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Stumped by the Question on Race

Days before the U.S. Census forms are due, some residents in Houston are still trying to decide how to answer some of the questions. Still, census officials anticipate a surge after Thursday’s deadline to mail back the questionnaires. Pat Hernandez has more.


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Some Hispanics are finding question-9 on the U.S. Census a bit troubling. It asks residents to mark their race from the choices listed: White, Black, American Indian, Alaska native, various Asian descents, Hawaiian, Pacific Islanders…or some other race.

Houston Realtor Maria Elena Rosquete says she found that question confusing.

“When they asked about your race, the only option that I could find to check was white. And in this country, I don’t consider myself white. I consider myself Latino Hispanic.”

Rosquete says she might wait for a census worker to pay her a visit at home to explain that question to her. Eduardo Guity with the Census Bureau says the questionnaire allows residents to choose how they’d like to be identified.
“You can mark a myriad of boxes, not just one. At that point, you just look down amongst what you have to play with here within the number 9 options and you pick what options are closest to you, including, it says, some other race.”

Jerry Wood is a former city planning department official who is lending his expertise on the city’s census response.

“The real problem is, is the term race is a very dicey kind of concept. In the 19th century, the term race was used to mean nationality. The English race, the German race, and it’s a difficult concept to get a grasp on, one that many people in scientific circles reject as a concept. And so we have to find a subtle way of dealing with the social implications of race, even though, scientists don’t recognize it as such.”
Professor Tatcho Mindiola with the UH Mexican Americans Studies Program, thinks that question might be one for the Census Bureau to clarify.

“There are many, many questions. I don’t know if the census, my impressions is they don’t, does much sampling on this particular question. In between census, they may have to revert to that to see if they can get a more accurate sense on what Hispanics, Latinos, call themselves when it comes to race. There are some who have African heritage, Puerto Ricans, Cubans, who could legitimately say culturally Hispanic. Racially, I’m African American. So it’s a whole series of complications, which gets back to the criticism of race anyway. It’s a social category.”

Between April 15 and May 1st, the bureau will compile a list of addresses from which forms weren’t returned. Those households will likely get a visit from a census worker. For more information on the 2010 Census, visit

Census question 9
above image taken from

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