Home
In this issue
April 21, 2014

Andrew Silow-Carroll: Passoverkill? Suggestions to make next year's seders even more culturally sensitive

Sara Israelsen Hartley: Seeking the Divine: An ancient connection in a new context

Christine M. Flowers: Priest's execution in Syria should be call to action

Courtnie Erickson: How to help kids accept the poor decisions of others

Lizette Borreli: A Glass Of Milk A Day Keeps Knee Arthritis At Bay

Lizette Borreli: 5 Health Conditions Your Breath Knows Before You Do

The Kosher Gourmet by Betty Rosbottom Coconut Walnut Bars' golden brown morsels are a beautifully balanced delectable delight

April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review April 21, 2010 / 7 Iyar 5770

Who Are We Now?

By Paul Greenberg




http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | The census form lay there for days on the sideboard at home. Not that most of it was hard to fill out. Name, address, members of the household, that sort of thing, but then came the boxes that always stopped me: race, ethnicity, that sort of slippery thing. Hate to be pigeonholed. Doesn't everybody? It's part of being American.

The president set a good example by filling out his form on time. Of the 14 or so racial/ethnic flavors offered, he chose "Black, African Am., or Negro." He might have chosen "White." His mother was, and he was raised by his maternal grandparents. But he chose to be black. On the Census form, you get to choose. Nothing so well demonstrates that, at least in America, race is a social construct rather than biological category. Take that, Darwin!

Once upon a time, a light-skinned Negro (that was the accepted term then) might choose to be white. And had to be secretive about it. It was called "passing," a term that may need to be explained to the next generation. Now a cafe-au-lait American may choose to pass as black. Who cares? And why should we?

My own official Census form still lay there waiting for me to fill it out — like a rebuke. Why hadn't I done my civic duty?

It would have been easy enough if there had been a box marked Jewish. That would have covered ethnicity, "race," religion, history, habit, the whole shebang. But there isn't such a box on the form, and if I wrote it in, that surely wouldn't be what was meant by race on the form. So I decided to pass as White.

Talk about conflicted. I had to let down one side or another. And myself, too. I've had this conflict before — between the conventional, acceptable answer and the one I felt was right. In college I was once asked to fill out a long personality test being given to a bunch of us active in student affairs. (I was president of Hillel, the Jewish students' group at the University of Missouri.) One of the questions was, "Do you ever talk to G0d?" I knew it would go against the secular grain to put down "Yes," but it was true. I did, G0d knows. And prayer qualifies as talk, doesn't it? That's a respectable enough answer.

Letter from JWR publisher

Then came the real doozy of a question: "Does G0d ever talk to you?" Uh oh. All the time. But to say so, I thought, would clearly mark me as some kind of religious nut. Now I can't remember what I put down. I hope I said Yes. At any rate, nobody came to cart me off to the mental ward.

Then there was the question on the Census form that asked if I were a "Person of Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin" Not to the best of my knowledge, but surely there was a Sephardic Jew somewhere in the family line. If way back.

Once I was in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, deep in what was then the Soviet empire, and walking down the street was like looking in a mirror. Everybody looked like me. There was a strange, Stonehenge feel about the whole, eerie experience. It was Deja Vu magnified, as if I'd been here long ago. And the steppes of Central Asia would have been in the Sephardic belt. Granted, that's not very scientific evidence, but to me it was much realer. I felt it. Elusive yet persistent thing, ethnicity.

On the Census form there's a box to check for "American Indian or Alaska Native" with space to write in your tribe. (When I read that, my first thought was, "I know mine. I'm a Levite.") There were also about 10 varieties of Asians plus various Pacific Islanders listed. But no subdivisions for White or European, as if they were all the palefaced same, whether English, Scots-Irish, French, German, Italian, Russian, Scandinavian. … Not an exact science, census-taking.

For that matter, Southerners exhibit traits of an ethnic group — a common land and language, customs and cuisine. … We were even a separate nation for four disastrous years, which is an experience to remember the next time some fire-eater starts talking up nullification, interposition and/or secesssion. Once was enough, thank you. So what is race, precisely? Answer: Nothing precise. Mexicans refer to themselves as La Raza, and Churchill spoke of the British race. In that context, the word has a poetic rather than faux-scientific sound. No people that can produce a Shakespeare — or a Faulkner — can be without a defining character. If race has a legitimate meaning, maybe that's it.

Ah, the intricacies and staying power of ethnicity. My petite but ramrod-straight, blue-eyed mother with her round Slavic face and pale complexion could have passed as Polish, and did so when she had to in the old country. (There must have been a Cossack somewhere in the woodpile.) There's no mention of Slav on the Census form, either — unlike Fijian or Hmong.

My mother seems to have disappeared from the ethnic categories as surely as her genes have vanished from the dark-haired family tree. Though now and then my latest granddaughter shows indelible signs of her great-grandmother. By the time, Lord willing, her own granddaughter fills out a Census form, there's no telling what ethnic categories will be listed. Extraterrrestrial, maybe?

I was tempted to just leave the more troublesome spaces on the form blank, but the Census does serves a purpose. Plans for providing all sorts of government services depend on it, not to mention its usefulness as a research tool. And that includes the questions about race, which go back to the first U.S. Census in 1790.

That first Census had to count the number of Negro slaves in order to determine the number of seats each state would get in the still new U.S. House of Representatives. Each slave counted as three-fifths of a person for that purpose. If that's degrading, as was the whole Peculiar Institution of slavery, would it have been preferable to count slaves as whole persons, and therefore add to the political clout of the slave states? There are no simple answers once we set out to reduce ethnicity to a check on a form.

Yes, the Census figures are sure to be used for nefarious purposes. They'll be manipulated to make a political point, or to demonstrate some dubious socio-economic theory. But that's not the numbers' fault. They serve any number of beneficial purposes, like giving us the best snapshot we have of the American population in the year 2010. What would historians do without Census records? It's not the numbers' fault if they're misused. The figures don't lie even if liars figure.

It's better to risk the information's being abused than not to collect it at all. So in the end I went ahead and filled out the form as best I could, qualms and all. One must have a little faith. Even trust.

Oh, yes, as for what Barack Obama should be called, how about Mr. President?

Paul Greenberg Archives

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

JWR contributor Paul Greenberg, editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, has won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. Send your comments by clicking here.

© 2006 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

Columnists

Toons

Lifestyles