Looking at Identity through the Lens of the United States Census

Bard College student and filmmaker, Ashley Sheppard Quince, takes on a unique and underconsidered perspective on race identity in the United States in her upcoming documentary “What Are You?”. Sheppard explores individuals’ relationships to their identities within the framework of the United States census. She describes her project as follows:

“Do you know what the census is? We only fill it out every ten years. To many, the very fact of a census taker asking “what race are you?” evokes a racist past that we’d like to move beyond. The census categories have changed multiple times over the centuries, intentionally excluding races, adding some, and still has yet to add many more. Until this day on the 2010 census, many individuals believe there are still no precise categories to define themselves. It was only until the year 2000 Americans were officially allowed to identify themselves as more than one race on the U.S. Census…

The census gives us statistics on neighborhoods, race crime rates, population count, college demographics, and more… However, if the majority of American individuals cannot place themselves in the correct category, how accurately are we reading racial statistics in our country?

This new documentary produced by Bard On Television will explore the multifaceted issues with the U.S. Census since its first form in 1790. Individuals from different backgrounds will share their opinions and stories, and try to fit themselves into the United States census boxes over time.”

The documentary will make its debut this May.