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The Census: It Is What It Is


It is what it is – but it shouldn’t be!

Next week, my crew and I will be on the road for three weeks straight, going from city to city raising awareness for the all-important 2010 Census. The message is clear and simple – so clear and simple, I’m surprised we have to hit it so hard, but that’s what the TJMS and BlackAmericaWeb are here for.

We need to be counted. If we aren’t properly represented, it will have an impact on how much money is allocated to our schools, parks, recreational centers, senior facilities and all kinds of services that benefit our community.

Now, that being said, let me switch reels for a moment to another road trip of sorts I was on a little over a week ago in Haiti.

My crew and I witnessed firsthand a country rocked to its core by a massive earthquake. Millions of survivors there are lacking the very basics, such as clean drinking water and housing. Their schools have been closed, their roads destroyed, and everything from mail to medical services barely are operating.

A lot of it was due to the earthquake, but even before this tragedy struck, Haiti was in dismal shape.

Can you imagine what the Haitian people would think if they knew that in this country, I am traveling for three weeks to practically beg people to fill out a form that would help them improve their living conditions? In reality, African-Americans should be lining up to fill out Census forms like Haitans were lined up to receive food and water after the earthquake.

Like voter registration drives, the Census awareness drive is something that people in countries who must fight and sometimes die for basic rights will probably never comprehend.

Even in our worst conditions, most of us are better off than our brothers and sisters in Third World countries.

We have a system that – while not perfect by any stretch – provides and almost guarantees that certain basic needs are met. We have clean water; we have paved roads; we have roofs over our heads. Of course, there are exceptions, but generally speaking, we at least expect to always have access to things. Many of us don’t even realize it’s even possible to live without electricity, heat, gas and shelter. A week-long power outage is a major disaster in this country, and, for some, even a week without air conditioning is unthinkable.

My point is this: While it is, on some levels, ridiculous to have to find ways to encourage our people to vote and participate in the Census, to quote a much over-used expression, it is what it is.

In the last Census a decade ago, reportedly a million African-Americans/Blacks/Negroes were not counted, for a variety of reasons. I have to go along with J. on this one: Since they know that, why not just spot us a million in this Census, and we’ll be in good shape? Of course, it doesn’t work like that. There ought to be an easier, more accurate way to find and count everyone, but this is the way we’re doing it. When we run a country, we can come up with our own system.

I know – “It’s mighty funny that they can find us when we owe money!” – right? Right, I hear you. I’ll even entertain the fact for a moment that they don’t really WANT to count all of us because there’s power in numbers. You know I’ll work with a conspiracy theory any day of the week. But I still filled out my Census form. And I want you to do the same.

And as you take the 10 minutes to fill your forms, take an extra moment and to think about those who would give anything for the possibility of having what our government does provide for us. Be thankful for a president and people like him who can afford the best health care out there for their own families, but won’t rest until it’s available for everyone.

I wish every Census form came with a photo of the homemade tents some Haitian families are living in that won’t hold up once the rainy season starts any day now. I wish everyone who has decided they couldn’t take 10 minutes to do something that will help not only them, but their whole village, would for a second put themselves in the place of a Haitian child who doesn’t have a school to attend.

I’m not so naïve to think that there aren’t communities in our country that are in dire need of help and may never see much change. in spite of a little more funding. I get that. I also get that when New Orleans was hit by Hurricane Katrina, our government did a poor job coming to the rescue and, later, doing what it could to restore the black community. Like I said, our system is far from perfect.

But we have a president now that gets it, too. Instead of looking back, let’s look forward and be hopeful that things can be different. Let’s give him – and our government – the benefit of the doubt and at the very least provide what it needs to do a better job in our communities. Fill out your Census forms, Negroes. (Just kidding.)

I’ll see you on the road.