My Two Census

Formerly the non-partisan watchdog of the 2010 US Census, and currently an opinion blog that covers all things political, media, foreign policy, globalization, and culture…but sometimes returning to its census/demographics roots.

Another census lawsuit; this one focuses on race

From Giselle Springer-Douglas, the Seattle correspondent for

A potentially controversial lawsuit filed in federal court alleges that on both the 2000 and 2010 Census forms, the U.S. Census Bureau’s and the Office of Management and Budget’s “representation of race was false, misleading, deceptive, and, therefore, fraudulent,” and that its “negligence contributes to a historical and sustained pattern of personally-mediated, institutional, and internalized racism in this country…”

The lawsuit, Koe v. U.S. Census Bureau, focuses on the 2000 and 2010 Census forms because the plaintiff, using the pseudonym “Jane Koe,” states that she participated in those Census periods by completing and returning the Census forms.

In her complaint, Koe requests a number of remedies, including a petition that the court order the defendants to notify every recipient of the 2010 Census form that “race in this country is defined by the Office of Management and Budget, reflects a social definition of race, and in no way conforms to any biological, anthropological or genetic criteria.”

In framing her complaint, Koe claims that verbiage on the 2000 Census site in a section entitled “Questions and Answers for Census 2000 Data on Race” acknowledges that race is merely a social construct (a concept that is the artifact of a particular group rather than the product of science).

Koe says that she had, up until recently, believed “race was a concept grounded in scientific fact” and attributes this belief partly to “the federal government’s historical propagation of the genetics-based race ‘fact.’” Koe argues that, “By failing to explicitly correct this erroneous belief, despite knowing that the general populace believes race to be based on scientific fact, the Defendants’ representation of race was false, misleading, deceptive and, therefore, fraudulent.”

As Koe is presently representing herself, the complaint is currently undergoing judicial review—a process that is standard for complaints filed by self-represented plaintiffs.

A copy of the complaint, originally filed July 14, 2010 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington (case 10-CV-1142), can be found on Seattle, WA-based group I Am Malan’s website at

The verdict: This sounds like a farce that won’t go anywhere. Case closed?

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9 Responses to “Another census lawsuit; this one focuses on race”

  1. Dave Says:

    This should be dead on arrival. The judge will probably rule plaintiff doesn’t have standing to sue.

    It’s still a bogus question, imo. Despite all the choices on the EQ, they’re basically asking, “What color are you?”

  2. DontBHatinEnumeratin Says:

    Yes, this should be DOA. The Census does in fact allow you to identify yourself ethnically AND NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND … so where is The Census culpable, misleading or fraudulent? As an enumerator, I’ve had many African-American who identify themselves as Americans, mixed, other or White who identify themselves as Other, or a hyphenated (Irish-American) whereas in the past people may have not had that choice. Latinos can define their ethnic identity into anyone of a number of particular Latin American ethnicities or Hispanic. Yesterday, I enumerator a Brazilian born woman who identified herself as White. I may have even had one or two respondents who identify thenmselves as “Human” as in the human race. Appears the Census can’t win no matter how open ended the ethnicity question is.

  3. 2514 Says:

    DOA. Despite its problems, I think the CB does a pretty good job with providing people options for identifying race. As an enumerator, I was trained to write down what respondents told me in response to the race question, to not assume anything. Checked one box for most, but got a few surprising responses. Anyone can fill in anything they want, so what’s the problem?

  4. anon Says:

    I vote DOA.

  5. ********** Says:

    This lawsuit won’t go anywhere… but Jane Koe is 100% correct that for this Census, “race is merely a social construct (a concept that is the artifact of a particular group rather than the product of science).”

  6. statistician Says:

    In fact for the purposes of the Census, race is predominately at political construct to be used in defining political representation (i.e., gerrymandering).

  7. Just the Facts Says:


    I totally agree with you, except that Brazilian is a nationality, not a race. Also, the Brazilian government allows people to self identify, which adds many more categories of phenotypically (color or appearance and not ethnically) based race than the US allows.

  8. PM Says:

    Oh, gag me with a gram stain already. Can’t she just attack Treasury over taxes instead? They take her money every year; we only care what she says she is every ten. If she can’t figure a basis for own own identity, we really have to get along the AA and she can think it over on her own time. Who is responsible for correcting her own erroneous belief in a land of free thinkers? Will it be another letter saying “Every ten years, we ask everyone what race they identify with…”, prefaced by a postcard saying “In a couple of weeks, you’ll get a letter telling you you’ll get a questionnaire as to race which we’ve just learned you might not have figured out in your own case, or how, or why….”

    Does she erroneously believe she has a real name that we have to tell her about too? Can we do it all in one mailing to save postage, at least? Can we cite the use of “Vulcan” or “Martian” by others? It seems that we don’t have an HHC that does the tricorder thing, so we really can’t be all that scientific anyway, can we?

    Sorry not to take it seriously. It really shouldn’t be, in my non-scientific concept of seriousness…

  9. Former NRFU-RI Says:

    DontBHatin says “Appears the Census can’t win no matter how open ended the ethnicity question is.”

    I agree. So why even ask?