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Census will test dropping 'Negro' from forms

By Ed O'Keefe

The Census Bureau said Friday that it plans to test removing the term "Negro" from census questionnaires during this year's headcount. The previously scheduled test came to light this week, after the bureau came in a wave of criticism from those who call the term offensive.

Question 9 on census forms asks for a person's race. One option is "black, African American, or Negro." The same language appeared on the 2000 Census, and previous headcounts dating to 1950 also used the term "Negro," the Census Bureau said. More than 56,000 respondents chose to explicitly write down "Negro" when asked for their race on the 2000 Census, even though the term already appears as an option.

This year, however, roughly 30,000 households will receive forms without "Negro" as a pre-written option, said Nicholas Jones, director of the Census Bureau's racial statistics branch.

“Most people won’t even recognize that they have a test form, unless they’re really, really looking," Jones said. All other questions will appear unchanged on those forms. Questionnaires sent to other households may have slight tweaks to other questions or answer options as part of similar experiments, Jones said.

Several news organizations and African American bloggers picked up on the issue, and some called the description offensive and outdated.

The New York Daily News reported that the term reminded some New Yorkers of the Jim Crow era. A blogger at TheRoot.com said it "is tantamount to having 'Special Needs,' 'Handicapped' and 'Retarded' on an official document."

Another blogger at TheGrio.com agreed the term was "antiquated and passé," but argued blacks should be more concerned with other Census issues.

"While there is a long-standing tension around the census and race, we owe it to ourselves to concentrate our attention on the things that will encourage political power, not political appropriateness," wrote R. L'Heureux Lewis. "Now that is something worth fighting to change."

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below

By Ed O'Keefe  | January 8, 2010; 4:11 PM ET
Categories:  Census  
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Comments

Do they use Caucasian? I find that offensive. I'm not from the Caucasus. ;-)

Posted by: GaryJean | January 8, 2010 5:20 PM | Report abuse

And the American obsession with 'race' continues.

I strongly suspect that the oft-mentioned 30,000 respondents who wrote-in "Negro" during the 2000 census were merely venting their rage at STILL being asked such an anachronistic caste-system question.

When my census form comes, I'll be writing in "Freakin Mutt! What's it to you?"

Posted by: web_user | January 8, 2010 5:49 PM | Report abuse

I'm writing in Negro, please.

Posted by: proudgaycuban | January 8, 2010 6:44 PM | Report abuse

I'm writing in, "All men are created equal, so what's it to you?"

Posted by: ggreenbaum | January 8, 2010 7:09 PM | Report abuse

True story: when I was in 3rd grade, I had to take a standardized test to evaluate the school's progress. At the beginning, they asked my race.

Well, I knew my great-grandparents came from Russia and I knew a large part of Russia was mostly in Asia, so I checked off "Asian-American".

When I told my Mom that afternoon she just about busted a gut.

Jokes aside, I cannot believe that the Census is still using the word "Negro". Seriously? At least they're now allowing people to check off more than one race for those who are mixed race.

Posted by: marclips | January 8, 2010 8:17 PM | Report abuse

fr marclips:

>...Well, I knew my great-grandparents came from Russia and I knew a large part of Russia was mostly in Asia, so I checked off "Asian-American".

When I told my Mom that afternoon she just about busted a gut....<

Too funny! A friend of my older brother's, Bobby, was in first grade I think and his mother is part Native American. They were talking about where families came from, and Bobby pipes up with "I'm one six inch Indian!", meaning of course 1/6th. This happened 50 years ago, and I understand it's still a source of hilarity in Rob's family to this day.

Posted by: Alex511 | January 8, 2010 8:32 PM | Report abuse

They should just drop the race question.

Posted by: OldHippie | January 8, 2010 8:37 PM | Report abuse

Just toss the form when you get it, in the trash.

Posted by: dlkimura | January 8, 2010 10:20 PM | Report abuse

I cannot believe this BS! They will probably trash a million dollars worth of forms (if they are already printed). This is just ridiculous. If anyone doesn't like it just check another box. For cheezus sake, how simple can it be!!!

Posted by: not4n | January 8, 2010 10:29 PM | Report abuse

Black, Negro or African American, huh? These are the only choices? What if you're a Samoan American or a Tongan American? They're certainly "black" but genetically Asian, so what do they do? And what if you're three parts Irish and one part African? Are you going to call yourself black just because your skin is a likely several shades darker than an Irishmen? Madness!

What is even more crazy is that this is an issue or an analytical tool at all! Comparisons of racial mix and distribution can only be used to compare discrepencies in social status, which shouldn't be counted as a significant difference in the first place. Perpetuating the myth of racial superiority by measuring the amount of segregation only endorses the myth.

Let it go! You're all in the same boat now with an economy that is sending the middle-classes into a poverty that is racially indifferent. Blaming other races, immigrants and other states for a systemic failure is pointless and counterproductive.

Besides the patently obvious stupidity behind racism, imagine America without the cultural input of its many mixed races, it'd be a cultural desert! The fact remains that a dark-skinned person of great presence has the top job now. Maybe what you should ADD to the census questionaire is; Black - and proud of it. I bet that'd get some attention!

(Right-on OldHippie, dropping the race question is certainly the best option.)

(I'm an Australian of the red-head, blue-eyed, fair-skinned race, a much more distinctly different breed to all of you other "shaded races" - my race comes in technicolor so we're the only one's who can really call ourselves "colored folk". You white guys reckon we belong to your racial group. Forget it! We never get lost in the snow!)

Posted by: icurhuman2 | January 8, 2010 10:43 PM | Report abuse

Race = Human. What more do they need to know.

Posted by: majcsmith | January 8, 2010 10:48 PM | Report abuse

How about "Human Race"

Posted by: msmart2 | January 8, 2010 10:59 PM | Report abuse

Most of you are missing the real agenda of the Census.

It is a process meant to sniff out and identify every member of every minority.

Why? Because more minorities means more Federal dollars. That's why big cities want street people counted, Asians want Asians counted, and African-Americans want African-American counted.

But I do understand the objection to "negro" or "black" because I object to the term "white". I am European-American and should be recognized as such.

So let's all protest the Census and refuse to answer until the government gets it right.

Posted by: krankyman | January 9, 2010 12:47 AM | Report abuse

Black, Negro or African American, huh? These are the only choices? What if you're a Samoan American or a Tongan American?
===

Those would be "Pacific Islander". It's the same category as "Native Hawaiian" - both of which are different than "Native Alaskan or Native American".

Posted by: mason08 | January 9, 2010 1:14 AM | Report abuse

Don't have opinion on this particular point, but I think race or heritage or self-identity question is another important (and interesting) part of a snapshot of our country.

It's too paranoid for words not to fill out the form as honestly as possible.

Because, in addition to the current political & boundary & resources issues determined by the census, it's a valuable tool to be used in the future by historians or even by individuals researching their own family.

Posted by: dadada | January 9, 2010 1:19 AM | Report abuse

The whole concept of race is a misnomer. We are all different shades of black. If any human were to trace their lineage back to the beginning of man, then they would realize that all humans are descended from the same race and geographical area- blacks from Eastern Africa.

Posted by: drsfwjd | January 9, 2010 8:48 AM | Report abuse

Didn't they say they couldn't alter the form to say ILLEGAL ALIEN ??? Couldn't be done on time ! HUMMMMM !

Posted by: catinhat83510496 | January 9, 2010 2:25 PM | Report abuse

Here's a perfect reason to eliminate this nonsense...but let's ask Senator Reid what he thinks...Obama accepts Sen. Reid's apology
THE FIX | In private remarks made during 2008, the Senate majority leader said Obama was ''light skinned'' and had ''no Negro dialect.''

Posted by: dejesusd | January 9, 2010 5:14 PM | Report abuse

We live in America! And our Government is elected to keep America as it was formed.
Race must be ID! We should NEVER allowed ones culture to become first in America. Afican American? No, it should be American Afican, American Indian, American Jew, American Muslium, etc. If you want your culture, then go back to your country! America was formed to allow ALL to take part in the freedom of our country. Wake up Americans. 30 from our country will become Spanish majority. 45yrs from now,it will be Mulism majority. That's when women lose everything gained since 1920. Wake UP!!

Posted by: larry0512 | January 10, 2010 7:01 AM | Report abuse

In this case I wonder what the category counters are looking for.

Remember that one function of the Census is to accurately measure the statistical population that is the United States. Sampling and every other statistical technique require an accurate measure of the population that is to be modeled. Since many aspects of everything from accurate political polling to planning cosmetic advertizing nationwide in appropriate markets depend heavily on the statistical abstract that comes from the census, knowing the quasi racial makeup of the country, (Black, African American, Negro; Asian Pacific islander; Aleut, Native American; (I don't really remember all the choices from last time) is extremely important, and if the imfamous N word exactly described an important cohort in that make up, as politically incorrect as it is deemed it would still be appropriate to use it.

Remember that the statistical abstract has a real influence on such things as insurance categories, (and therefore insurance rates), market demographics, and therefore just whom shows up in targetted ad campaigns.

And the Census is the only entity big enough or (hopefully) well funded enough to measure this population.

Posted by: ceflynline | January 10, 2010 7:59 PM | Report abuse

"Black, Negro or African American, huh? These are the only choices? What if you're a Samoan American or a Tongan American? They're certainly "black" but genetically Asian, so what do they do? And what if you're three parts Irish and one part African? Are you going to call yourself black just because your skin is a likely several shades darker than an Irishmen? Madness! What is even more crazy is that this is an issue or an analytical tool at all! Posted by: icurhuman2"

Not so on the questioning the usefullness of these categories as an analytical tool. If you intend to run for office, and want accurate polling data to help you in your campaign, you will need the statistical abstract of the jurisdiction you are running for to know IF your polls mean anything, or what they mean. If you are a cosmetics manufacturer you need to know the "racial" make up of your various marketing areas. In either case you heavily depend on knowing that, for instance, there is a large Chaldean Catholic Iraqi community in Detroit. The "Racial" question block on the census form is about the only economical way to track such demographics. (The term should really be demometrics, by the way.)

It well behooves every single soul in every corner of the United States and all its territories to get himself and his home group counted, because the more accurate the measurement, the more accurate the statistical operations you may do with the population data.

Posted by: ceflynline | January 10, 2010 8:14 PM | Report abuse

"Black, Negro or African American, huh? These are the only choices? What if you're a Samoan American or a Tongan American? They're certainly "black" but genetically Asian, so what do they do? And what if you're three parts Irish and one part African? Are you going to call yourself black just because your skin is a likely several shades darker than an Irishmen? Madness! What is even more crazy is that this is an issue or an analytical tool at all! Posted by: icurhuman2"

And now to the other point icurhuman2 brings up.

The blackest people on earth are almost totally NOT African in descent. They are Dravidians from the Subcontinent, and the peoples of Micronesia. But while discrimination against people does often take skin color into account, being of African Descent is a whole other matter. From "high yaller" (the Yellow Rose of Texas was a light skinned negress prostitute) to Old Black Joe, being African got you put into that particular class that Jim Crow was meant to keep in its place. Being Mexican, Creole, Arabian, or any other browned skin group got you discriminated against, but not in anyway as badly as being of African descent, no matter how light skinned. Even now, for reasons given above, there are reasons for being able to delineate between various lands of origin of "Brown Skinned" Americans. And our terms are flatly too imprecise to properly so delineate.

Posted by: ceflynline | January 10, 2010 8:24 PM | Report abuse

In 2005, my first living in Prince George's County and fresh from 15 years in Garland, Dallas, TX. I was surprised to see the emphasis that P.G. is the county in the US with the wealthiest blacks. I wanted to see if there was a Yahoo P.G. group. Turns out that there is are influential Black Chamber of Commerce and Black Caucus folks very active in P.G. Had a hard time trying to talk about the Hebrew Bible;) Wanted all the Black Churches to study the original YaHWeH language: Hebrew. They were all polite though.

Posted by: macnietspingal1 | January 11, 2010 9:04 AM | Report abuse

Black, colored, Negro, who really GaF? Instead of falling all over themselves, placating every loudmouth minority, the census bureau should stick to its original mission. How many live in your house, home or apartment, how old are they and under penalty of perjury, sign the form as a true statement. Simple, direct and no room for shenanigans!

Posted by: namvet3 | January 11, 2010 11:44 AM | Report abuse

How offensive can the term be when we still have organizations like the United Negro College Fund and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored people? This seems more of a PC move than anything else. I think the government should spend its time and money on something that would produce some real change.

Posted by: bigtom6156 | January 11, 2010 2:35 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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