How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Self-identification v. what the Census wants to call Latinos

Latinos for Obama

Alice Walton/KPCC

Or should it be "Hispanics for Obama?" A sign posted at a South Los Angeles campaign office before the November 2012 election.

Last August, the U.S. Census Bureau announced it had been experimenting with its questionnaires to create a better way of counting the people it asks  to identify on census forms as being of "Hispanic, Latino or Spanish Origin."

This could involve creating a mutually exclusive group or a category that combines race and ethnicity on census forms for 2020. The process has picked up steam as the bureau gathers public comment. But it's still a challenge to categorize such a diverse group of Americans. 

When the Pew Hispanic Center released a thought-provoking report last spring about the ways Latinos and/or Hispanics identify themselves, the resulting coverage sparked a national conversation about ethnic labels. The report pointed out that most survey respondents bucked pan-ethnic labels like "Latino" and "Hispanic," and preferred instead to identify by their families' countries of origin.


Five new Asian languages make their debut at the polls

Lauren Osen/KPCC

Voter materials at a polling place in Pasadena, Calif. Nov. 6, 2012

Voting is easier Tuesday in Los Angeles County for many Asian Americans who aren't fluent in English.  

Earlier this year, L.A. County officials announced they would be adding five new Asian languages to their voter materials and bilingual poll assistance on election day. Hindi, the official (but far from only) language of India, is now on the sample ballot, along with Thai and Khmer, the language of Cambodia. There will also be bilingual poll workers fluent in Gujarati and Bengali, two other Indian languages, ready to assist voters Tuesday in selected precincts.

This is significant, politically and demographically. Hindi, Gujarati, Bengali, Thai and Khmer have joined several other Asian languages - Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese and Tagalog - which are already provided for voters in Los Angeles County. It's a recognition of the growing political viability of Asian Americans, whose voter turnout has traditionally been low, but whose growing numbers in the United States can't be ignored.


Should the census change how Latinos are counted?

Screen shot 2012-08-08 at 4.37.52 PM

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

The U.S. Census Bureau has long struggled with how to count Latinos, or more accurately, those described on census forms as "Hispanic, Latino or Spanish Origin.” It's always been tricky.

Latinos, the term I'll use for now, range from white to black to indigenous, with all variations of mestijaze in between. Thanks to generations of migration, some of us have Asian roots. We're a mixed bunch, so much we don't even agree on a pan-ethnic label.

For quite some time, census forms have provided "Hispanic, Latino or Spanish Origin” as an ethnic category, not a racial one. Respondents identify their race, then also identify themselves in terms of Latino/Hispanic ethnicity. In recent years, a growing number of Latinos have opted to identify as "some other race," another choice given.

Today, census officials announced the results of some experiments they've been conducting on questionnaire design, using experimental questionnaires to determine whether Latinos might respond better to being counted and identified differently. From the bureau's statement today:


More readers' thoughts on the term 'minorities'

Photo by Brandy Shaul/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A palette of shades beyond Crayola "peach."

A post recently asked readers to weigh in on a conversation that's been around for a while, but which became bigger this month after new census data revealed that non-Latino white babies in the United States are no longer the majority of new births.

Now that children born to black, Latino, Asian and other parents of color make up more than 50 percent of kids under the age of one, is the term "minorities" still relevant? Readers sent in their thoughts, which I posted last week. But more readers have chimed in since. Here's what they had to say.

Guest 3792 wrote:

How is the term "people of color" not seen as derogatory toward those it excludes? Wouldn't that frame whites as "people without color"?

And there was this quip from Rael:

We can be called the "Still Oppressed Despite the Numbers" people?


Is it time for a term to replace 'minorities?'

Photo by Brandy Shaul/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A palette of shades beyond Crayola "peach."

Sometime in July 2010, non-Latino white babies in the United States ceased to be the majority of new births, with children born to black, Latino, Asian and other parents of color accounting for more than 50 percent of children younger than one last year.

And it begs the question: Do we keep calling these kids, and the racial and ethnic groups they belong to, "minorities?"

It's a conversation that's been brewing online since news of the historic demographic shift broke last week. One reader sent this tweet to me and another reporter who covered the story:

"As minority babies become majority, we can stop calling them 'minority babies.' Yes?"

Long before the latest census news, there's been back-and-forth over whether "minority" is still even relevant as groups considered minorities have grows in size and influence. In a follow-up last week, Rinku Sen of the social advocacy magazine