By Logan James, Spelman College NAACP
We know all lives matter, but are all lives being counted? In 1909, the inception of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) charged the nation to re-evaluate their stance on African American lives in response to the ongoing violence across the country. Since their birth, the NAACP continues to make strides in the best interest of African Americans, one of which being their work centered around the decennial Census.
Through means of educating, recruiting and filing a lawsuit against the federal government, the NAACP demands for the African American population to be counted as much as possible in the 2020 Census. The United States Census determines the distribution of political power and money by quantifying the American people and allocating funds to healthcare, housing, and education programs in addition to government services.
The United States Census affects the livelihood of everyone, especially the undercounted. Past surveys have shown that Latinos, African Americans, non-English speakers, non-traditional families, and those with informal living arrangements are the hardest to calculate. Poor policy-making decisions, equal employment opportunities, and the alleviation of poverty within the aforementioned groups are the results of miscounting communities and individuals.
The United States Census affects everyone, especially the Undercounted.
For every community not counted, $100,000-$200,000 that would have gone towards advancing their economic, political and societal position is lost. Funds that would have gone towards erasing the poverty line, securing housing, monitoring discriminatory practices, and enforcing civil rights laws. Undercounted communities have little to no representation because they are not prioritized.
According to the Census Bureau post-enumeration survey, 800,000 African Americans went uncounted. What does this mean? It means once again, the voice of African Americans was denied. Many programs that impact African Americans are based in whole or part on data derived from the Census. History proves the disenfranchisement of Black people socially, politically and financially. Another ten years cannot pass before we realize how vital the United States Census is to the United States democracy.
The children are the future.
Since the United States last decennial Census, the array of events, movements, and tragedies that have sprung across the nation have left citizens all over in disarray. In the first month of 2010, the world’s deadliest earthquake struck the Island of Haiti. 2013 birthed the Black Lives Matter movement after the acquittal of George Zimmerman. In 2016, the United States greeted their Republican President, Donald Trump.
The list of terrorist attacks, mass shootings, and injustices that have shadowed America in our past decade should not cloud the advancements and heights the country has yet to reach. In each of these instances, the opinion, vote, and livelihood of someone was taken away either through corrupt politics, natural disasters, or premeditated motive. As we move into our new decade, the younger generation must be aware of the world around them and the voice they have in changing it.
“The children are the future” is not a coined phrase that should be taken lightly. All generations should be concerned with completing the Census, yet Generation Z and the Millennial generation have a far greater duty. There have already been financial constraints within the Census Bureau, which puts the African American community at risk of being undercounted. Remaining informed and educating members of Congress, in addition to state and local leaders about the issues of the African American community, is crucial in producing desired results.
We know all lives matter, but all lives have not been counted. The work of the NAACP and the Leadership Conference Education Fund, to name a few, have been doing the work to promote and protect the civil and human rights of citizens. As the 2020 Census makes its way to our mailboxes and computer screens, I charge you, my reader, to ensure you and your family will be counted!