Throwing All Black People Together In Identity Gumbo May Be Ending: OMB Considers New Classification

Throwing All Black People Together In Identity Gumbo May Be Ending: OMB Considers New Classification

Black People

Illustration. (Facebook / Gradient Learning)

For years there’s been an outcry from Black people across the African Diaspora to stop classifying them as a monolith. Depending on one’s background and upbringing, many Black people have tried to explain they are a nuanced group with a variety of cultures, experiences, values and opinions.

Now, the Office of Management & Budget is calling for public input on how it should revise race and ethnicity statistical standards in the collection of federal data.

On Jan. 27, the OMB published a request for comments on how to revise SPD 15. SPD stands for Survey of Program Dynamics, which is defined as “a longitudinal, demographic survey designed to collect data on the economic, household, and social characteristics of a nationally representative sample of the U.S. population over time.”

Currently, there are 15 racial and ethnic classifications.

A collective of reparations activists and scholars – including Dr. William ‘Sandy’ Darity, A. Kirsten Mullen, Dr. Evelyn McDowell and Dr. Lisa Brown – submitted a presentation pushing for the U.S. government to recognize Black people descended from those enslaved in America as a separate classification for data purposes.

Brown tweeted a link to a presentation the collective submitted to the OMB and invited Black people with qualifying roots to provide feedback.

“Here’s a copy of our presentation to the OMB on 1/21/22 with links to their public comment registry. Be a part of black American descendants of U.S. Freedmen history and let your voice be heard. Enjoy!” Brown tweeted.

There were mixed reactions to Brown’s post. Some reparations activists thanked her for sharing and applauded the efforts, while others criticized the use of the term “American Freedmen” as the recommended ethnic designation for Black Americans with ancestors the U.S. enslaved.

“OKAYYY, I hate to be that one but I gotta be…THAT ONE! We heard loud and clear from the Freedman camp state over and over again that ‘Freedman’ is a ‘POLITICAL STATUS’! And yet, here we have their handiwork on full display in the recent OMB meeting determining our alleged new classification/identifiers,” @RhyettaR82 wrote in two tweets.

In the second tweet, @RhyettaR82 continued, “so Freedman is now a ethnic designation/classification?? Also what was the sampling pool they used? Was it all Freedman to begin with and why wasn’t the community fully engaged?”


Darity took some time to respond to the inquiry. “All OMB classifications are political; they are deployed for policy purposes,” Darity said. “If we continue to use the categories of black or African American as ‘race’ classifiers, Freedmen descendants, black descendants of US slavery, are a distinct ethnic group. It motivates disaggregation.”

The collective is not the only one who’s called for the federal government to implement disaggregation. Reparations activists across the country, including the American Descendants Of Slavery (ADOS), the Coalition for a Just and Equitable California (CJEC), the National Assembly of Slavery Descendants (NAASD) and others, have also advocated for a classification change for those with ancestry.

The OMB said the public has 75 days from the date it posted its request to respond.