Should we classify our ethnicity for the sake of data?

As part of my day job, I process personal information for hundreds of people. Name, address, birthdate, etc. The form that each person submits with their information includes a section on Ethnicity.

Photo credit: Amy Lynne Photography

Each time I record a person’s ethnicity; I can’t help but wonder why we need to classify ourselves in this way.

I understand that organizations need to publicly report statistics so that they can’t be accused of discrimination and can claim diversity.

Large companies, universities, organizations, and the government enjoy numbers and statistics.

 29% White

13% Hispanic

25% Black

18% Asian

12% American Indian

2% Other

1% Undisclosed

My main question then is, doesn’t classifying each other further segregate us?

How can we expect a nation that struggles so much with unity, to fight discrimination when we are keeping such close track of the different people groups?

What ethnicity are those that select “undisclosed”? My instincts tell me that very few, if any, from that group consider themselves white.

As a white person, I never think about my color. I select “white” like it’s no big deal. I never think about it. Being white never hurts me or impacts me. I never have fear of what selecting “white” means, and I am never surprised when white carries the majority of the percentages. I don’t even think about it, I just assume that’s going to be the case.

So my small act of participating in change is to select “undisclosed” when completing forms like the very ones I process. Does it really matter to anyone else? Probably not. Is it just another way of doing nothing to make me feel like I’m doing something? Likely.

But I like that at least I’m changing the numbers, and that I’m stopping to think. Whether or not it’s a positive action, it’s still action.

What’s your opinion? Does checking “undisclosed” make a difference? Do you think the United States still struggles with discrimination? Do forms like these help, hurt, or do nothing at all? And lastly, does your race impact the way you respond to these questions?


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