EDITORIAL: Be Counted or Be Ignored

Wednesday, April 1 is Census Day in the U.S. but if you still haven’t responded to surveys mailed to your home, replied online or answered a call from nationally certified canvassers at your home, there’s still time. And being counted matters — a lot.

Counting every person living in the U.S., an initiative that takes place every 10 years, is a massive undertaking and efforts begin years in advance. When you respond to the census, you’ll tell the Census Bureau where you live as of April 1, 2020. Ongoing efforts will also be made to count those who are homeless, living in senior centers or prisons — even those college students who may still be away from home and have been unable to return to their hometowns in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Blacks need to be particularly focused and make sure they’re counted. During the last census, nine percent of African American, a rate higher than any other racial or ethnic group, were missed by the U.S. census — they were not counted — part of an estimated 1.1 million to 1.7 million missed in the national count. Perhaps they weren’t counted because they were hard to contact, living in inaccessible places. Maybe they were not counted because they were difficult to interview and had limited English proficiency. Some were left out because they were homeless or had been displaced by a natural disaster and were therefore extremely hard to locate.

Additionally, and one of the major reasons that Blacks are often not counted, is because it’s hard to persuade them — they’re angry or simply do not trust the government. Then there are either gender or age which are also factors for many not being counted. For example, Black children are twice as likely to be undercounted as children who aren’t Black. And with Black incarcerated at five times the rate of whites, prison gerrymandering can occur — with young Black men being counted as residing within a prison which inflates the population count and political representation of census tracts with prisons. The end result is that it allows even more money to miss going to the Black communities where many of those men or women, will ultimately return upon their parole.

“Blacks have been undercounted since we were counted as three-fifths of a person, 400 years ago,” said Jeri Green, a senior adviser at the Census Bureau for 20 years.

We cannot afford to let this misappropriation of justice to continue. The clock is ticking Black America. Be heard, spread the word, be counted.

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