When the 2010 census asked people to classify themselves by race, more than 21.7 million — at least 1 in 14 — went beyond the standard labels and wrote in such terms as “Arab,” ”Haitian,” ”Mexican” and “multiracial.”
The unpublished data, the broadest tally to date of such write-in responses, are a sign of a diversifying America that’s wrestling with changing notions of race.
The figures show most of the write-in respondents are multiracial Americans or Hispanics, many of whom don’t believe they fit within the four government-defined categories of race: white, black, Asian/Pacific Islander or American Indian/Alaska Native. Because Hispanic is defined as an ethnicity and not a race, some 18 million Latinos used the “some other race” category to establish a Hispanic racial identity.
“I have my Mexican experience, my white experience but I also have a third identity if you will that transcends the two, a mixed experience,” said Thomas Lopez, 39, a write-in respondent from Los Angeles. “For some multiracial Americans, it is not simply being two things, but an understanding and appreciation of what it means to be mixed.”