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Monday, May 20, 2024 | Back issues
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Counting Reality

Can't we all just be people?

That would be nice, but apparently it's not likely to happen anytime soon. The Census Bureau is considering adding even more racial categories to its analysis of the population.

People who were white before, e.g. Arabs, now may no longer be white. And, according to The Associated Press, one possible change would allow "Latinos to give more details about their ethnic backgrounds."

It seems that some Latinos check the box for white and others check the box for American Indian.

As far as I can tell, box-checking doesn't transform humans in any way, but the news story (and headline) warns that this change could hasten the moment that whites in the U.S. become a minority.

At least among box-checkers.

In other words, this in no way affects reality - just our perception of reality.

I have no idea why this should be important, but I guess if I were a racist I might be concerned.

Race classification can be pretty subjective, after all. In "Between the World and Me" Ta-Nehisi Coates writes about people who consider themselves white - and they include racially black people. It's more a state of mind than a physical characteristic.

So maybe it would make more sense for the census to tally our states of mind rather than our physiology.

Box-checking categories could include: Happy; Sad; Indifferent; Rich; Poor; Envious; Asshole; Racist; Self-Righteous; Criminal; Obsessive-Compulsive; Liar; Snob; Guy-Who-Won't-Leave-Parties; Diffident; Confident; Bully; Coward; Hero; Nerd; Geek; Jock; Paranoid; Sexy Superstar; Dork; and Miserable Failure.

We'd get a much more accurate picture of the nation that way.

The problem with this, of course, is getting people to be honest about themselves. I still tell myself I'm not fat and I know I'm lying.

So maybe what's really needed, rather than an army of census numbers collectors, is an army of psychoanalysts.

They could go to door to door and figure out what kind of person lives in each house or cardboard box. If they manage to offer some therapy along the way, society could benefit greatly.

Fun With Captions. I spotted this fascinating list of plaintiffs on a Los Angeles Superior Court complaint last week: "Scott Kye, and MOES 1 through 1,000, individually, and on behalf of all others similarly situated."

The others, I assume, are non-Moes.

This was not a typo - the defendants included "DOES 1 through 15." Moes were the injured parties. Does were the wrongdoers.

I was happy to see this, since I've long been an advocate for more interesting fictitious names. If you're going to use fake names, why not use some imagination and make them descriptive?

I like "Moes," but I have to admit it was a tad ambiguous. Should I be picturing grumpy tavern owners or battered Stooges? They could be either one.

My recommendation is that fictitious lawsuit names follow the example of the census category box checks.

For example, a better name for many groups of defendants would be Jerks 1 through 15. Not only does this provide more information, but it allows your client to vent.

Polluter defendants could be Gasbags 1 through 1,000.

Financial fraudsters - Charming Devils 1 through 200.

Personal injury defendants - Trapsters 1 through 20.

Discriminators - Bigots 1 through 50.

Assaulters - Bullies 1 through 10.

Stalkers - 1 through 10,000 Maniacs

Negligent drivers - 1 through 3 Blind Mice

Harassers - 1 through 12 Angry Men

Noise polluters/Nuisances - 1 through 76 Trombones

I could go on and on.

Someone please stop me ...

Alternatively, if race and ethnicity are so important, we should be adding many more categories.

After all, there's a pretty big difference between a recent immigrant and a third -generation kid.

There's a pretty big difference between a fundamentalist Christian and a guy who'd rather watch football.

There's a pretty big difference between a Zionist and a self-loving Jew.

There's a pretty big difference between a Republican and a Democrat.

There's a pretty big difference between a Shi'ite and a Sunni.

Does it make sense to lump those people together?

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