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Racial mix in America: statistics are all wrong

A View From the Edge

The problem with people who do not understand math adequately, or can even count properly, is that they see a number published by the Census folks and assume it means something it doesn’t. Everything you thought you understood about racial balance in this country is dead wrong. Counting people is necessary from an economy point of view, but never takes into account the individual aspects of the people counted accurately.

The first official Census was in 1790. The proportion of white and Black people counted was 80.7% white and 19.3% Black (called negro at the time). By 1860 other ethnicities were being counted as well: 85.6% white, 14.1% Black, .0014% American Indian+Eskimo+Aleut and .0049% Hispanic. By 1960 the simple counting continued: 88.5% white, 10.5% African American, .9% the rest of the identified races. But in 2000 the Census changed the questions. The Census forms required everyone to state ethnic origin as well as their parents’ origins and then, in their tabulation (meaning counting) they needed to make sense of this mishmash of race, so they deemed anyone of mixed race was non-white.

It goes like this: if a white male and an African American female have a child, the child will be classified as non-white.

Suddenly, ethic purity was put into the final reading of results and counting. Of course, ethnic purity is total nonsense. Any student in the sciences will tell you that and geneticists scoff at the concept of genetic purity. In your DNA, right now, you have roots that take you back to at least four human ancestor races, possibly including Neanderthal and other human sub-sets that no longer exist or (at least) have not been identified yet.

So, of course the 2020 Census shows a huge swing in ethnic population change in America: 61.6% white (down from 88.5% in 1960), 12.4% African American, 1.1% native, 6.2% Asian, 8.4% other (whatever that means – see end), and 10.2% two or more races. Noteworthy is that Hispanic origins are now counted weirdly amongst the above figures (under half of the so-called white count and 20% of the other races). The point here is that racial breakdowns are now posted on what is reported as pure “white” or “not-white” and then those “non-white” are counted by ethnicity if any is indicated.

What does it all mean? The panic from the ultra-right is based on a slippage in the dominant caste of the USA — now well under 50% for “pure white.”

But has it really changed? Or did the “non-white” label simply make the counting skew to show more diversity? How many of Jefferson’s or Hamilton’s kids remained white yet having a mixed racial heritage? And, in all scientific honesty, who can really say what color race we are when you study DNA properly?

Knowing how many people, total count, are in America is valuable… but racially classifying them is an unscientific political game that can only, in the end, breed more division since inaccurate numbers can be manipulated to suit xenophobia and fringe beliefs. America was built on diversity; it is time we allowed that truth to reign.

What is “Other” as a race? A DNA test showed a diverse ethnic background, mainly Europe in the past millennia, but certainly not my primordial origin. I cannot swear to be Caucasian, Latin, German or anything else, so I always put “other.”  It drives people on forms nuts. They deserve it.


Peter Riva, a former resident of Amenia Union, now resides in New Mexico.

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