1.13.2010

U.S. CENSUS: Black, African-American, or Negro (Circle One)….is this really a big deal?


By Jesse Muhammad

Ok, here we go again, huh?

I got a call from a business associate who asked me if I was listening to the local Houston station, Praise 92.1FM, because the U.S. Census was the topic. She told me that the radio show host was discussing the 2010 census questionnaire having a “Negro” option in the race section.

She then said she immediately knew that if it was true that I was going to blog about it. I started not to. But after going to the website of 92.1 and then Googling some more, she was right. I sparked up a conversation about it with my Twitter friends.

The Twitter census was: “I’m not surprised but wow."

Here are the facts: the government is in preparation of launching the 2010 Census in two months. The survey has 10 total questions and Question 9 is the problem right now. The question asks "What is person 1's race?” and part of the option is "Black, African Am., or Negro."

Negro? Yes, Negro.

Well, a spokesperson from the U.S. Census Bureau defended the option by stating that there are a lot of older Black people who still refer to themselves as Negro instead of Black or African-American. The spokesperson also said they surveyed people prior to putting the option on the questionnaire and found that people would be more acceptable to it than opposing it.

Well that remains to be seen. “Survey says?!”…. Black people not happy about it.

“Come on, this is absurd. In the age of a supposedly post-racial America, they should have know this would hit a nerve,” Greg Stanson, of Houston, texted to me. “But I’m not surprised.”


“I really could care less Brother Jesse,” says Jessica Felix. “We call one another n—ger and negro as terms of endearment. Then we wanna protest when others use it. A wise person doesn’t respond to what they are not. I’m not a negro, so I’m not checking that word.

That’s just two out of the hundred-plus people I have heard from since I found this out. On Twitter, one Black woman tweeted “my mother uses Black and so does my father. They've never used African American.” But she added that “It is true that some older folks use Negro.”

I am oblivious to that. My grandmother is 80 years-old and I have never heard her refer to herself as a Negro or even African-American when I was growing up in her home, nor have I heard her long-time associates. So who and where is this segment of our population still calling themselves Negro?

Houston activists and government officials to host town hall meeting

Community activist Quanell X and others held a meeting last week with the U.S. Census’ Regional Director to discuss the removal of the word from the survey which is unlikely since millions of mail outs have already went out to homes throughout the country.

According to Quanell X in a phone interview, the Regional Census representatives told them that reportedly a small rural town took a survey and approximately 56,000 older Black citizens voted to have the term ‘Negro’ on the form as their racial identify.

“They would not tell us who did this survey or where the survey took place,” says Quanell X. “I ultimately see this as a conspiracy to insult us, to makes us disgruntled so we won’t participate in the census. This will leave us undercounted, underserved and underfunded in our communities.”

Quanell X declared Black people must “look beyond the hurt of the word and participate in the census. Don’t let this be a distraction.”

He and other leaders will be hosting a town hall meeting in Houston on Thursday, January 14 at the Judson Robinson Center (2020 Hermann Drive) at 7:00pm. The theme is “The 2010 Census: The Word Negro and Where Do We Go From Here."

QUESTION: Do you think the use of this word is offensive? Is it really a big deal?


--Brother Jesse Preferred Tax Services--