Counting What We Value: The Lessons From the Strange Double Passing of Clarence King

It's census time in the United States. The US Constitution requires a national head-count every 10 years, and the exercise is typically fraught with arcane debates over how people should be allowed to classify themselves, what questions should be asked, and who gets to decide what should be counted. For those of us who study the question of what it means to be American, the census is a historical marker of the judgments made by those with the power to name. This year, for example, we have the option of identifying ourselves as "Negro" when we fill out our forms - an option that the Census Bureau says it is providing because 56,175 people who filled out the 2000 Census so named themselves. ...more