Facing South

CENSUS WATCH: In Louisiana, the Census gets a dose of Cajun pride

cajun_census_map_2000.pngThere's an effort underway in Louisiana to use the 2010 Census to pull in federal funding for Cajun and Creole cultural programs, and it's stirring up some controversy over how to best classify members of the state's French-speaking cultures.

Question No. 8 on the Census short form asks whether someone is of "Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin" -- and that has inspired action by the World Studies Institute of Louisiana, a nonprofit based in Lafayette, La. that seeks to connect the state's French speakers with the wider French-speaking world.

The Independent Weekly of Lafayette reports:

The WSI is urging the state's Creole and Cajun communities to check the last box in No. 8 -- "Yes. Another Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin" -- and then to write beneath it either "Louisiana Creole" or "Cajun." For the first time, this will allow Uncle Sam to get a head count of the state's Cajun and Creole populations, provided those groups don't skip over question No. 8.

The WSI's Christophe Landry calls this year's Census "a window of opportunity" for Louisiana's French-speaking communities.

Kat Smith, a spokesperson for the Census Bureau's Dallas field office, says Louisiana Creoles and Cajuns who write in their cultural identification in response to the question will be counted, according to the Independent Weekly:

"As long as they as a group or ethnicity or race decide that they want to make sure that their numbers are where they need to be -- we do the same thing for tribes, American Indian tribes and things of that nature -- they can make sure their numbers are counted as such by identifying themselves consistently by writing it a certain way," says Smith.

However, Louisianans who want to identify as Creole need to be specific: If someone writes in response to the question "French Creole" or simply "Creole," that could also mean Haitians or other groups. That's why they're being asked to write "Louisiana Creole" instead.

Not everyone supports WSI's effort, though. Columbia University graduate student and Louisiana native Gus Gravot has formed a Facebook group titled Louisiana Cajun & Creole ≠ Latino, questioning what he calls the "misidentification" of those groups as Latino.

Instead, he's calling on Louisiana's Cajuns and Creoles to write in their identity in the "other" space provided in Section 9 of the Census, which asks about race.

But whichever side one comes down on, there's a benefit to the controversy -- and that's increased public discussion and awareness of the Census, which helps drive decisions over the spending of billions of federal dollars. This is especially important in the South, where there's a history of undercounting.

To see a copy of the Census form, click here.


People Referenced:


re: CENSUS WATCH: In Louisiana, the Census gets a dose of Cajun

Why would Gus Gravot want us to identify Louisiana Creoles/Cajuns as a race? I thought races were blacks, whites, asians, ect. Louisiana Creoles and Cajuns are of many races. It seems Mr. Gravot wants to cause more confusion instead of placing our culture where it belongs, in question 8.

re: CENSUS WATCH: In Louisiana, the Census gets a dose of Cajun

What kind of Creole are they talking about? Creole is not defined by African ancestry. My Nephew is decended from one of the French founders of Natchitoches so he is Creole even though he doesn't have a Crole name. I have nices and nephews that are 1/4 Cajun and 1/4 Italian. Can they make the claim of Cajun? Their lineage from my side of the family is pretty mixed with American Indian, Spanish, English, Scotch-Irish, German, Jewish, and possibly Arabic. Our family is uniquely American and gets more so every generation.

re: CENSUS WATCH: In Louisiana, the Census gets a dose of Cajun

It's not about race but rather ethnicity. Hispanic is not a race but an ethnicity.

re: CENSUS WATCH: In Louisiana, the Census gets a dose of Cajun

I agree with Fred. Cajuns aren't a race. Creoles aren't a race either. The only reason there would be so-called "controversy" is because Gus Gravot is confused. Plus, it's not just French-speakers! It includes people who speak Louisiana Creole and people who speak Louisiana Spanish. Those people are Creoles. Let's also not forget the German Creoles (Schexnayder, Waguespack, etc.) and the Portuguese Creoles (such as the last name Fonseca). So, Cajun and Louisiana Creole aren't races. They're cultures. The World Studies Institute is correct and the little grad student stands alone with HIS "misidentification." Is a person of German descent a different race than a person of French descent? Obviously not. They'd both be categorized under "white."

re: CENSUS WATCH: In Louisiana, the Census gets a dose of Cajun

Agreed - People belonging to the "Louisiana Creole" or "Cajun" culture can be of different races. The "LA Creole" or "Cajun" is primarily a cultural designation.

re: CENSUS WATCH: In Louisiana, the Census gets a dose of Cajun

Only 7% of people in South Louisiana are Cajun.
There has to be something wrong with that map.

re: CENSUS WATCH: In Louisiana, the Census gets a dose of Cajun

Anyone who thinks that Hispanic/Latino isn't also about race is even more confused. As the terms are used in the western hemisphere there is generally a connotation of being mestizo (mixed Spanish/Indian blood) such as most people of Mexican and south American descent who are often of far more native american ancestry than Spanish ancestry. The same is true for those with origins in the Caribbean where there is early Spanish/Indian mixing and then later mixing with Africans. Many people who have recently moved to the U.S. from Spain are reluctant to identify as latino exactly because of its mixed race connotations compared to european Spanish who consider themselves to be white. Like it or not, Cajun or Creole are, despite their own ambiguities, far more accurate and less confusing terms to use in and of themselves in terms of having specific meanings in Louisiana compared to Latino or Hispanic which conjure up very different histories and images. Based on the logic at work with this census movement, people of pure European or African descent in Texas should be included as hispanic or latino too because much of what is considered to be local culture in Texas is based on strong Mexican influences. Or, let's put all the people of Asian descent under a category of anglo-american or european since they exhibit just as much Anglo-European influence as they do influences from their ancestors' homelands. Makes about as much sense as trying to sell the Latino label to a 60 year old Fontenot from Church Point.....

re: CENSUS WATCH: In Louisiana, the Census gets a dose of Cajun

You gotta be kidding! there are people that only speak French here? Is'nt it time they learned some English? I hate to sound like a racist here, but c'mon man! Did anyone run a background check on these guys?

re: CENSUS WATCH: In Louisiana, the Census gets a dose of Cajun

I'm Creole, but I don't know if I agree with either. I would love more cultural federal funding, as well as recognition as an ethnic group but reporting as Latino or as a Creole race would not be accurate. Until there is a way to report your ethnicity (such as Irish or Italian) I will continue to report my race as Black and non-Hispanic.

re: CENSUS WATCH: In Louisiana, the Census gets a dose of Cajun

It does seem confusing that they have questions 8 & 9 instead of combining them. Hispanic, etc. could have been included in #9 under its heading as was done for American Indians, Other Asian, etc. They are required to answer both. I am Cajun and believe we should answer by checking two boxes(as allowed)under #9. We should be using #9's other, because the definition of ethnicity does have to do with your racial, national, & cultural background. Cajuns & Creoles can be a mixture of several races including(but not limited to)French, Spanish, Indian, Acadians, etc. Hopefully which ever question is used they combine the number of people that have identified themselves as Louisiana Cajun and Creole.

re: CENSUS WATCH: In Louisiana, the Census gets a dose of Cajun

Recently, I found the 2010 Census form hanging on my door. As I began filling it out, I came across a dilemma. The U.S. government wants to know if my children are adopted or not and it wants to know what our races are. Being adopted myself, I had to put “Other” and “Don’t Know Adopted” for my race and “Other” and “Don’t Know” for my kids’ races.

Can you imagine not knowing your ethnicity, your race? Now imagine walking into a vital records office and asking the clerk for your original birth certificate only to be told “No, you can’t have it, it’s sealed.”

How about being presented with a “family history form” to fill out at every single doctor’s office visit and having to put “N/A Adopted” where life saving information should be?

Imagine being asked what your nationality is and having to respond with “I don’t know”.

It is time that the archaic practice of sealing and altering birth certificates of adopted persons stops.

Adoption is a 5 billion dollar, unregulated industry that profits from the sale and redistribution of children. It turns children into chattel who are re-labeled and sold as “blank slates”.

Genealogy, a modern-day fascination, cannot be enjoyed by adopted persons with sealed identities. Family trees are exclusive to the non-adopted persons in our society.

If adoption is truly to return to what is best for a child, then the rights of children to their biological identities should NEVER be violated. Every single judge that finalizes an adoption and orders a child’s birth certificate to be sealed should be ashamed of him/herself.

I challenge all readers: Ask the adopted persons that you know if their original birth certificates are sealed.

re: CENSUS WATCH: In Louisiana, the Census gets a dose of Cajun

I am a Lousiana Creole. I know there are Creoles out there who refer to themselves as African American and Non-Hispanic. However, the fact is....we are mixed with several races including ALL of the Latino races (in varying degrees) such as French, Spanish, Italian. We SHOULD be able consider ourselves as Latinos as well. I am comfortable with checking "other" and/or writing in "Lousiana French Creole". I feel it would be also accurate to check "Latino"....as many Latinos are mixed with other races and yet are still considered "Latinos" or "Hispanics".

re: CENSUS WATCH: In Louisiana, the Census gets a dose of Cajun

I am a Louisiana Creole as is my family . I marked Louisiana Creole in # 9 and Latino in number # 8 , I also marked other and put a check next to white , black , Native American , I am all of these ethnicities and proud to be a Louisiana Creole !

re: CENSUS WATCH: In Louisiana, the Census gets a dose of Cajun

maybe it's time you learned french