We All Count

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Photo by MGShelton

A curious thing happened this weekend as I was paying for a sandwich at a local eatery. The cashiers had been cooing at my baby son, marveling at his big, expressive brown eyes when all of a sudden one of them asked me: “What nationality is he?” I was so taken by surprise that it took me a while to respond.”American,” I said, but her puzzled look made me feel it was necessary to explain further. So I added, “His father is Puerto Rican and I am Peruvian.” And we left it at that.

This; however, got me thinking about the 2010 Census and how I haven’t gotten around to filling it out yet because I’m having a hard time trying to figure out how to classify my children. In fact, I don’t seem to be the only one. Several of my friends have wondered how to deal with question #8 (regarding ethnicity) and #9 (regarding race) because in many cases, these are not simple questions to answer for those of us who are first generation immigrants or consider ourselves Latina, but are married to Americans. So, for example, if your child was born in the U.S. but you are American and your husband is Mexican, is your child of Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin? What about race? Most Latinos are more of a mixture (mestizos) than just plain White, Black or Indian.

I guess one of the reasons it’s so difficult to answer these questions is the fact that it’s extremely difficult to have a definite answer as to what is a Latino. As we’ve said in the past, we come in all different races and ethnicities.

At this point, I’m leaning toward answering “Yes” to question #8 for my two kids and adding both Peruvian and Puerto Rican under the “another Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin.” In terms of race, I’m debating whether to go with OTHER, to check as many as I think apply (since according to the instructions you can check more than one) or to just take the easy way out and choose White—even though, by most accounts, if you took a look at any of the members of my family, we’re not really (completely) White. I mean, I’m sure both my husband and I have indigenous roots, and maybe even some Black ones.

So, what to do? I don’t really know, but one thing is for sure, once I figure it out, I’ll be sealing that envelope and I’ll mail it back so that my entire family is counted. Why? Because the results will determine how $400 billion in federal funds are allocated every year including in the particularly important area of child-related services such as schools.

I was appalled when I recently found out that more than one million children under the age of 10 were not counted in the 2000 Census. We owe to our children’s future to get them counted, so we encourage you to fill out the 2010 Census and mail it back in before April 1st.

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