The Census Bureau recently released its report on ethnic ancestry in the 2000 census. I’ve long thought that we need a high wall of separation between state and ethnicity, not only with regard to race (a la Ward Connerly’s Racial Privacy Initiative) but all ethnic categorization — English, Irish, Italian, etc. The only race or ethnic group that should matter to our government is American. Let private researchers try to figure out how many Americans have Armenian or Ethiopian or Slovak ancestry.
Apparently, more and more people are thinking along the same lines. In 1990, 12.4 million people identified their “ancestry or ethnic origin” as American, representing 5 percent of the total population. In 2000, 20.2 million people, or 7.2 percent of the population, did so, a 63 percent increase in the number of “Americans,” at a time when the total population increased by 13 percent.
In the run-up to the next census, perhaps conservatives should worry less about ballot initiatives and invest more time and money trying to perasuade our fellow citizens to renounce racial and ethnic categories voluntarily. If we can change the culture of ethnic categorization, the law will follow.