It started with our visit to Manzanar, the camp in California where thousands of U.S. Citizens of Japenese ethnicity were held prisoner in the desert. And it ends with the American Community Survey of 2012.
It's easy for Californians to travel through the desert beauty of Highway 395 between Yosemite and Sequoia - Kings Canyon national parks. Along the way is a bleak yet historic place called Manzanar, a prison camp where Americans held Americans prisoner for nothing more than the crime of being born of Japanese parents. About 110,000 U.S. citizens were held in 10 such camps.
One such family built the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park, enjoyed by many visitors to our city. Have you been there? The Hagiwaras expanded the Tea Garden from a one-acre fair exhibit to its present five acres, investing their own funds and much of their remaining lives to develop its beauty. With the agreement of John McLaren, the famous superintendent of the park, it would be preserved for perpetuity as a gift to the city. But when the war came, the Hagiwaras were imprisoned, their property confiscated, and the park became a "Chinese" tea garden for the duration of the war. The Hagiwara family was never allowed to return to their home at the Tea Garden.
I can't ignore the role of the United States Census in their incarceration. Information about ethnicity was collected, held, and used inappropriately to imprison these people and 110,000 like them.
So, the arrival of the census is never a happy time for me. I don't want to check that "Caucasian" box. To me, it says "hey, I'm white, go get the other guys". I can't make myself do it.
And thus, it's time to formally abandon my race. On this year's census, my family and myself have "none" as our race. Although there are threats of fines to those who fail to fill out the census completely, they are so small and so rarely enforced that I can't claim a shred of bravery in this action. Only a feeling: "this stops with me". - Bruce Perens