I recently learned about an interesting effort by the Burmese American community to have “Burmese” added to the U.S. census’ list of races, for a more accurate population count of the Burmese community in the States. According to the Burmese Complete Count Committee,
Burmese in general means everyone who is a descendent from current Burma or Myanmar. According to this definition, all ethnic groups and tribes who originated from the country Burma or Myanmar are included. Definition of Burmese is different from Bama. Burmese is inclusive of Mon, Karen, Rakhine, Chin, Kachin, Shan, Lisu, Bama, Kayah, Palaung, Padaung, Pa-O, etc.
In the 2000 Census, only Asian Indian, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese were included as choices. It will be interesting to see whether the 2010 Census does include an option for “Burmese,” when larger communities like Thai Americans are not yet included. I don’t know how effective adding Burmese will be to the U.S. Census, because many Burmese Americans are either mixed Chinese or Indian (and would naturally gravitate to the more visible groupings), or refugees from ethnic minorities that generally do not associate themselves with being “Burmese.”
Nevertheless, I think it’s a step in the right direction in making the Burmese American community more visible.