A lot of the race-based thinking I’ve been doing lately has come from my “Federal Indian Law and Policy” online class and NMAI visit. Before I left for D.C. a couple weeks ago, we started a new collaborative project in our “Design for Complex Systems” class (aka Senior Studio). The group I’m with is looking at race and stereotypes, with an idea of creating some sort of awareness campaign using t-shirts as a metaphor for people. We’ve done a lot of research and ideation, and now we’ve realized we need to start putting our ideas down on paper and in digital form.
I’ve thought a lot about how Seattle seems so “white” compared with my experiences in other large urban cities. When I looked at Seattle’s results from the 2000 census, I realized why. Above is a quick representation I made combining the racial statistics for Seattle along with the t-shirt idea. I was pretty intrigued by the last section that includes both “Some other race” and “Two or more races” as a single category. Who are these people? What is their story?
I was also realizing that whoever it is who gets to define the categories has a lot of power in classifying how people identify themselves. For instance, it was interesting that the category of “Black or African American” isn’t really mirrored in the “White” category. Shouldn’t it be “White or Euro-American?” Also, I myself exercised power in how I interpreted the data by going with the category of “Asian” without showing the further breakdown of statistics within that category (Asian Indian, Chinese, Filipino, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, and other). Oh, and I lumped several categories (Native Hawaiian, Guamanian or Chamorro, Samoan, and other Pacific Islander) into the single designation of “Pacific Islander.” So I do recognize that while it is easy for me to question and judge the folks who are in charge of writing the census questions, it is no easy task. In creating this visual interpretation of data, I am just as guilty of manipulating language and statistics to suit my purposes.
I wonder what the newest census results will show? I can’t imagine that things have changed that drastically in Seattle…