STFU: If You Don’t Answer the Census
by CC Campbell Rock
It’s that time again. Once in a decade, U.S. residents are asked to answer the Census. It’s common knowledge, particularly in the African-American community, that there is a matrix of fear about answering the federal head count. In 2020, however red flags are popping up that indicate it’s more important than ever to stand up and be counted and answer the Census.
One red flag was last week’s ruling by a federal judge that put a temporary halt to the Trump Administration’s effort to end the Census count prematurely on September 30, instead of October 31, 2020.
U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in the Northern District of California issued the restraining order in favor of challengers led by the National Urban League, who filed an emergency request as part of a federal lawsuit. The order is expected to remain in effect until a court hearing is held on Sept. 17 for the plaintiffs’ request for a court order that would require counting to continue through the end of October.
This is not the first time the Trump Administration tried to finagle with the Census count. Last July, a New York judge permanently blocked Trump’s effort to target immigrants by putting a citizenship question on the Census form.
It is abundantly clear, that Trump’s maneuvers are designed to stop the flow of federal funding to the states, which fund programs that help all of us.
Billions of federal dollars are allocated each year for programs and services based on Census-derived . Here are a few:
Maternal and child health programs, Medicaid, Medicare, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP),WIC, Social Service Block Grant, Foster Care (Title IV-E),Head Start/Early Head Start, Federal Pell Grants. School Nutrition, State Children’s Health Insurance Program (LA-CHIP), Homeland Security , FEMA, Highway Planning & Construction, Crime Victim Assistance. Community Facilities Loans/Grants. Section 8 Housing Program, Special Education (IDEA funds), after school programs, classroom technology, free and reduced-price school lunches, affordable housing, etc.
Those critical programs get less funding when citizens are not counted. And police, firefighters, infrastructure improvements, and essential city services are also underfunded. Without proper funding, a city can’t increase the quality of life for its residents.
Additionally, redistricting is also based on Census data. Not answering the Census opens the door to structural racism in elective offices.
In Louisiana, legislators used Census data to gerrymander state and federal districts to keep themselves in power and to suppress the vote of people of color. This is the primary reason why out of Louisiana’s six U.S. congressional seats only one is held by an African-American- New Orleans’ U.S. Congressman Cedric Richmond.
Effect on New Orleans
New Orleans lost one Congressional seat due to an under-count in the 2000 Census. East Baton Rouge Parish, which is predominately African-American, has been gerrymandered such that they can’t elect a person of color to represent them, even if they wanted to. Conservative Republicans dominate the Louisiana legislature because of the census under-count.
After assessing the current Census count in New Orleans, Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s Administration issued an Emergency Update. The city of New Orleans is behind in its Census Count. To date, only 56.6 percent of residents have answered the Census.
“This is an emergency now,” says Arthur Walton, the director of Intergovernmental Relations and chair of the Mayor’s Complete Count Committee, who explained that COVID-19 has made getting an accurate count difficult. “The city had a slate of cultural activities planned,” to inspire citizens to answer the Census but the events were cancelled in lieu of the state’s safer at home program that was designed to contain the virus.
The City of New Orleans’ NOLA Counts: Be in That Number Campaign enlisted the help of celebrities, elected officials, and others to encourage citizens to stand up and be counted including:
Watch these important videos
Demario Davis New Orleans Saints Linebacker
Mayor Cantrell with Head Start Kids Census PSA
Mama Jamilah (Ashe’ Cultural Center)
People are still going door to door as Census workers did in the past. But Walton, the “Census quarterback,” says “For the first time people can do the Census online using their home computers, cell phones, or house phones. It only takes 10 minutes to answer the nine-question form.
Regarding people’s aversion to answering the Census, Walton says, “The president is not going to have your address.” Records are sealed for 77 years. And Census workers take an oath not to disclose personal information. “Amazon asks for more information than the Census,” he says jokingly.
Jesus was born in Bethlehem because Joseph, his father and his mother, Mary, had to journey to Bethlehem to answer the Census. Joseph was going to his father’s house to be counted. “The Census is in the Bible, Luke, Chapter 2,” Walton continues.
Most importantly, New Orleans needs an accurate count to receive its fair share. The feds will disperse $1.8 trillion to states based on Census data. Answering the Census is more important than ever. As a result of COVID-19, cities and states have had to spend money they didn’t anticipate. City budgets now have gaping holes with the possibility of layoffs in the near future.
FUNDS DIRECTLY HELP LOCALS
“During this pandemic, we need every dollar we’re entitled to,” Walton affirms. Offering an example of how the feds distributes taxpayer dollars, Walton adds, “For the CARES ACT, if you were a city of 500,000 or more you received between $1.5 and $1.8 billion directly. If you aren’t, you’re getting your money from the state. In our case, the majority red legislature appropriated money to New Orleans.”
You know the importance of each one of us standing up and being counted. Census funds provide better streets and essential services. Your descendants benefit too. The Census documents your existence. This becomes a primary source of data for descendants who want to trace their roots and family tree. African-Americans can trace their ancestry back to at least 1890, when the first American Census was taken.
The Census is a tool for Blacks to assert their constitutional rights. Intentional under-counts continues to deny Black representation in public office, Answering Census in 2020 is the remedy.
The three-fifths clause (Article I, Section 2, of the U.S. Constitution of 1787 declared that for purposes of representation in Congress, enslaved blacks in a state would be counted as three-fifths of the number of white inhabitants of that state. The three-fifths clause remained in force until the post-Civil War 13th Amendment freed all enslaved people in the United States, the 14th amendment gave them full citizenship, and the 15th Amendment granted black men the right to vote.
“I’m encouraging the community to share cell phones, tablets, and laptops with their neighbors, friends, and family members to help them fill out the Census,” Walton says. “You might be sitting on your couch right now and you can fill the Census out while you’re sitting there. Do it now.”