Wrath of the Math: Understanding the Census (Pg 3)


A week before the meeting, the Justice Corps signed a partnership agreement with Content to promote the upcoming Census by painting three murals in Bed-Stuy. It’s not an ad on BET, but it’s a start. And the project has a dual purpose. “It helps us take pride in our community by beautifying it,” says Mobley, “and it helps us inform people about the Census and why we need to take part.”

When you come from a life full of hardship, it can be hard to believe some woman talking about how the federal government is going to divvy up $400 billion a year for the next 10 years based on how many people fill out a form. But when prodded, the men do have some interesting ideas as to how they’d like to see the money spent in their ’hood.

“I’d open up a women’s shelter,” says James Jackson, 22. 

“We definitely need more community centers, but not the ones inside the school— like a separate building that’s open on the weekends,” says Washington. “If I had a place like that growing up, I think my life would have been different. I wouldn’t have been in the streets like that.”

Black people are not the only ones who mistrust the census. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) recently made headlines when she revealed that she won’t answer any of the questions on the Census other than her name and how many people live in her household. FOX News hothead Glenn Beck expressed concerns over losing his right to bear arms if he refused to fill out the Census survey. In September, a Census taker was found hung in a rural Kentucky cemetery with the word “Fed” written on his chest.

All this drama over a series of relatively basic question— state your name, your gender, your age and date of birth, your phone number, type of home (house, apartment, trailer), number of other people living with you, whether you sometimes live somewhere else, your race and whether you’re of Hispanic origin? It’s really not that deep.

But the America of 10 years ago is a vastly different country than the one we live in today. Sure we have a Black president, but that fact pales in comparison to the other monumental changes of the last decade: the  September 11th attacks shook the nation and damaged our sense of safety. Homeland security and anti-privacy laws have infringed on our civil liberties. The country is still struggling with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And anti-immigrant fervor has lead to the building of a 1,951-mile fence along the Mexican border.

It’s no surprise that suspicions surrounding the intentions behind the Census are running high. They’re even higher in the Black and Hispanic communities— but for different reasons. The loudest objections have come from various Hispanic groups that consider participating in the 2010 Census without receiving U.S. citizenship to be a slap in the face. The National Coalition of Latino Clergy & Christian Leaders is urging its claimed membership of 20,000 evangelical churches in 34 states to boycott the Census fearing that names will be turned over to the Immigration and Naturalization Service.