Every ten years, America stops what it is doing and counts the number of people within its borders. This is not just an exercise to see how many people live in the United States; this is the tool by which political power and financial resources are allocated among the 50 states and all of the people living within the borders of this country.
Historically, African Americans and other communities of color have been severely undercounted. Decades of chronic undercounting of people of color has contributed to the underrepresentation and underfunding of our hospitals, schools, childcare, housing and other services that other communities enjoy.
Fifty years ago, the President of the National Urban League, Whitney Young, Jr., testified before the U.S. Congress that as many as 2 million African Americans were missed in the 1960 census. He told Congress that the undercount diverted much needed economic support from our communities and that improvements in outreach to African Americans were needed for a more accurate count. Many of the barriers that he testified to before Congress 50 years ago, still persist today.
The coronavirus has stopped almost everything this year, but it will not stop the 2020 Census. With $675 billion in federal funding at stake, an accurate census count is crucial for the people of Los Angeles, the African American community as well as other communities of color. Academics have forecast that our communities will be undercounted by 1.7 million or more. This would translate into a loss of $3.4 billion per year to our communities nationwide.
The next few months are critical if we want our communities to be fairly represented. The coronavirus may limit the ability of in-person census takers to reach the households, but it is vitally important that each and every one of us is counted.
Now is the time to spread the word. Tell everyone you know—if you have already responded to the census, thank you. If you have not done so, take the time right now to respond online, by phone or by mail today. If you don’t respond and a census worker comes to your door, greet them and answer the questions with pride.
Make Black Count!