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Sunday, August 7, 2022

Columns

CNN ‘Culture Census’ useless to Coogs


CNN’s newly released “Culture Census” sounds like a nice idea, but its purpose and wording show what the network really wants to know: how you look and which version of Jesus you like best. The survey is part of CNN’s “Defining America Project.”

When I first saw the Census, I was excited to see the diversity of CNN followers and compare them to what I see at UH on a daily basis.

I was wrong. CNN has an i-report feature that lets viewers contribute to news stories. They actually stated that the census “needs” demographic information to “classify” submissions to the site. Why this is necessary is not explained.

The beginning of the survey consists of the standard questions typical of this type of survey, but by the time you get to the “marital status” question the answers go awry. CNN ignores reality by leaving out civil unions, domestic partnerships and cohabitating unmarried couples.

The religion section is perhaps the most extensive, but only for some people.

Of the religions listed, sixteen are types of Christianity. “Jewish” is just one category, and Muslims do not get to choose between Sunni and Shiite, even though CNN acknowledges the difference by making the category “Muslim (Islam, including Sunni and Shiite).”

Of the different sections of the survey, the race section makes the least sense; it is a weird hybrid of skin color, nationality and location of origin.

The “Black, African American” option ignores people who are black but do not necessarily directly identify with others from that continent (Cubans, Haitians, etc.).

The race section also lumps people who identify with Arabic culture with either Caucasians or “other Asian.” Pakistanis are the same “race” as Mongolians if they choose “Asian,” or the same as Germans if they choose “white.”

“Hispanic origin” has a question of its own, but it is a yes or no question. No differentiation is made between Central Americans or South Americans. Koreans and Japanese get their own categories, but a “race” that claims people around half of the globe is unjustified.

The census is America’s mirror. Individuals may not grasp the diversity of our country, but the census attempts to give us a snapshot. But just looking around UH casts doubt on how the census asks us who we are.

When I walk on campus from one building to the next, I see many faces that do not count on CNN’s Culture Census. Race confusion, multiculturalism, lack of options and simple prejudice make this short survey impossible for some.

The current lack of options forces homogeneity onto us that might contribute to many Americans’ superiority complexes and ethnocentrism.

We think that we are more united than we are, so we ignore voices of those who are different, and may be frightened when we see they exist. After all, the census tells us that they are only a tiny portion of the country, or they are not there at all.

The CNN Culture Census, and the government’s real one, should include more options and reform its questions to accurately portray the population, not dictate the peoples’ characteristics from the top down.

When the census counts me (I am white) but ignores the person sitting next to me in class, why should I pay attention to it?

Rachel Farhi is a senior English literature and political science double major and may be reached at [email protected]


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