- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 25, 2010

MIAMI | Identify yourself as being of “Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin” on the 2010 census questionnaire, and you will get to be more specific about your ancestry, such as Mexican-American, Cuban or Puerto Rican.

But check the box for “black, African-American or Negro” and there will be no place to show whether you trace your identity to the African continent, a Caribbean island or a pre-Civil War plantation.

Some Caribbean-American leaders are urging their communities to write their nationalities on the line under “some other race” on the forms arriving in mailboxes next month, along with checking the racial categories they feel identify them best.

It’s another step in the evolution of the census, which has moved well beyond general categories like “black” and “white” to allow people to identify themselves as multiracial, and, in some instances, by national origin.

The wording of the questions for race and ethnicity changes with almost every census, making room for the people who say, “I don’t see how I fit in exactly,” U.S. Census Bureau Director Robert Groves told reporters in December. “This will always keep changing in this country as it becomes more and more diverse.”

The campaign in the multiethnic Caribbean community reflects a tendency, born from multiple waves of migration, to establish identity first by country, then by race.

“We are completely undercounted because there isn’t an accurate way of self-identifying for people from the Caribbean,” said Felicia Persaud, chairwoman of CaribID 2010, a New York-based campaign to get a category on the census form for Caribbean-Americans or West Indians.

About 2.4 percent of the U.S. population — more than 6.8 million people — identified on the 2000 census as belonging to two or more races. A little less than 1 percent of the population — more than 1.8 million people — wrote in their West Indian ancestry.

And about 874,000 people — or 0.3 percent of the population — marked boxes for Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islanders that year. If those islanders could get their own categories on the form, Caribbean-American leaders say, why not their communities?

“We’ve really pushed so we can tell our story in numbers the way the Latino community has done by getting the origin category on the form,” Miss Persaud said.

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