General Question

anartist's avatar

Is there any country in the world that does not classify its citizens by race?

Asked by anartist (14774points) February 25th, 2012

Can a modern society function effectively without doing so? If so, why is it done?

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8 Answers

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I haven’t done research into that, specifically, but it’s a really good question. I don’t think there is a society that has a mix of people (skin tone wise) that doesn’t. Once the colonialists took up their project of creating race as a delimiter, it spread as fast as their evil. Can a modern society function without race as a marker of value? Of course it can. Race has no purpose other than to delineate who is on the bottom, who’s on top and who is in the middle of the ladder where the top represents power and value and the bottom represents neither. However, this structure is not just because of a top-down approach or systemic racism. As we know, or at least as some of us know, many ethnic groups (here in the US) take up certain ‘ethnic projects’ where they make attempts to move up the racialized ladder by distancing themselves from the bottom and looking to whiteness as an example. To put it another way, race is a construction supported both by racist people and by people who are affected by racism but still reinforce it.

thorninmud's avatar

The UN studied this question and found that of 141 member nations, 63% collected information on race and/or ethnicity in their national census. So it would seem that 37% do not. In many cases, this is out of concern for fostering national unity. North America, South America and Oceana are the regions that most commonly collect race/ethnicity data; Europe and Africa are the least likely to collect it.

(results here)

JLeslie's avatar

My friends from various island countries in the caribbean say they don’t. My husband is from Mexico and he find’s it very off America categorizes by race, but he does not kow what Mexico might do on forms and for government. But, just as a citizen of Mexico, growing up there, he does not remember race being an issue, or formal categorizations, but he admits their were certain groups of people who were known to be in certain industries, stuff like that. I took him through the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, and he had a hard time wrapping his head around it, around segregation more than anything.

whitenoise's avatar

In the Netherlands, we kept these kinds of records up through the mid forties of the last century. We learned the risks of keeping them the hard way.

Now we are tracking ethnicity to a certain extent, but no race. That is, for as far as I know.

Actually, in essence it is forbidden for people in The Netherlands to start such a database as well. Anybody wanting to start a database that would contain these kinds of data would have to proof that there is a need for that data to be collected that outweighs the privacy rights of the people that would be registered. Except for some medical uses, i can’t think of any.

mattbrowne's avatar

I’ve never encountered any form asking about race in Germany.

JLeslie's avatar

@whitenoise So what exactly do they ask regarding ethnicity? I don’t have an idea what they would ask? Do you mean nationality?

whitenoise's avatar

@JLeslie No… they don’t ask. They trace data like place of birth, place of birth of parents and nationality. Limited, therefore.

JLeslie's avatar

@whitenoise I see. Yes, very limited, but still useful. When I say useful, generally I hate that we ask what people “are” in my country, but the stats are used to see patterns I guess, and used as a marketing tool for business. Many of my friends the families have moved a couple times in the last 1 and 2 generations, so their ethnicity is tricky, and is not really captured well by government questions.

Another time these questions seem useful is for health related issues, as some groups are more likely to get certain diseases. But, even there I question needing to know, because people are really diagnosed on symptoms and tests, not their ethnicity.

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