It’s a confusing time to be an American right now.

We all need to have a hyphen, or an adjective. Something we used to think was really simple, like gender, is now complicated — maybe even more complicated than race or ethnicity.

Which is getting more complicated by the day..


On the U.S. Census Bureau form for 2020, it’s getting complicated.

The Bureau says, “Based on research and positive feedback from communities over the past 10 years, people who identify as White or Black now have space to enter their detailed identities.”

And it’s getting a little better about recognizing “Asian” as more nuanced.


“The category “Asian” includes all individuals who identify with one or more nationalities or ethnic groups originating in the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent. Examples of these groups include, but are not limited to, Chinese, Filipino, Asian Indian, Vietnamese, Korean, and Japanese. The category also includes groups such as Pakistani, Cambodian, Hmong, Thai, Bengali, Mien, etc.”

Still, that’s a pretty big tent.

But the Bureau says:

There are individual Asian checkboxes for people who identify as one or more of the following:

    • Chinese
    • Filipino
    • Asian Indian
    • Vietnamese
    • Korean
    • Japanese
    • Other Asian (for example, Pakistani, Cambodian, and Hmong)

Oh…”other” Asian.


Of course, the primary way Americans are being classified today in the media is White or Black. But that’s complicated too, depending on your parents. And their parents.

Which seems like ultimately it should be a good thing. One would think the more “diverse” our families are with blended features, cultures and traditions, the more understanding and tolerant we should all be.

It stands to reason, the more we divide ourselves up into different groups, the more divisive our society will be. And the more multi-cultural and multi-racial American families become, the more obsolete the old terms will be.

The main image for this article is a sample of a portrait series taken by Brazilian fine art photographer Angelica Dass, which illustrates the broad and beautiful spectrum of human skin color.

Using an 11×11 pixel swatch from her subjects’ faces, Dass then matches them to a corresponding Pantone color. The Pantone Color System was created in 1963 to solve the problem of complicated color matching in the printing industry. Every color, in every tone and tint, was given a number to classify it.

Dass said she chose to identify her subjects by Pantone color rather than the more traditional labels of ethnicity or race because “If what I wanted was to destroy the concepts of colors associated with race, such as red, yellow, white and black, it would not be logical to use a color scale that works with percentages of these colors… Pantone works on a neutral scale, where a color has no more importance than another.


Wouldn’t it be great if we could all see America that way?