP things it REQUIRES POLITICAL SLIGHT of HAND ,one of the ways USED to COVER UP Tor YEAR'S was and is RACE .That's one of MAIN and MAJOR reason they are KEPT , the BLACK SKIN SYDROME is nothing more then a COVER UP for PROBLEMS in the SOCIETY that AFFLICT OTHER RACES in the SOCIETY to A FRESTER DEGREE then they ever ro BLACK AMERICA . It's been done for so LONG some do not even QUESTION it. If YOU BREAK AMERICA DOWN RACIAL there srr FIVE GROUPS or RACES were n this NATION and SOCIETY . WHITE the LARGEST HISPANIC SECOND ORINTALS THIRD , NATIVE AMERICANS , INDIA and PAKSTAIN and BLÀCK AMERICANS .We are the SMALLEST they we are PROTRAYED though we are the LARGEST , our SKIN COLOR we STAND OUT we DIFFERENT and therefore we are ESSY to HIDE PROBLEMS in the SOCIETY BEHIND. The ONLY TIME RACE is IMPORTANT is when it's need to HIDE BEHIND . UNEMPLOYMENT need ,CRIME needed , SOCIAL SERVICES needed , these are NEGATIVE USED to VETIFY and UPHOLD POLITICAL POSITIONS . Also to JUSTIFY be some why BLACK AMERICA shouldn't at times be GIVEN PREFERENCE OVER others which LEADS ILL WILL towards BLSCK AMERICANS in the SOCIETY . It's a OLD GAME been PLAYED by GOD know how MANY in the SOCIETY to JUSTIFY there PERTULAR POSITION at times . To this who know it SICKING ,but others because they think there is something in for them PERSONALLY still do it to DAY.

  57. My problem with it? The only race that exists is the HUMAN race. Realistically it's ethnicity. We weren't all created in separate laboratories.

  58. Wish they quit calling these mixed people 'black' because they don't get any of the program as being 'black' it's a fraud perpetrated by blacks

  59. All you have to answer on the census is how many people live in the home, constitutionally. Every other question on the census is unconstitutional, just write "5th amendment" on every other question you don't want to answer.

  60. As a puertorican I feek really conflicted on how latinos should be measured. On one hand, all latinos can be discriminated by white americans. Splitting Latinos into black, white or mestizo has the issue of race being on a gradient and a mestizo mistakenly believing he is mulatto. On tje other hand, putting all on one category ignores the nuances of race and identity either in Latin America or among US latinos. The wealthy Cuban Refugees, most of who are white, had a very different experience from the Afro Latinos that grew up in the Bronx, or the Mexican Americans who have always been in the country since the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, or the exploited illegal inmigrants that can be White but are usually Mestizo or Castizo but usually the latter two, or the Mexican Celebrities that look like whites with a bit of indigenous (think Diego Luna) that live between Mexico and the US and are bicultural. And then there are the class/race divide in Puerto Rico that is quite more blurred than the segregated communities that are common in the US. Another possibility is to divide into stuff like "mixed race" or caramel skinned but most latinos dont really know how black or white they actually are due to so much intermixing and splitting up people by distinct groups is not something to aspire

  61. Districts should be drawn on a grid. This gerrymandering bull shit has crippled democracy. As long as the government continues to question us on race, we will be divided on that same basis.

  62. Lot's of studies are done in universities and other orgs. Studies of men, women, all races, interracial, citizens, non-citizens, first gen citizens, second gen citizens, etc. Plenty of reason these days to have this knowledge. Those of you who claim that Europe doesn't know the race of its citizens, doesn't know a whole lot.

  63. AMERICA IS NOT A RACIST COUNTRY. We went through a civil war in order to stop the slavery.
    People talk about 400 years of slavery in America. Well, 1787 was when the United States of America was created, to 1865, I count 78 years for the sin of slavery.
    Don't confuse America with the English colonies, in which America fought a Revolution against England to end slavery, and create the union. It was to be all about individual liberty.

    Don't forget about the democrat President Andrew Jackson signed into law, The Indian Removal Act of 1830, to forcibly evict all Indian tribes east of the Mississippi, so as to have more land to run their slaves. The racist democrats and their racist president Franklin D. Roosevelt are also guilty of putting 117,000 people of Japanese descent internment camps, two-thirds of whom were native-born American citizens. And the democrats started a Civil War in order to hang on to those slaves. And they are the guilty ones' who conjured up the KKK to scare, and keep control of said slaves. The democrat party has been the evil, racist, murdering, stealing pieces of crap from the beginning of time, and nothing has changed since.

    Just recently an idiot had to import racism because our supply and demand was a little out of sync, wouldn't you say?

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