Congress Should Tell the OMB to Stop Dividing the Country

The Obama Administration has recommended the most sweeping changes to the nation’s official racial and ethnic categories in decades. The two most significant proposals were creating a new ethno/racial group for people who originate from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and taking from those who identify as Hispanic the option to identify their race. The proposals would have long-term consequences for how one-fifth of all Americans are defined demographically and would create more societal conflict over racial preferences and political gerrymandering.

The Obama Administration’s proposal would mean that, as early as the 2020 Census, those of Middle East and North African origin, who have been classified as white for over a century, would now be reclassified as a single and unified minority group. At the same time, people of Latin American or Iberian origins would no longer be able to declare whether they are also white, black, or another race, effectively making “Hispanic” their only racial identifier.

The OMB states that America’s increasing ethnic diversity requires more and more group classifications. An equally practical, and much preferred, policy response would work to smooth out these differences by promoting assimilation, which was the policy approach taken for the first two centuries of the Republic. That approach succeeded in achieving what was thought by many to be impossible: It created a cohesive American population out of many and vastly different peoples.

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