ID Crisis

I knew it wouldn’t be long before some ish started up and I’m not referring to the devastating earthquake in Haiti. Let’s discuss the use of ‘Negro’ as a race moniker on the Census. Folks have been in an uproar about how offensive it is, asking how dare they still use ‘Negro’ in 2010? Here are some responses…

From The Grio:

“I find the word ‘Negro’ to be quite offensive when it comes to the census and separating and differentiating among races because of the history of the use of the word,” said Taryn Anthony, a 25-year old graduate student. “I’ve yet to hear someone use it in a respectable manner, so placing it on a census seems as yet another way to set back African-Americans.”

“Well, if the census form authors are going to go so far as to includen archaic term ‘Negro,’ why not put ‘Colored’ on there … just in case someone hadn’t graduated from that word usage,” said Patrick Riley, a New York-based television producer.

Pat, you spoke too soon. Someone else agrees with you, but he’s serious.

From today’s The article, “Forget ‘Negro’! Let’s Go Back to ‘Colored’ , writer Harry Reid suggests we go back to identifying ourselves as ‘Colored’.

“If we’re speaking truthfully, I’m brown, but for whatever reason, that descriptor was given to Latinos. I don’t begrudge anyone that decision, but I find it difficult to agree to being called black, because I’m not. I’m also not sure I have any more right to the term “African American” than that white med student from Mozambique. What I do know is that my skin is not white, it’s colored, just like Michelle Obama’s and Quincy Jones’ and Tavis Smiley’s and Sidney Poitier’s and, perhaps, yours.”

Honestly, I agree with that small bit of Reid’s argument. My skin is not actually BLACK. Even the darkest person of color’s skin isn’t either. Who decided to call us BLACK? I do refer to myself as black and don’t find it offensive, but my skin color is not BLACK. We’re called African-Americans. Why? I’m not from Africa (no shade to Africans). I have the utmost respect for my roots, but I was born and raised here on American soil. Whites don’t call themselves ‘European-Americans’ (because they think they own this land, but they don’t. Just my thoughts.) so why do we have to be AFRICAN-Americans? ON n the other hand, ‘colored’ sounds so early Reconstruction to me. I would never answer to that. Blame the Keep Your Eyes On the Prize documentary.

Another argument for the use of ‘Negro’ is to defy ageism. Perhaps it’s included because some of the older generation (pre-Baby Boom) still think of themselves as Negroes. (My grandmother is 82 and I have never heard her use ‘Negro’ or ‘colored.’ ) For this very reason, the Census, which has used the term since in 1950, will drop it for the 2010 year–as a test.

According to, “A test embedded in the 2010 Census will measure the effect of removing the term ‘Negro’ on reports about a person’s racial identity.  The results will be used to inform design changes for future surveys and the 2020 Census. In the 2000 Census, more than 50,000 persons chose to write down explicitly that they identified themselves as ‘Negro.’ ”

The Black Population: Census 2000 Brief reports that the question of race included15 separate response categories and 3 areas where respondents could write in a more specific race.

To a degree, I agree with the avoiding ageism reasoning. Some people, unfortunately are stuck in the past and still use old terms. I hope thought, that it was more about inclusion of ages, bridging the generational gap and the use of an outdated term, as opposed to intentionally offending  or “setting back” millions of Blacks, er, African-Americans. I’m not sure though, that 50,000 people are enough to carry weight to keep ‘Negro’ on the questionnaire, especially when 34.6 million Black people were reported in 2000.

Considering all of that, Census, you need a few more people. Just be honest and say that ‘Negro’ has been there for exactly 60 years and no one’s kicked up dust about it that was newsworthy until now. Say that Black folks don’t usually even take part in the Census so it’s doesn’t matter much. Say those things, instead of saying a teeny, tiny amount of people still call themselves ‘Negro.’

Do I mind ‘Negro’ being on the Census? Not really. Anything is better than my co-worker telling me Amy Whinehouse looks like she has some “Afro-American” in her. Her weak excuse for using such an outdated term (that never made sense in the first place. Everyone didn’t wear an afro.) was there were so many names for us, she just gets confused. Bullshit. Major cop-out.

It could be that the Census is copping out, too, but how would they know what to include as a self-identifying term? Hell, we haven’t even dealt with the task of assigning a definitive word to describe who we are and now, it’s impossible, hence the million places to “write-in.” I most definitely will be not answering to or standing by while someone says, “You know, Alisha–that young Negro girl.” I have a choice in what box I check or what I write in the ‘Other’ space.

My challenge to those who complain about ‘Negro’ is this: Rather than dismiss participating, take the Census and check your race off as what you consider appropriate. Whatever “not ‘Negro” is. Maybe then, we won’t see it on Census 2020.

Only you define who you are.


3 thoughts on “ID Crisis

  1. Missed u in D.C. This was the topic of discussion last night around the table. I vote for a whole new name. Haven’t gotten as far as what that name will be, but if others get to be called Caucasian (where ever that came from), then we should get a name of our choice, not NAMES that have been given to us out of hate. Hell, and for the record, everyone is colored. I don’t know of any clear people (well, maybe a few… Lol) but seriously, no I don’t. Even white people are peach-ish. Yet they identify with white, which, by definition, means pure, perfect, and all of that jazz, meanwhile, black is synonymous with all things dark, evil, bad, etc. I wonder why?? I’m none of those things, except dark in terms of skin; however, when I place a brown crayon next to my skin, I match it perfectly. How about that. I’m Brown. I guess that’s what I’ll place on the Census, I don’t know. ‘But what I do know is, I’m gonna continue to be referred to as African American; then European American, German American, Italian American, etc, needs to be added as a choice for races. ‘And the only group that gets to rep American ONLY in terms of ethnicity should be Indians, as in Navajo, Cherokee, etc. Let’s set the record REALLY straight, if that’s where we’re going. And I’m sure that’s not gonna happen, so I’ll just do my part and complete the census and encourage my peers and family to do the same.

  2. Missed y’all, too. I may consider working for the Census. I would live to be there to hear commentary, if any, about the race questions. I agree with coining another term, but it would difficult. I didn’t evn mention the supposed new term—Post-black. To say ‘I don’t get it’ is an understatement.

  3. Amy Whinehouse looks like she has some “Afro-American” in her. Her weak excuse for using such an outdated term (that never made sense in the first place. Everyone didn’t wear an afro.)

    The term Afro has nothing to do with the hair style, indeed the hairstyle comes from the true meaning of the word – African. Negroes here (in Britain) are officially classed as Afro-Caribbean, so your friend was quite correct (it is just the same as African-American). You shouldn’t have been so upset with your friend, if we can’t even name ourselves, how do we expect others to know the correct term.

    In Britain we have been through many of the same changes (Negroes > Coloureds > Blacks > Afro-Caribbean), none of them fit right but the first one.

    The first emancipated slaves named themselves Negroes, and set up societies with those names. Why should we worry about names when our ancestors already chose them, yet we decided to re-invent our own?

    I am a Negro and proud.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s