By Wisdom Cole, National Organizing Manager, NAACP, Youth & College Division
As a millennial in 2020, this will be the third time the Census has occurred in my lifetime. The first time it happened I was 6 years old in the first grade and my mother was pregnant with my baby sister. I remember the Census distinctively because they would play the Census commercials over and over while I was watching Nickelodeon.
My mother had to still work while she was pregnant as well as raise me and my younger brother with the help of my grandmother who had just came Nigeria to help with the pregnancy.
Sometimes my mother would have to leave us at home when she had to work long hours and both her and grandma did not like opening the door for strangers. I would be home watching cartoons after school hearing the Census volunteers knock on the apartment door multiple times, and even though we were home, we would never answer. If I really think about it, I am very unsure if my changing family at the time was counted in the 2000 Census.
The last time the census happened in 2010, I was a 16-year-old high school student and I made sure that we definitely did a better job of filling out the census that year. I remember actually filling it out together with my mom and what caught my eye about the census that year was the questions they asked about race.
I did not think the question was inclusive at all of anyone who was an African immigrant and identifying their country of origin. I could see how confusing it could be for someone still forming their understanding of their identity in America or still on the pathway to citizenship.
I share these Census stories because as the 2020 Census is quickly approaching, I applaud all the ways the Census Bureau has made the Census more accessible, but I recognize that there is still so much work to be done to ensure that everybody is counted. You can complete the census online, by mail, or in person which is great for young people living life on the next flight like myself.
Like many other millennials, I am not constantly checking my mail unless I’m expecting something from Amazon and I’m not home waiting for someone to come to my house unless we planned to meet there. The online option of the census works for me but I understand that it does not work for all of us. There are communities with limited access to the internet, single parent households where the provider has to work long hours, and immigrant families that are unsure of the information that is necessary to provide.
These communities classified as “hard-to-count” are in fact some of the most necessary to count as the lack of resources for hospitals, public safety, and school infrastructure would impact them the most.
There is over $675 billion in federal funding tied to this year’s census count and we cannot go through another census like the one in 2010, where over 800,000 Black people were not counted and we missed out in the Census, costing our community over $16 million dollars. We must think about the future of the Black community both present and those to be born in the next decade. This federal funding will be necessary for the world all people including young Black people will be growing up in.
The NAACP as well as our collation of partners through the racial equity anchor collaborative have taken the initiative to GET OUT THE 2020 COUNT.
We recognize that there are multiple factors that will inhibit a complete and accurate count of the census, so we are urging all of our members, activists, and allies to map the count. Through a very special partnership with ESRI we are able to identify the hard-to-count communities and use our power to mobilize our friends, families, and loved ones to be counted so that all of our needs are seen and heard in the 2020 Census.
For more information on what you can do to make sure everyone is counted in the 2020 census visit makemyfamilycount.org/mapthecount.