Democracy Dies in Darkness


Drilling down on white Americans’ origins will not be helpful

February 4, 2018 at 7:25 PM

I can hardly believe that Christine Emba thinks that asking for additional information about national origin in the next U.S. census will be productive, beneficial or even accurate ["White Americans: Where are you really from?" op-ed, Feb. 3].

She wrote, "For the text box under the 'White' checkbox, the census instructions helpfully state: 'Print, for example, German, Irish, English, Italian, Lebanese, Egyptian, etc.' "

What would I write? I'm from Ohio. Shall I write, I mean print, "Ohioan"? Or does the Census Bureau want to know where my ancestors came from? Many came from Lithuania, although part of present-day Lithuania was called Poland at the time. Some came from Ireland, the part that is now Northern Ireland, although they considered themselves English. And some came from either southern Germany or Switzerland — I'm not sure which. Furthermore, if that's not already too much information, some were Jewish, some were Ulster Protestants, some may have been Anabaptists, any of which may have taken precedence in their minds over nationality.

What can the Census Bureau possibly do with this information, when for many Americans "it's complicated," and the information is likely to be unreliable? Maybe I will write, I mean print, "Ohioan."

Paul Solyn, Elmira, N.Y.

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