Recently the Asian American community has become divided especially among new arrivals from China and Chinese who have been here for a few generations over one political issue in particular… data disaggregation.

dis… desegregation… what?

American state legislator serving in the Massachusetts House of Representatives

Basically those fancy words,  “data disaggregation” refer to the boxes you check off when you state what ethnicity you are.

Massachusetts State Representative Tackey Chan is pushing for a bill that will have individual boxes for many of the groups under that “Asian American and/or Pacific Islander” umbrella.

The split is that many newly arrived Chinese immigrants see this from a conspiracy theorists point of view and think of the bill as Racist.

There has always been arguments going back and forth regarding any racial data. But in this case… well why would racists care what type of Asian you are if they are going to be racist against you anyway?

What I thought of almost immediately after hearing that there was an argument was this page out of Marcel Gomes’s book, “The ‘Other’ Americans: The True Story About America’s Most Neglected Minorities.”

The page actually has a picture of one of said forms where you can check a box to show what ethnicity or race you are. There is also a box that says “I prefer not to respond.”

So technically if you are against data disaggregation, you can just check that one anyway or simply not fill it out.

There are those that are against these boxes, or against more boxes, or are against the notion of boxes, and not all of those people are racist.

But Marcel Gomes points out (at the time that he wrote the book in 1990 that is) that Cape Verdeans did not even have A BOX!

On this form even the term ‘other’ is omitted so Cape Verdeans are clearly eliminated from the competition. In the meantime, Vietnamese and Koreans are recognized, which gives them a distinct advantage over Cape Verdeans, who have been here for centuries longer. It is impossible for Cape Verdeans to understand this official bias. It appears that the federal policy is to force Cape Verdeans out of the country that they have supported and defended. This policy is the basis for the psychological breakdown of the family, and the destruction of the Cape Verdean society as a whole. It is the reason that Cape Verdeans must be united before a glorious heritage becomes extinct. This policy appears to be pushing Cape Verdeans towards extinction and third class citizenship (behind anglos and recognized minorities), in a nation that preaches “equal rights for all.

Now again this book was written sometime ago, (though not that long) and growing up, I did see an “other” box and sometimes even a box where Cape Verdeans were listed among other groups.

Being multi-racial I paid attention to the changes in the boxes, from picking “one” to picking any that apply, even to having a multi racial or multi ethnic box to pick.
I found it interesting the way the “White” box changes as well.

But I never thought about how seriously these boxes could affect the population in terms of disease research, policy, lawmaking, and decisions about where to allocate funds. In my mind they were just silly boxes.

However, when I was a child, 70% of Chinatown had Tuberculosis. Indeed, though my father died of a stroke, his autopsy revealed that he had tuberculosis and my mother commented that that would have been good to know because that is contagious. For 70% of the population to have a disease that was essentially gone from the majority population does show that there could be some policies and programs to help this situation. I have no idea what the data is now… but that of course is precisely the reason why more data is needed, hence the bill being pushed forward by Tackey Chan, and also the fight to be recognized by Marcel Gomes.

The truth is having more boxes does not separate us further, it just collects more accurate and broken down data about who we are as a community and how better to serve that community. Since it is the function of the government to do that… that is why they need said data.

Could it be used for other purposes? Are they spying on you? Is it all a conspiracy and you shouldn’t even vote because that is just fake and testing to see if you are sheep?

I think in an age where we readily put everything up there for private entities like Google and Facebook to see, that filling out a form for the government is not going to make them any more capable of oppressing or spying on you that you Twitter Feed and Facebook page does.