My Grandson And The Census | Opinion

The more I learn about the new data in our 2020 Census, the more I feel convinced that the federal government has cheated my one-year-old grandson of his true identity.

Because of the illogical and tortured manner by which the official counters have chosen racial categories, our adorable little bundle of polyglot Americana gets no recognition in the fastest-growing segment of the younger generation in the country's latest decennial enumeration.

That cohort officially consists of "mixed race" Americans, but the government insists that our daughter's toddler counts as blandly, meaninglessly "white" and nothing else. Actually, the lad boasts a background of notable diversity, with a spicy mix of ethnic, cultural and national influences. Of his eight great grandparents, one was Italian, one Danish, one Irish, two German Jewish, two Russian Jewish and one, for good measure, a Daughter of the American Revolution whose ancestors helped settle the Shenandoah Valley in the 1730s. As one might expect, with Jewish ancestry on both sides, his parents are raising him in a committed Jewish home and little Micah, we hope, will grow up to identify with the Children of Israel, American branch.

But the bureaucrats at the Census Bureau inanely insist on reducing his complex, colorful background into one of the two large classifications the government recognizes as significant. We all must all be classified as "white" or "non-white," as if that visible distinction (registered principally by skin color) mattered more than our religious, cultural, linguistic or historic heritage.

This focus on the simplistic white/non-white dichotomy seems particularly destructive and inappropriate at this fraught moment of our history, in the midst of sincere efforts to put our race-obsessed past behind us. Even more ironic, at the same time that progressive thinkers promote a more nuanced and fluid view of gender identity, they defend a version of racial classification that remains strictly, stubbornly binary.

If we continue the current nonsensical pattern of classification, the so-called white population is indeed due to slip just below 50 percent, perhaps as soon as 2045. But even then, as Professor Justin Gest of George Mason University sagely observes, the status of whites will shift only from majority to plurality. European Americans will still outnumber the second largest race-based segment of the population (Hispanics) by more than two to one.

The whole fantasy of the emergence of a meaningful "minority majority nation" rests on a series of dubious assumptions.

First, it's preposterous to suggest that all the various "people of color" designated by the Census as "non-white"—Asians, Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders, Hispanics, Blacks, Native Americans and mixed-race Americans—share a meaningful common culture and distinctive identity. A Salvadoran construction worker in L.A. doesn't necessarily enjoy a deep bond with an Indian tech executive in Silicon Valley based solely on some similarity in skin tone; to suggest that they do is not only preposterous, but racist.

2020 US Census
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 24: US Census workers stand outside Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts as the city continues Phase 4 of re-opening following restrictions imposed to slow the spread of coronavirus on September 24, 2020 in New York City. The fourth phase allows outdoor arts and entertainment, sporting events without fans and media production. Noam Galai/Getty Images

The idea that America will change significantly when the number-crunchers finally conjure up a non-white majority rests on labeling people of color based on what they're not (of European ancestry and pale skinned) rather than what they are (members of vastly varied cultures, religions and ethnic groups).

Eboo Patel, a former advisor to President Barack Obama on faith-based initiatives, helpfully notes that the government's current definition of "people of color" includes anyone whose heritage can be traced—even partially—back to Asia, Africa, Central or South America. That means not only a huge portion of the U.S. population, but "something like 70 to 80 percent of the human race." Patel asks: "How can a racial category that includes the vast majority of human beings on the planet possibly have descriptive, analytical or moral value?"

Yet this race-based classification does have political value for those who promote the radical tenets of critical race theory, casting whites as outliers, a suspect sliver of humankind distinguished by ruthless racist repression of everyone else. But to advance this indictment, and to claim that the rest of the population amounts to a suffering victim class, advocates must invent the concept of "whiteness," ignoring the fact that European peoples, divided for more than two thousand years by nearly perpetual savage warfare with one another, have never considered themselves united by a "white" racial identity.

In today's United States, those who supposedly enjoy a common "white privilege," ranging from communities of Armenian origin to Norwegians, Italians and Greeks, actually share no more common culture than the multifarious non-white groups so awkwardly lumped together as "people of color."

The idea that all non-whites share similar histories of discrimination and oppression in the United States implies that descendants of enslaved Africans, laborers from China who toiled to build the transcontinental railroad or engineering students at Stanford of South Asian descent all experience comparable levels of racism and exploitation, based directly on the darker shades of their skin—an obvious and offensive absurdity.

Today, after decades of progress in overcoming racial divisions and classifications, how will reemphasizing those distinctions serve the purpose of creating "a more perfect union?" White supremacists of a century ago placed paramount importance on drawing and enforcing the "color line." Why should today's Census takers attach similar significance to their enumeration of misleading categories like "white" and "people of color?"

For the most part, the American people have moved on. The new Census numbers show a skyrocketing "mixed race" population, more than 80 percent of whom blend "white" with "non-white families" (mostly Latino and Asian).

Does it make sense to exclude our little grandson from all this healthy and rightly heralded American progress, simply because his complicated ancestry fails to include great grandparents who are members of the officially designated, non-white, victimized racial group?

Like the nation at large, our little one-year-old will benefit most by celebrating the progress we've achieved in the present, and the prospects awaiting us in a more unified American future, rather than stressing the distinctions and injustice we've endured in the past.

Michael Medved hosts a daily radio talk show and is author, most recently, of God's Hand On America: Divine Providence in the Modern Era. Follow him on Twitter: @MedvedSHOW.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.

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