OPINION: "Negro" On Census Form More Confusing Than Offensive

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2010_census

The 2010 Census has “Negro” as a check box.

Question No. 9 on this year’s census form asks about race, with one of the answers listed as “black, African-Am. or Negro.”

Census Bureau spokesman Jack Martin said the use of “Negro” was intended as a term of inclusion.

“Many older African-Americans identified themselves that way, and many still do,” he said. “Those who identify themselves as Negroes need to be included.”

The form was also approved by Congress more than a year ago, and the word has appeared on past forms.

The use of Negro began disappearing elsewhere with the civil rights movement of the 1960s, as black or African-American became the preferred terms.

All things considered, I can’t say this one worked me into a lather. If anything, it just made me furrow my eyebrows and think: Why?

I get that the Census Board wants to make everyone feel included, but it stands to reason that if people are taking the time to fill out the Census, they’ll probably check the most appropriate box, even if they have to do so grumbling. I would like to meet the person beating down the Census Bureau’s door wondering why they as Negroes were left off the form.

As I consider it, the Negro usage seems akin to grouping “Retarded” along with “Special Needs” or “Handicapped” on a form. Yes; both are previously acceptable terms, but now that’s not really the case and more importantly, the use seems unnecessary considering neither denote anything specific or particular.

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Jonathan Pitts-Wiley is a news aggregator and contributor for The Root. You can check out his personal blog at pittsindeed.wordpress.com and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/pittswiley. Jonathan currently resides in New York City.


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