Sikhs in the US will be counted as a separate ethnic group in the 2020 census for the first time, as per an organisation of the minority community. United Sikhs, the organisation that has spearheaded the demand for inclusion as a separate ethnic group, called the decision “historic”.
A blog post published on the organisation’s website quoted Jasmit Singh, the Advocacy Director of United Sikhs, as saying: “Being involved in this civic engagement will help ensure an accurate count of Sikhs in the United States. Census data will help in tracking and measuring hate crimes against the community. It will also ensure an equal and accurate representation of Sikhs. This is useful in providing access to members of Congress and other essential government services for the needs of the community”.
Apart from the US, Sikhs in Britain have also demanded inclusion as a separate ethnic group. In November 2019, British Sikhs took the government to court over the “unlawful” refusal to treat them as a separate ethnic group, The Telegraph reported. It is estimated that there are over 800,000 Sikhs in the UK.
Furthermore, Sikhs are one of the fastest-growing religious minorities in New Zealand, where they are considered to be a distinct ethnic group. Other ethnic groups in New Zealand include Punjabis, Bengalis, Indian Tamils and Fijian Indian, among others.
How are race and ethnicity defined under the US Census?
The US Census Bureau considers race and ethnicity as two distinct and separate concepts.
According to the US Census Bureau website, it adheres to the 1997 Office of Management and Budget (OMB) standards on race and ethnicity.
There are five broad categories under which race is categorised. These are White, Black or African American, Asian, Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander. As per the bureau, the racial categories included in the census questionnaire reflect “a social definition of race recognised in this country and not an attempt to define race biologically, anthropologically, or genetically.” Respondents can also report multiple races.
Ethnicity, on the other hand, determines whether a person is of Hispanic origin or not. For consideration under the US Census, ethnicity is broken down into two categories: Hispanic or Latino and Not Hispanic or Latino. Also, Hispanics can report as any race.
What are the implications of being included as a distinct ethnic group?
The collection of race and ethnicity data is important for policymakers, who use such information to make funding decisions that affect educational opportunities, assess equal employment practices, and ensure equal access to healthcare for the population.
According to the website United Sikhs, over a million Sikhs are estimated to be living in the US. It says one of the reasons for advocating the inclusion of Sikhs as a separate ethnic group is so “that action can be taken to address Sikh issues of significance such as bullying, intimidation and hate crimes against the community.”
“Census data is collected every 10 years, which determines Sikh representation in Congress, addresses certain commercial sector needs and determines how funds are spent towards the Sikh community on things like law enforcement, roads, schools, education, Punjabi language and hospitals,” it says.
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