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Census outcome vital to the Black community

Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Chicago Defender
by Wendell Huston

If you’re not counted in the 2010 Census, it could come back to hurt you.

Historically, Blacks have been under reported by the Census so Black communities are hurt by the shortage, said Arnold Jackson, chief operating officer for the U.S. Census, which is scheduled for April 1, 2010.

“We estimate that 600,000 Blacks were not counted in the 2000 Census,” Jackson told the Defender. “However, the 2000 Census did record 33.5 million Blacks.”

Local leaders are already calling on people to be counted in the Census.

“It is our goal that each one of the 5.4 million residents of Cook County accept this call to action and be counted by filling out the Census questionnaire,” Cook County Board President Todd Stroger said at a May 27 press conference where he kicked off Cook County Complete Count. The campaign encourages county residents to participate in the census.

Jackson cites cultural reasons for some Blacks not participating in the census.

“When you look at how Blacks historically have struggled, you begin to understand why participating in the census every 10 years iS not a priority for them,” Jackson explained.

Another reason for the low count of Blacks is due to how some Blacks identify themselves .

“You have some Blacks who do not consider themselves African-American so they do not check that box on the census form,” Jackson said.

The target this year is the same as last year and that’s to reach everyone, especially those who go unaccounted, Jackson explained.

To achieve this goal, Jackson said the census plans to spend $85 million in ethnic advertising and to establish partnerships with religious groups and organizations to reach more Black households.

“Historically Blacks have not had a good relationship with the federal government and therefore do not trust them so they keep to themselves,” said Harold Lucus, president of Black Metropolis Tourism Center, a non-profit community organization in Bronzeville.

Next year’s Census determines a wide range of community services, especially for poor areas, which often depend on government services. At least $300 million in federal dollars will be disbursed to the Black community based upon census results.

Additionally, Lucus added that some Blacks are involved in underground economies and do not want their assets known.

Some do not report all household income for fear that government services such as welfare, disability or even unemployment benefits may be reduced or discontinued.

“I am currently receiving disability, but my boyfriend recently moved in with me after he lost his job. He is working temporary jobs for the time being but if the Social Security office knew I had another household income, they might try to reduce my check,” said Tracey, 31, who asked that her last name not be used to protect her identity.

But Dorothy Brown, Clerk of the Cook County Circuit Court, disagrees with Blacks who do not participate in the census for fear of losing government assistance they may be collecting illegally.

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