Thursday, July 16, 2020
2020 Census Apathy will be Detrimental to People of Color
By Niele Anderson
Published October 12, 2017

(From L-to-R): Rev. Samuel J. Casey, executive director, Congregations Organized for Prophetic Engagement, Joely Proudfit, director of California Indian Culture and Sovereignty Center, Ofelia M. Medina, director of State Civic Engagement Policy with NALEO Educational Fund’s Policy Research and Advocacy and Ditas Katague, Chair, National Advisory Committee on Race, Ethnicities and other Populations. (courtesy photo)

New America Media recently hosted a media briefing in preparation of the 2020 Census.  The theme was “What’s at Stake and What’s at Risk?” According to a New America Media Report, the 2020 Census is off to a rocky start, with crucial preparations already delayed, largely a result of inadequate funding by a Republican led Congress.

The discussion was led by Ditas Katague, chair, National Advisory Committee on Race, Ethnicities and other Populations, U.S. Census Bureau, Ofelia M. Medina, director of State Civic Engagement Policy with NALEO Educational Fund’s Policy Research and Advocacy, Rev. Samuel J. Casey, executive director, Congregations Organized for Prophetic Engagement, Stewart Kwoh, founding president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles and Dr. Joely Proudfit, Director of California Indian Culture and Sovereignty Center, California State University – San Marcos, Dr. John Dobard, manager of Political Voice, Advancement Project California and moderated by Sandy Close, New America Media executive director.

After the 2010 Census (Census happens every 10 years), Republican led state legislatures (assembly members and State Senators) undertook a massive effort to redraw their state’s districts for electing members of Congress and state legislatures at the expense of minority and Democratic voters. A memo from the Republican State Leadership Committee explained:

“Drawing new district lines in states with the most redistricting activity presented Republicans the opportunity to solidify conservative policymaking at the state level and maintain a Republican stronghold in the U.S. House of Representatives for the next decade,” stated Source Center for American Progress.

In 2010, some states lost congressional seats and others gained them. For example, the Republican state of Texas gained four districts and Democratic led New York lost two. Which makes the 2020 Census critical. With the current administrations terror tactics including ICE raids and the U.S. Justice Department, led by Jeff Sessions mandates and policy changes, many will be scared to share information with the government.“ At the federal level, there are efforts to include questions about citizenship and legal status on the Census.  We are working with organizations to insure those kinds of questions aren’t included, Dr. John Dobard, of the Advancement Project California shared in the briefing.

Questions about citizenship may be on the 2020 census. (courtesy photo)

Another crucial factor that many need to be concerned with is the resignation of John H. Thompson, who served as director of the U.S. Census Bureau since 2013 and worked for the bureau for 27 years before that.  His last day was June 30, 2017.

Even more troublesome, a new Republican group launched a campaign in September to counter the efforts of National Democratic Redistricting Committee, an organization chaired by former Attorney General Eric Holder, to redistrict Congressional boundaries more favorably to Democrats after the 2020 U.S. Census. The Holder committee was formed in 2016.

The newly National Republican Redistricting Trust announced it would raise $35 million by  2021, redistricting to combat Holder’s group, the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, or NDRC, and assist the GOP in future redistricting cases.

With so many detrimental concerns, the need to state now is critical.  Dr. John Dobard of the advancement Project California said, were already behind. Dr. Dobard is a part of the Census Policy Advocacy Network, where he stated, “the goal is to educate policy makers and community leaders about the government investment and sound policy needed to insure a fair and accurate count.”

Rev. Samuel J. Casey of the Congregations Organized for Prophetic Engagement stated, “I think its going to be important to connect with grassroots, being able to actually identify culturally. In 2000, when our organization first participated in the Census, one of the major challenges was the whole apathy of getting African Americans to participate in general,’ he said.  Kasey went to say,  “The challenge is in inspiring African Americans  to physically identify as African Americans. There are those who are multi-racial, who probably prefer to identify as Latino or Asian, or some other ethnicity rather than identify as Black.”  Kasey referred to the one drop rule; meaning, if you have one drop of African American blood in your system, then, you are by definition African American and or Black.  He stressed the importance of paying close attention to the cultural relevance and the material that is present.”

The top 10 programs that receive funding based on Census data include Medicaid, SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), Medicare, Section 8, Highway planning and construction State Children’s Insurance Program, Grants to Local Education Agencies, National School Lunch Program, Foster Care and Special Education Grants.


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