Census Responds to Petition to Disaggregate Sikhs;
Take Action and Make your Responses Count!
Washington, D.C.:, April 22, 2010
United Sikhs, Jaspreet Singh
The Office of Robert Groves, Director, Census Bureau responded to the petition to disaggregate Sikhs correctly in Census 2010 and future Census products. The petition was submitted in the first week of February by UNITED SIKHS cosigned by 60 Organizations and hundreds of community members.
Responding to the request, the Bureau said, “With Census Day less than one month away, it is too late to change our procedure for classifying “Sikh” responses to the 2010 Census question on race, without extreme cost and risk to Census Bureau operations. Beyond the 2010 Census, we will consider changes to the processing of the term “Sikh” when it is provided in response to the question on race.”
The importance of American Sikhs filling the 2010 Census form and marking themselves correctly on the form is more important than ever. In previous counts, other ethnic groups have been counted separately if they have substantial write-ins. According to the Census Bureau’s response, they will not assign Sikhs a code because of write-ins in 2010, Sikhs will still be coded as Asian Indian. However, the write-in forms will be retained and the Census Bureau will review the data. It is important to show that Sikhs want to be counted. Also, the forms become a part of national historical data and are made public after 72 years. Though we might not succeed in getting a code in time for the 2010 Census, it will impact other key demographic surveys administered by the government like the Annual American Community Survey, which also currently codes Sikhs as Asian Indian, in addition to being correctly disaggregated in future Census counts.This campaign is for now, and our future generations.
Currently, the Census Bureau automatically codes all “Sikh” responses to the“Race” question as “Asian-Indian.” However, the definition of “race” used by the Census is vague. The Census counts many categories of people that are not “races” by traditional definition. For example, respondents who fill in “Bangladeshi,” will be counted as Bangladeshi, even though Bangladeshi is technically a nationality, not a race. “Hmong” people who are of the same ethnicity, but not necessarily the same “race” are another example.
Beyond being recognized as followers of Sikhism, Sikhs are recognized as an ethnic group in many countries owing to their distinct identity and idea of the “kaum.” They have a distinct language (Gurmukhi script), religion, marriage, festivals, appearance, and other cultural variances; important factors that qualify Sikhs as an ethnic group and a religion.
Census data is used by many parts of government for a variety of things from allocating resources, to drawing districts for political representation, to determining what areas require special assistance. Census data is often used in making decisions by local governments that affect local constituents. This is another step in creating the awareness of Sikhs as an integral part of the United States as well as lobby effectively as a community when we approach our government representatives.
UNITED SIKHS submitted the petition, with the support of SALDEF, the Sikh Coalition, World Sikh Council, and many other leading Sikh organizations and Gurdwaras to the Census Bureau and the Office of Management and Budget to ask for a separate code. We will continue our ongoing efforts to obtain a separate code in time for the next Census count. Understanding what a difficult task it is to acquire government cooperation on any issue, it will require the Sikh community in America to unite and take action by calling their Congressman and Senators and by having their voices heard in public forums to be successful on this issue. You can review the petition and supporting academic paper at: http://www.unitedsikhs.org/petitions/census.php.
Please also read http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/?tag=census to get answers to all your questions and to read more about why it is important to be counted as Sikhs. If you would like to volunteer in assisting in this and other advocacy efforts, please visit www.unitedsikhs.org/join. If you would like to request more information regarding this or other projects, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.