U.S. Census 2000 Classification

Assyrian Academic Society's Official Statement


Saturday, May 29, 1999

RE: Category Label Census 2000

The Assyrian Academic Society's Board of Directors held a special Executive Body meeting on Tuesday, May 25, 1999 to discuss the recent decision regarding the category label of, "Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac."

Before the AAS clarifies its position, what follows below is a letter (verbatim) written by John F. Long, Chief, Population Division, United States Department of Commerce, Bureau of Census.  The letter was written on May 27, 1999.  Its main objective is to shed light on a subject matter that has been the focus of misunderstanding in general.   The Bureau of Census offers the following explanation:

At the request of the Chaldean community, the Census Bureau conducted research on how to classify persons in the United States who self-identify as Assyrians or Chaldeans for the purpose of the Census 2000 ancestry code list and tabulations.  This process included a review of scholarly materials and documentations, extensive consultations with a diverse group of experts and visits by Census Bureau staff with people who identify as Chaldeans or Assyrians.

Based on the results of this research, which supported recognizing "Chaldean" as an ethnic classification for Census 2000 it was clear that the Census Bureau could not continue to use "Assyrian" as the sole designation for this category as was done in the 1990 decennial census.  The Census Bureau again undertook extensive consultations in an effort to develop an appropriate label that would not separate, but that would reflect the combined group.   The alternative would have been to create two separate codes and/or designations for Assyrians and Chaldeans.

The Census Bureau needed to make a final determination by the end of April of this year to finalize plans for coding and tabulating all Census 2000 data and informed those representatives and experts we had consulted with previously of this fact.  The Census Bureau then accepted the final recommendation of these representatives to change the label from "Assyrian" to "Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac."  It was felt that this label would represent those persons in the United States who self-identify in the ancestry question as Assyrian, Chaldean, or Syriac. The "/" symbol is used in census publications for two reasons -- 1) to denote different names used by members of one ethnic group; 2) because technology limits the number of characters that can be used for a category label.  An example of this is, "Spanish/Hispanic/Latino," to denote Hispanic persons who identify in different ways.

This label of "Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac," is NOT intended to change the name of any ethnic group in or outside the United States and is to be used only for the purposes of the Census 2000 data tabulations and publications.  We also wish to emphasize that the information on ancestry or ethnic group is based on self-identification, that is, we ask persons to report the group with which they identify and we accept the reported responses.   It is important to clarify that only the label for Census 2000 data products has changed.  Responses of Assyrian and Chaldean will both receive the same code in Census 2000; which remains the same as it was in the 1990 decennial census.  The label is intended only for presenting data and is not intended to change the Assyrian name or the name of any Assyrian organization...


Assyrian Academic Society-Perspective
"At Century's End"

The category label of "Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac" has come up against much contention and controversy. Unfortunately, members who served on the Census 2000 committee from both communities (Assyrian and Chaldean) were carelessly criticized for good intentions on their part to reach a compromise solution for an alternative category that would not invoke, nor create deeper divisions between the Assyrian, Chaldean, and Syriac communities at large.  They have worked towards signaling an openness to a new way of thinking in order to create an optimistic atmosphere that allows us to embrace the future with renewed hope, loving kindness, and compassion.

Anyone who identifies, or courageously refers to themselves as a nationalist (s) must possess a strong willingness to, first of all, face history within themselves, and then to act against any means to isolate the three groups who have shared one common history.  Without the trust that positive interactions generate, people would be less reluctant to engage in the process of building a community.

Overcoming years of frustration, anguish, conflict, resentment, fragmentation, and negativity is a must from all sides--whether one identifies as an Assyrian, Chaldean, or Syriac.  Otherwise, it is an exercise in futility. We must respect each other as members who identify themselves as Chaldean, or Syriacs, or Assyrians.  We cannot afford to languish in apathy, nor turn a blind eye towards important issues we should face as one nation committed towards progressive activisim.  A key priority is to transcend the parochialisms of the past and shape interaction to stabilize our social and cultural structures.

The AAS believes that all of the designations, "Assyrian/Chaldeans/Syriac," refer to the same people.   However, no one can impose an identity on a person or a group which does not desire such identity.  This is the position of the US Bureau of Census and the AAS completely understands this position and respects it.

Let the record show that the Assyrian Academic Society Board of Directors unanimously endorsed the designation of "Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac."  It is our belief that this decision is nurtured by hope as we work closely with civic leaders and community volunteers to collaborate on projects and workshops which seek to inform and educate all of us about the importance of being counted in the next decennial census.

The AAS looks forward to greater communication with our people especially with regards to our national identity.  To this end, the AAS pledges its commitment and support.


Nadia E. Joseph

U.S. Census 2000 Classification
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