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What Is "Your" Race?The Census and Our Flawed Efforts to Classify Americans$
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Kenneth Prewitt

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780691157030

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691157030.001.0001

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Introduction and Overview

Introduction and Overview

(p.3) Chapter 1 Introduction and Overview
What Is "Your" Race?

Kenneth Prewitt

Princeton University Press

This introductory chapter discusses how there was a racial classification scheme in America's first census (1790), as there was in the next twenty-two censuses, up until the present. Though the classification was altered in response to the political and intellectual fashions of the day, the underlying definition of America's racial hierarchy never escaped its origins in the eighteenth-century. Even the enormous changing of the racial landscape in the civil rights era failed to challenge a dysfunctional classification, though it did bend it to new purposes. Nor has the demographic upheaval of the present time led to much fresh thinking about how to measure America. The chapter contends that twenty-first-century statistics should not be governed by race thinking that is two and a half centuries out of date.

Keywords:   racial classification, America, census, civil rights era, demographic upheaval, race

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