The obligatory and offensive census

Kimberly Krieger

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






Around every corner, people are talking about the census. From what I have heard so far, the census is a lot like taxes- no one wants to do it, yet it has to be done eventually.

Since the beginning of this year’s non-stop bombardment of advertisements, peer pressure and chaos about the census, my curiosity has been building. Until this point, I knew the basic idea of the census, but had never actually looked at a form. When I finally fished around on the Internet, one thing especially disturbed me.

The thing that left me unsettled was the fact that “Negro” is still listed next to “Black” and “African American” in the race category. When I clicked on information to find out why this is still listed, the Web site said that a significant enough portion of the American population still identifies themselves as “Negro.” Though they claim to be making research steps in order to remove this rather dated term, I’m sure they are still offending countless people.

And what are they doing about all of these offended people? They are using one sentence at the end of their lengthy explanation that basically says, “Sorry, and I hope this doesn’t prevent you from turning in the census.”

Does this feel wrong to anyone else? If I had to list myself as “Black, African American or Negro,” and I found the term “Negro” offensive, I would just blow off the entire census. If the term was offensive enough for the census to create a disclaimer, then I believe that it makes the survey polarizing. When something this important alienates some people with its terminology, then the answers and outcome of the census might not be so accurate.

Currently, the rate of mail-in completion for the 2010 census is at 65 percent, which is a pretty good amount. No matter how tiring and monotonous it gets to hear how important the census is, the fact is the survey does a lot of things for America. It figures out just how much money to allocated for public services, for instance.

Understandably, it is impossible to please everyone, all of the time, but if this form is such a big deal, shouldn’t the Census Bureau at least try a little harder?

Though I’m sure the bureau has heard countless complaints on the use of the word “Negro,” I believe they deserve to hear even more complaints until they do something about it. The fact is, there really isn’t much that we can do on our own to change things like this. Change takes time, and some part of the population still does not mind the term “Negro.”

If you’re offended by the census term “Negro,” you should complain and take action. It may not feel like it will make much of a difference, but you might as well. If we are forced to look at offensive words, shouldn’t the census be forced to hear a sea of complaints?

I think it is important to question this survey as much as possible. We are obligated to fill out the census, so why not completely understand it? There may be things in there that disturb you, too.