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Distractions, Progress & the 2010 Census

Today I heard an advertisement on a Chicago radio station. It started off with a heavy bass rhythm in the background, and continued into a full beat that sounded oddly familiar—like it was the new Lil Wayne track of the week. (It seem like he comes out with a new song every other day.) But this was not another “Young Money” -Drake or Nikki Minaj- single that frequents radio stations in Chicago. The track that I heard was a rap song encouraging people (particularly a black demographic) to fill out their 2010 Census forms. I believe our country has made a lot of progress since the 2000 Census (when I was only ten years old and in 4th grade) but this is not a moment in history where the movers and shakers need to fall into the trap of complacency. Tomorrow (April 1st) is the official “National Census Day” and we need to encourage every man, women, in child in the inner city to fill out the census forms and take it seriously.

The United States Census is over 200 years old and despite all the controversy that the word “Negro” is bringing to the census conversation, we still need to focus on how the census can help communities. Yesterday in my Black Feminist and Political Thought class, we watched a movie where Shirley Chisholm said something that hit home for me. Chisholm explained that if she could go back to the period when she was running for president she would of changed only one thing, what she called “the moolah.” This comment made me think about the importance of money and the role it plays in our society. Some call it the “root of all evil,” but in light of the 2010 census, I call it equal public education, more job training, less potholes in the city streets, and after school programs for our youth.

Some think that the census took a six decade step back into the past, when they decided to add the word “Negro” to the options of races one can choose, but I believe that people have allowed it to become a distraction to the actual purpose of the census and an encouragement to the “anti-government right wing activist” that have their minds set on protesting the census. The term was added for one simple reason, in 2000 over 56,000 people used the word “Negro” to identify themselves. I personally think the word is problematic and outdated, but I also recognize that the important thing is to get people to fill the census out, not to argue over generational terms for race. If we start seeing “Negro” on college applications then maybe we can start the revolution. (*joking)

Besides the distracting controversy of the word “Negro,”  the 2010 Census has made a lot of progress in identifying members of the LGBT community. For the first time in 23 different census mailings, this year will count same-sex couples who identify as married. The census “allows respondents to self-identify as ‘husband’ or ‘wife’ regardless of whether or not the couple has a valid marriage license.” I am generally happy about this decision, while simultaneously having cautions about the hetero-normative nature of terms like “husband” or “wife.” The census will not count the overall LGBT demographic, but it will provide important information on gay couples. Some would like to call this “progress.” I call it, “we have a long way to go.”

Overall, I think the youtube video says it best, “we need to be counted.” So just like we were encouraging people to vote in the 2008 election, encourage people to fill out their census form, you don’t even have to leave your house to do it.