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.