I’m frequently accused of being overly interested in race and ethnicity, to which I reply: “Didn’t you fill in your Census questionnaire?”
Now, Kenneth Prewitt, whom Bill Clinton appointed head of the Census Bureau in 1998, has published an informative book, What Is Your Race?: The Census and Our Flawed Efforts to Classify Americans, documenting the federal government’s dysfunctional combination of near-monomania over counting by race and lack of coherent thought about the long-run effects of how racial boundaries are drawn.
Despite his half-decade in charge of the Census, Prewitt shares with the average American a certain perplexity over his old department’s fixation upon race and ethnicity. ...
Prewitt argues that if race and ethnicity are social constructs, as all good liberals like him assume, then our democracy ought to be prudent about how we socially construct them. Prewitt takes the scientifically discredited “race does not exist” conventional wisdom seriously, but you don’t have to fully accept that to see the good sense in his advice.