One Choice for White Survey Respondents

Blue_paper files_2012-08-02

2015-01-29 – I have three kindly mothers. That’s almae matres in Latin. I know it sounds a bit LGBT, but I’m referring to the three universities I have attended.

My latest alma mater is Kaplan University, where I got a masters degree in education a few years ago. Kaplan University is very data driven. That means they keep sending me surveys. My other almae matres are money driven. They keep sending me fundraising requests. I think I prefer the surveys.

I’m not exactly sure what today’s survey was about, but it asked some questions about race and ethnicity—as they all do. I usually answer those questions without much thought, but today I thought about it. Can you tell me why white respondents have only one answer choice and non-white respondents always have at least half a dozen?

Now, I do not begrudge my friends of color their rainbow of choices, but I wonder what it means to treat all white people as equally privileged.

Is a Jew the same as an evangelical Christian?

In this survey I was. But I don’t feel the same. When I have to answer as an evangelical Christian, I get the same creepy feeling that I get when I hear the oxymoronic term “Judeo-Christian.” Christians may have their cross to bear. I don’t bear a cross. I bear a Star of David.

Now, just as I don’t begrudge my friends of color their rainbow of choices, I believe that evangelical Christians deserve their own choice that is distinct from mine. Either we all identify as Americans or we identify with a group that we actually belong to.

It really has to do with how the data is being used. We make assumptions about white Americans that may be entirely invalid because we lump disparate groups under one heading. For example, there is an assumption that white Americans are Republicans. I am not. There is an assumption that white Americans support corporate power. There is an assumption that white Americans oppose civil rights. And so on.

We do a lot of surveys in this country, but the way you ask questions often determine your answer. If you want to find that attitudes are divided by race, you circulate one kind of survey. If you want to find out if other attitudes unite members of different races or ethnic groups, you circulate another type of survey.

Kaplan University is not the only one to do this. The categories are used by the U.S. Census Bureau.

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