Goliath J. Davis, III, Ph.D.
BY Goliath J. Davis, III, Ph.D., Contributor
ST. PETERSBURG — Every 10 years, the federal government is required to count the entire United States population to include where each person resides, and the age, sex and race of all persons counted. This count is made by mailing census surveys to residences for self-reports and by dispatching census takers to non-responsive homes.
The man in the White House is threatening to cut the census short at a time when we need an accurate count more than ever. This fact alone signals the census is important.
Trump and his followers fear what is commonly known as the browning of America. In other words, black and brown people are projected to be the largest numerical population. Browns will be number one, and Blacks will be number two.
Race data compiled through the census impact an array of programs and policy decisions essential to the African American quality of life. Census data largely determine federal distribution of funds to states. Medicare Part B, as well as Medicaid funds distributed to the states, are determined in part by the census and impact healthcare availability for the elderly, indigent, and non-insured members of our communities.
Census data is also used to distribute state health insurance for children and monies for substance abuse treatment and prevention. The data assists with the formulation of disaster preparedness. Emergency management officials decide where to muster resources and personnel based upon population concentrations identified by the census.
Developers rely on census data to determine where to build schools, hospitals, supermarkets and housing. This is possible because the census process documents where populations are concentrated and the demography of the concentrations. Policy decisions relative to affordable housing are also influenced based upon the data.
A census undercount also impacts us in another important way. The census count determines reapportionment or the re-evaluation of how many seats a state may have in the House of Representatives. States may lose, add, or maintain representation as a result of population counts resulting from the census.
Given the current state of affairs in Washington, D.C., we cannot afford to miss opportunities to elect lawmakers who support and advocate for our interests.
Census data is also used to determine how voting districts are drawn, and many feel cutting the count short by one month will result in a white population overcount and a Black undercount.
We have a significant role to play. We must return our census surveys and cooperate with census takers when they knock on our doors. We must not allow an undercount to occur because we failed to be diligent.
The current occupant of the White House has no empathy or concern for the needs of poor, brown, Black, or any group of people who are not white and affluent. Therefore, we must not sit idly by and allow the system to continue the assault.
More importantly, we cannot and should not adversely impact our communities and the futures of our children by sitting back and failing to participate in the census or other initiatives that may positively impact our quality of life.
If you have not completed and returned your census survey, please do so immediately. If you know others who have not done so, please encourage them to complete and return the document.
If a census taker contacts you at home, verify their legitimacy, check their credentials and cooperate with them. If, for some reason, you have difficulty with the survey, please seek assistance.
I ask that everyone adopt the slogan, “no self-inflicted wounds.” In other words, we must not fail to vote, fail to be counted, fail to advocate for police body cameras, fail to hold our local and state elected officials accountable or engage in other acts of failure that ensure we will continue to be marginalized and ignored.
Census 2020 is here. Let’s be counted! We will not have another chance for 10 years and must live with the resulting decisions for a decade. Thanks so much for joining the count.