I learned (or was reminded) that I am a Census geek when I got excited that one of my favorite podcasts, Code Switch, recently did an episode on the Census called “Here’s Why The Census Started Counting Latinos, And How That Could Change In 2020.” CodeSwitch is a blog and podcast from National Public Radio. Here’s a good description of CodeSwitch, from their About the Code Switch Team page: “We’re a team of journalists fascinated by the overlapping themes of race, ethnicity and culture, how they play out in our lives and communities, and how all of this is shifting.”
The August 3, 2017, podcast on the Census not only covers the history of how the Census has (or has not) counted Latinos over the decades. It also features an interview with John Thompson, former director of the Census (the Code Switch blog features a longer version of the interview here) and a discussion of the possibilities and implications of adding “Middle Eastern or North African” (MENA) as a category for race and ethnicity.
I learned a lot from Kat Chow’s story “For Some Americans Of MENA Descent, Checking A Census Box Is Complicated,” which appeared on Code Switch’s blog on March 11, 2017. I’ve wondered in the past how people of Middle Eastern or North African descent have identified themselves in the Census…this story describes how some people of MENA descent have grappled with that issue.
I also learned about the (well-founded) fears of people of color regarding how Census data might be used. Chow points out “…the U.S. government used census data to locate and deliver more than 100,000 Japanese Americans to incarceration camps,” not by using individual Census data, but by identifying areas where lots of Japanese Americans lived in 1940.
Code Switch has also published stories on whether the Census Bureau will collect LGBT data.
Shereen Marisol Meraji, one of the hosts of theCode Switch podcast, and host of the August 3 episode, promises more coverage of the upcoming 2020 Census. I look forward to it–Code Switch provides valuable perspective and context. Plus, I like knowing there are other Census geeks out there!
–Beth Harper, Government information and reference librarian, Memorial Library, UW-Madison