Comedian Amer Zahr’s upcoming documentary challenges how the last Census classified Arab-Americans—as white—in the hopes that the next one will be different. But he’s not the only one who believes the nation’s decennial count misclassifies or just plain erases their identities. According to AJA, Hispanics comprise 90 percent of the 20 million individuals who, during the 2010 Census, checked “some other race.” Capturing how Americans increasingly do (or don’t) identify themselves matters as the Census determines everything from the apportionment of congressional districts to the distribution of $400 billion in federal aid programs and the enforcement of civil rights laws.
In order to decrease the millions of Americans now checking the “other” box then, according to a recent New York Times article, the Census is beginning to test new categories ahead of the 2020 count. It’s considering adding a Middle East/North Africa category (although, some folks are fine with “white”) and perhaps combining the separate Hispanic and race questions into one. (For early results on that combination experiment, check this March Pew article.) Proposed changes are due to Congress by 2017.