Looking back at Anoka’s cultural diversity

by Bob Kirchner

The 2010 census is out and we are learning about our changing community. It’s all about cultural diversity.

These words elicit mixed reactions. Some say diversity is divisive. Others see a colorful tapestry.

Where did human diversity come from?

A Biblical believer may point to the tower of Babel when God confused the monoculture language of created humans and dispersed them throughout the earth where they developed distinct subcultures.

An evolutionist may cling to the notion of spontaneous human generation in different locations and at different evolutionary rates guided by natural selection, survival of the fittest and, voila, different races and cultures.

For some, diversity is about racial classifications – Caucasoid, Mongoloid and Negroid.

But it has come to include gender, ethnicity, language, religion and economic class.

In each decennial census, the U.S. government has measured it via national origin (birthplace), race (color), ethnicity and language.

How have we done this?

The first censuses (1790-1810) only collected the number of free white males and females, other free persons and slaves.

In 1820 “Colored” and “number of foreigners not naturalized” were added.

In 1830 and 1840 separate censuses appeared in northern cities counting free African Americans.

In 1850 and 1860 “Black” and “Mulatto” were added. Free African Americans were enumerated by name but slaves were only numbered with owners.

In 1870, for the first time, all African Americans appeared in the regular federal census by name. “Chinese” and “American Indian” were added.

In 1880 there was a separate Native American census which continued sporadically until 1940.

In 1890, race options included “White,” “Black,” “Mulatto,” (one non-white parent) “Quadroon,” (one non-white grandparent) “Octoroon,” (one non-white great grandparent) “Chinese,” “Japanese” and “Indian.” This census was destroyed by fire.

In 1900 “Mulatto” was deleted.

In 1910 “Mulatto” returned and “other races” added. For the first time “mother tongue” was questioned.

In 1920 “Hindu,” “Korean” and “Filipino” were added.

In 1930 “Mulatto” was deleted and “Mexican” added. The mixed blood “one drop rule” applied. Whites with black ancestry were “Negro,” whites with Indian were “Indian,” blacks with Indian were “Negro.”

In 1940 “Mexican” was deleted and counted as “White.”

In 1950 the word “color,” “Hindu” and “Korean” were deleted.

In 1960 the word “color” returned. “Indian” became “American Indian.” “Hawaiian,” “Part-Hawaiian” and “Aleut” were added due to Hawaii and Alaska statehood.

In 1970 “Negro or Black” and “Korean” were added. “Aleut” was deleted. Some were asked about descent such as “Mexican,” “Puerto Rican,” “Cuban,” “Central or South America,” “Other Spanish” or “None of These.”

In 1980 “Vietnamese,” “Indian (East),” “Guamanian” and “Samoan,” were added. “Aleut” came back, but “color” was removed again. Some were asked what language other than English was spoken at home.

In 1990 race offered these options: “White,” “Black or African American,” “American Indian/Alaska Native,” “Asian,” “Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander,” “Some other” or “Two or more.”

In 2000 and 2010 two ethnicities were first distinguished: “Hispanic/Latino” or “Non-Hispanic/Latino.”

Do you sense any confusion here?

The American Anthropological Association did. In 1997 it recommended, without success, that the term “race” be eliminated because it “has no scientific justification in human biology.”

Geneticists confirm via DNA that all humans share close relationships. In fact, genetic studies identify human migration patterns and point to a single parental origin.

So what is the purpose of classification?

The federal census responds to cultural changes and politics, not science.

What about the city of Anoka?

In 2010 Anoka’s population was White (86.1 percent), Black (4.6), Indian (0.9), Asian (1.7), Two or more (2.5) and Hispanic (4.2) for total Non-white/Hispanic of 13.9 percent, up from 8.8 percent in 2000. The state average is 19.3 percent.

Anoka County’s mix was White (85.2 percent), Black (4.3), Indian (0.6), Asian (3.9), Other (0.1), Two or more (2.2) and Hispanic (3.6) for a total Non-white/Hispanic of 14.7 percent, up from 8 percent in 2000.

In spite of such classifications, we are now global citizens sharing a common media culture via satellites and Internet. Perhaps we are returning to a kind of global monoculture.

But we still tend to live in subcultures of choice.

So today, cultural diversity is more about lifestyle than language, ethics than ethnicity, character than color, beliefs than birthplace.

Maybe the next census should ask us those kinds of questions.

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