This was the first year that I ever got to fill out a census as husband, father, homeowner, and all around adult. The last census, both Angela and I were living in a dormitories (in two different states, no less). It was such an small but satisfactory sense of self-worth.
In the bigger picture, the U.S. Census is a constitutionally-mandated check-up on who makes up our country. But something that really struck me is that it is no longer about what labels can the government assign to us so much as it is a questionnaire of how we see ourselves. My wife was absolutely thrilled that she was able to check more than one box for race (you’d be surprised how many forms still only allow for one option). So, she able to describe to the government how she sees herself as well as how we see our children.
There is a short, cutesy video explaining to same-sex couples that they are allowed to mark how they view themselves and their relationship. It’s short and stars George Takei and his husband, Brad Altman:
The same concept applies here: the census is about discovering how we view ourselves and not what labels others want to use. Whether it be race or marital status on the census, or religion or even gender, I – and my country – am realizing that self identification is far more important that external labels.
In a country where individualism is celebrated, this is the census we should use1. The government of the people has to let the people define themselves.
- Though, in 2020, it damn well better be electronic! [↩]