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Judicial Watch • Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity letter

Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity letter

Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity letter

Page 1: Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity letter


Number of Pages:6

Date Created:April 30, 2017

Date Uploaded to the Library:June 13, 2017

Tags:Data, Middle Eastern-North African, MENA, race, ethnicity, Census, POPPER, racial, groups, working, White, letter, Group, Washington, ICE

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Apr 30, 2017
ancy Potok
Office U.S. Chief Statistician,
Office Information and Regula
atory Affairs
Office Management and Budg
1800 Street,
9th Floor
Washingt D.C.
Comment Response Proposals From the
Federal Inte
Working Gro
oup Revision the Standards for Main
Collecting, and Presen
Federal Data Race Ethnicity Fed. 12242
017), OMB2016-0008 OMB-20
Notice and
Request for Comments
ancy Potok:
udicial Wat
tch submits the follow
wing comme
ents the proposals the
Interagen Working Group for Research Race and
roup refere
above. The Workin Group
resented these proposals its Inte
erim Report the Offi
ment and
ederal Intera
agency Wor
rking Group for Resear Race and
Ethnicity Review Standards for Maintai
ining, Colle
ecting, and
Federal Dat
Race and Ethnicity
Interim Rep
port Jud
dicial Watch has serious concerns
bout the prop
and, for the reasons set forth below, subm that should reject the
Working Group
proposal establish new pan-ethnic, pan-national clas
ssification Middle
Eastern and
African (MENA) distinct reporting category. MENA cla
assification does not
OMB important
bligation ensure the efficiency effectiven
ness the
grity, objecti
ivity, impart
tiality, utilit and conf
fidentiality informati collected for
the integ
statistical purposes. Fed. 12242,
2243 (March 2017). fact, the
Proposal doe just
the oppo
osite, leading less
recise and more arbitra data clas
ssifications that, contra
OMB disclaimer, will used combine and recast numerous small group individ
with diffe
ferent ethnic origins, into one homog
genized mino
ority group.
The Backgrou Section the Notic and Reque for Comm
ments provid
des: Working
roup Interim Report avai
ilable https:/
425 Third St. Suite 800, Washington, 20024 (202) 646
6-5172 1-8
FAX: (202 646-5199 Email: info@
@JudicialWat www
Robert Popper
April 30, 2017 operate efficiently and effectively, the Nation relies the flow objective,
credible statistics support the decisions individuals, households,
governments, businesses, and other organizations. Any loss trust the
accuracy, objectivity, integrity the Federal statistical system and its products
causes uncertainty about the validity measures the Nation uses monitor and
assess its performance, progress, and needs undermining the publics
confidence the information released the Government. number Federal
legislative and executive actions, informed national and international practice,
have been put into place maintain public confidence Federal statistics.
The Interim Report provides explanation findings how the creation new MENA
classification facilitates this mission assists the OMB its role coordinator the Federal
statistical system. Moreover, the only analysis contained the Interim Report does not support, even illustrate, how the new classification will improve the data rendered the Census.2
Further, the analysis does not indicate overwhelming interest demand prospective
MENA respondents reclassified MENA going forward. More troubling, the Interim
Report and other materials from the 2015 Forum Ethnic Groups from the Middle East and
North Africa 2015 Forum indicate that there consensus, even within the working group,
regarding what origins qualify individual for MENA classification.3
Human race and ethnicity are inherently ambiguous social constructs that have
scientific validity. Invoking race and ethnicity, even for the collection ostensibly objective
data, relies racial and ethnic stereotyping individuals viewpoints, backgrounds, and
experiences. Government policies, including those involving data collection, that seek
classify individuals crude, inherently ambiguous, and arbitrary racial and ethnic categories
not further any rational government interest. Moreover, such attempts categorize individuals racial and ethnic groups necessarily lead absurd results.
The concept race defies precise legal definition. Originally, the concept racial
groups came about crude way categorize populations before science later showed the
concept race hollow. the American Anthropological Association AAA
explains, this day racial categories not bear scrutiny from the standpoint the biological
sciences: Genetic data show that, matter how racial groups are defined, two people from the
same racial group are about different from each other two people from any two different
racial groups. While Americans have been conditioned viewing human races natural and
separate divisions within the human species based visible physical differences, the vast
expansion scientific knowledge this century shows that human populations are not
See Interim Report, Appendix pp. 52-55.
See Angela Buchanan, Rachel Marks, and Magdaliz lvarez Figueroa, 2015 Forum Ethnic Groups from
the Middle East and North Africa: Meeting Summary and Main Findings, Population Division, U.S. Census Bureau
(September 2016), 30, available 2015 Forum Findings
Response OMB Directive 15: Race and Ethnic Standards for Federal Statistics and Administrative
Reporting, American Anthropological Association (Sept. 1997), available
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FAX: (202) 646-5199 Email:
Robert Popper
April 30, 2017
unambiguous, clearly demarcated, biologically distinct groups. The primary effect
systematic reliance crude racial categories perpetuate misinformation and reinforce
irrational beliefs and stereotypes about others. Contrived, racial categories needlessly promote
the Balkanization the population without any public benefit and, fact, great cost. The
establishment and institutionalization MENA classification comes with the imprimatur
government support, thus officially promoting such Balkanization. This classification does not
appear anywhere else the world, not even the region defined the proposed MENA
category. Yet, the OMB may now institutionalize this useless, new classification.
Even there were valid basis for collecting racial and ethnic data, the process doing always will plagued practical difficulties. Visual observation physical features
such skin color determine whether someone belongs racial ethnic category
humiliating and degrading, and even more disturbing whenever undertaken government
agent. also imprecise, and requires the use the simplest possible categories. But using
self-identification (as suggested for MENA) determine identity only works when categories
are acceptable and generally understood both members and nonmembers the groups
which they apply. The OMB prefers that self-identification should facilitated the
greatest extent possible, while recognizing that this may necessitate the use additional
categories beyond black, white, and Latino, because [r]esearch shows that ethnic groups evolve
and may modify their preferred ethnic group names; individuals may represent their affiliation
with groups differently depending the situation and may alter their perceived ethnic
membership over time. course, this preference may motivated factors other than
accuracy, such political self-interest, wishful thinking, even self-delusion.8 While selfidentification avoids the offensive and intrusive bloodline inquiries the Jim Crow era (or
similarly dehumanizing visual inspection), results nonetheless process that arbitrary,
imprecise, and inherently unequal, especially when the category issue ill-defined
While always problematic create and record racial ethnic classifications any
kind, for any reason, the MENA proposal particularly unworkable. begin with, the
proposed classification ignores the diversity the defined region. The Detailed Analysis the
MENA Category accompanying the Interim Report indicates that the new classification will
Statement Race, American Anthropological Association (May 17, 1998), available
See Standards for the Classification Federal Data Race and Ethnicity, Office Management and
Budget (Aug. 28, 1995) (broad self-identification categories are disfavored the arguments some persons,
particularly those mixed heritage, that they cannot accurately identify their race and ethnicity they prefer
Federal data systems using the current categories. They say the government should not limit their choice
identification. available
For example, some individuals have used physical characteristics, e.g., high cheek bones, basis for
claiming their Native American ancestry. See Garance Franke-Ruta Elizabeth Warren Native American What?,
THE ATLANTIC, May 20, 2012, available Others haves fabricated life stories changed
physical appearances support self-identification racial minority. See Susan Svrluga, Rachel Dolezal Admits
She Was Born White, THE WASHINGTON POST, Nov. 2015, available
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Robert Popper
April 30, 2017
include individuals having origins from any one countries, spanning three continents.9
The distance between some these points exceeds 2,500 miles. The classification also includes other ethnic ethnoreligious groups, including groups vaguely characterized Middle
Eastern, North African, Other Middle Eastern, and Western Saharan. The defined region
has been torn religious, ethnic, and national violence throughout the 20th century,10 and,
indeed, for centuries. The Working Group simply ignores this grim reality. recasts many
distinct tribes, sects, and clans one homogenized ethnic and racial group that the MENA
category is, ultimately, meaningless. Many these groups would not describe themselves
sharing common heritage ethnicity. point out just few the obvious questions those
residing the region would ask: What there specially common between Turkey and
Morocco? How are ethnic Persians Iran related Arabs, Bedouins, Berbers? What does
Russian Jew Israel specially share with Libyan? Greeks have lived Turkey and Egypt for
millennia; why are they not included, and for that matter why Greece not included? The
Maltese language has Arabic roots, why Malta not included? Why Iraq and Afghanistan but
not Pakistan? Any setting down geographic, national, ethnic, religious, language
boundaries rendered arbitrary the extraordinarily diverse nature the region.11
The geographic basis for the classification also imprecise because fails provide
any temporal lineage limitation when individuals cease having origins foreign
country. unclear how many generations person ancestors must have lived, worked,
married, and raised families the United States before his her continent country origin
becomes North America the United States. Any attempt resolve this problem necessarily
arbitrary. just one example, consider that, depending how one counts, there have been any
number Jewish diasporas. one ancestors migrated Europe during one them, and from
there the United States, and one resided in, say, Brooklyn, New York, 2017, and from
there decided move Israel that person included the new category? Would matter the diaspora were pre-Roman, Roman, Medieval, 19th Century, 20th Century? The Proposal
does not specify whether individuals may decide for themselves how many generations are
needed before their country continent origin changes. any event, given these
circumstances, even self-identification would arbitrary.
The Interim Report admits that [t]he Middle Eastern and North African population
one the most diverse pan-ethnic groups the Nation, including those many different
linguistic, religious, national, and ethnic backgrounds. Despite this recognition, the Working
Group proposes lump these diverse groups together create single, new classification. The
Lebanese, Iranian, Egyptian, Syrian, Moroccan, Algerian, Arab, Assyrian, Chaldean, Iraqi, Israeli,
Jordanian, Kurdish, Libyan, Palestinian, Saudi Arabian, Tunisian, Yemini, Afghan, Armenian, Azerbaijani, Cypriot,
Georgian CIS, Somali, South Sudanese, Turkish, Bahraini, Bedouin, Berber, Druze, Emirati, Kuwaiti, Omani,
Qatari, Syriac, Western Saharan, Djiboutian, Mauritanian, and Turkish Cypriot. See Interim Report, Appendix
Detailed Analysis New MENA Category, 54.
The 2015 Forum own experts recognized that this so. See, e.g., 2015 Forum Findings pp. 30-33 and
Interim Report, 23.
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Robert Popper
April 30, 2017
reported impetus for this proposal was that those the MENA population not identify with
the Federal classification White and desired their own classification.13 Yet, the Working
Group own data shows that this inference not true. Specifically, the data shows that 33.5%
percent MENA respondents did not identify MENA all, that 24.7% also identified
White, and that only 33.9% identified MENA exclusively.14 This data simply does not support
the claim that there great demand for the creation new classification. Accordingly, the
OMB has reason establish new racial and ethnic division the risk further
Balkanizing American society.15
Finally, the proposed MENA classification identifies statistically small group.16
Despite the broad classification, the size the overall group still constitutes very small
percentage total U.S. population, raising further questions about the need capture the
information all. Arab American Institute and MENA Advocacy Network representative
estimated that there were only 3.2 million U.S. residents with MENA ancestry, less than the total population. Given the Working Group finding that only 33.9% those
residents see themselves MENA exclusively, the projected MENA-classified population may small 1.08 million about 0.34% the population. The remarkably small size this
population raises the further concern that MENA response the 2020 census survey may
create privacy issues for respondents. MENA household low-population census block
may unknowingly make public the racial and ethnic identities its members. this way, the
MENA classification also poses risks the anonymity census responses.
Id., 53.
Another consequence this change, whether intended not, relates the upcoming census. Without the
MENA classification, 86% MENA respondents identified White. carving out individuals previously
classified White, the new MENA category will artificially elevate the relative size non-White groups. Thus,
Hispanic and African American populations will appear have grown relative proportion during the next census,
regardless real changes population. Such sleight hand does not promote consistent and comparable data
race and ethnicity. See Revisions the Standards for the Classification Federal Data Race and Ethnicity,
Office Management and Budget (Oct. 30, 1997), available
See Interim Report,
2015 Forum Findings, 10.
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FAX: (202) 646-5199 Email:
Robert Popper
April 30, 2017
For all the above reasons, the OMB should reject the Federal Interagency Working
Group for Research Race and Ethnicity proposal create MENA classification.
/s/ Robert Popper
Robert Popper
Director, Election Integrity Project
Judicial Watch, Inc.
425 Third St. SW, Suite 800, Washington, 20024 Tel: (202) 646-5172 1-888-593-8442
FAX: (202) 646-5199 Email: