By Mikel Kwaku Osei Holt
I completed my census form this past weekend. But to be honest, I was somewhat disappointed that it wasn’t the comprehensive survey many folks assume it to be.
Instead, it took me a couple of minutes to fill out, and left me, as Speech of Arrested Development says, ‘still hungry.’
Not that I was looking forward to an intrusive federal survey. I’m already paranoid about what the government knows about us. On the flip side, I recognize the census takes a snapshot of America at this time and place in our history; one that sets the stage for federal policies, election patterns and of course, federal resources.
Which means a real opportunity is being missed through via the census. Instead of an in-depth survey of America, the census form I filled out sought only basic information on household sizes, and to a lesser degree, ethnic demographics.
That latter category has generated a national controversy, particularly the manner in which Black Muslims are categorized, and the inclusion of the term ‘Negro’ as one of three categories for Black Americans.
Apparently, many in the Black community find the term ‘Negro’ objectionable.
One sister I ran into at a health food store Friday even lamented she was not going to participate in the census because of the inclusion of the word. Frankly, I’m not that upset by the term, even though I would assume anyone who identifies themselves as Negro, (or Colored for that matter) is either a senior citizen, or someone out of touch with the evolution of Blackness in America. Some Black folks use the term in a disparaging manner, implying the target is out of touch or an “Uncle Tom.”
But as the sister was stating her objections, my mind shifted to the humorous, or surreal thought of what would Black folks’ reaction be if the census folks included the term ‘nigger’ as a category? To be honest, I think there are many Black folks who not only wouldn’t be mad, but also would check that box without hesitancy.
Most folks know I detest the word ‘nigger’, whether you use it as an adjective or a noun. It is forbidden in my household, and if I’m in a bad mood, I might go off on you even if the term is used in a non-offensive manner (if that’s possible).
Use of the adjective/noun ‘nigger’ (and I’m tired of playing that game of substituting the letter ‘n’ for nigger, because we all know what that means) reveals to me someone who is overwhelmed by a slave mentality, ignorant or just plain stupid. It’s a denigrating word, a tool for bigots who were inspired by the Willie Lynch theory to keep us trapped in a mental time warp of inferiority and self-hatred.
I also refuse to buy into the argument that somehow Black people have redefined the word, or that it carries a positive connotation. If that were the case, why are you upset at the White owner of a downtown club for using the term two weeks ago? Folks are talking about boycotting the club because the White owner used a term he frequently hears uttered by Black patrons.
If the adjective/noun doesn’t mean what you say it does, why did the NAACP ‘bury’ the offensive term a few years ago?
If it’s non-offensive or somehow denotes brotherly love, why are so many Black folks up in arms after the Tea Party bigots used the word to describe Black congressmen who voted for the new health care bill?
But back to my original point.
It would greatly benefit us, and the few leaders who identify with being African American, had the census taken the opportunity to undertake a comprehensive survey of Black America. Discovering how many Black people viewed themselves as ‘niggers’ would be very revealing. Among other things, it would explain a great deal about our political, educational and psychological stagnation as a people.
Matter of fact, there’s a few other questions I would have liked to have seen on the census form that could provide insight into why and how the Black freedom train was derailed.
For example, how many times have you voted in the last four years? Do you think voting really makes a difference?
Can you name your city alderman, county supervisor, state representative, or school board member? Has the record number of Black elected officials made a difference?
Along the same lines, are you disappointed, or relieved that our corps of Black pols just can’t seem to get together to advance the Black agenda?
Do you think if they fought as hard for us as they fight against each other, we could get a bigger share of the pie?
By the way, whose fault is it that they refused to work collectively to make sure a few of those stimulus dollars stimulated our community?
What’s your child’s favorite school subject? Who is their teacher? When is the last time you attended a parent/teacher conference? Have your children ever seen you reading something other than the back of the cereal box?
Did you know female children who are apathetic about education have a greater likelihood of getting pregnant?
Have you ever referred to your child as a bitch or bastard? What about an MF, SOB or AH?
Do you believe verbal abuse is sometimes just as bad as physical abuse? Do you think a child so mistreated will grow up to be a well-adjusted, productive citizen?
(This last question grew out of my unsuccessful effort last week to convince MCJ managing editor Kia Green to confront a ‘sista’ who used most of those adjectives while condemning her five or six year old son for not being able to keep up with her walking pace.
Kia and I witnessed the ‘mother’ as she crossed the street in front of the newspaper calling her son everything but a child of God.
I tried to convince Kia to intercede because the last time I did so, I was not only told where to go with my concerns, but also told I had previously engaged in sexual intercourse with the woman’s mother. At least that’s what I thought she was referring to when she called me an MF.)
But back to our census Black/African American/Negro questionnaire.
How many Black people still believe white ice gets colder? In other words, do you think White lawyers are more competent, White banks have stronger vaults, or White plumbers, electricians, carpenters and auto mechanics have bigger tools?
How many Black folks describe themselves as Christians, but only go to church on Easter, can’t tell you what the first book of the bible is, spell prayer ‘p.r.e.y.e.r.’ and couldn’t tell you three of the 10 commandments if their lives depended on it?
For that matter, how many Black Christians treat their fellow man like he’s a leper, watch the Jerry Springer show on a stolen television, and had 28 sex partners before they were 16, yet still think they’re going to heaven?
Do you really think heaven is a crowded place?
Speaking of sex, partners and children…
Is your teenager sexually active? Do you believe it’s immoral to have children out of wedlock?
What percentage of Black households are headed by women? Are Black men becoming mere sperm donors?
Can a woman be a ‘father?’
Does data suggesting a Black child raised in a single parent household has a 75% chance of dropping out of school, 72% chance of having a criminal record, 81% probability of also having a child out of wedlock and a 66% chance of being a Neckbone mean anything to you?
Is it a sin to fornicate outside marriage? Do you think God is always forgiving?
Is marriage, faith, good citizenship, safe sex, abstinence for Black teens, morally uplifting music, appreciation for education, Black nuclear families, communalism and knowing where your child is after curfew (believe it or not, there’s an 11 p.m. curfew for teenagers in Milwaukee) becoming obsolete or on the endangered species list?
Did you see the WTMJ-4 report on the nasty Black restaurant? You know the one with rat droppings in the kitchen? Do you wish you watched the news, or read the paper instead of watching Maury and Vibe? (And no, I’m not going to tell you which restaurant it was, but it wasn’t Manna House or Perkins.)
Are there any Black men and women left who view themselves as true African Americans, descendents of the inventors of math, science, astrology, medicine and democracy?
Does anyone under the age of 50 know of Frederick Douglass, Nate Turner, Denmark Vessey, or Franz Fanon, much less Amenhotep?
Are you so naïve as to believe Martin Luther King, Jr. was the only Black leader, or that the civil rights movement started when Rosa Parks courageously followed the script that sparked the Montgomery bus boycott? Do you still think President Obama is going to sponsor a reparations bill, or that the missionary, poverty pimp organizations (most of which are run by White suburbanites) are going to eliminate poverty, injustice and racism?
Do you think the academic achievement gap is going to close without an overhaul of the public school system, or a threat to the status quo? Or have you bought into the racist theory that Black children are too dumb to learn, that the parents don’t have a role in the education process? Do you believe Black parents are too ignorant to make informed decisions about their children’s educational welfare? If you do, you also probably believe that doubling teachers’ salaries will instantly turn the system around.
Do you know the words to the Negro/Black National Anthem? What about Snoop Doggy Dud’s or 25 Cents latest song?
By now you’re probably thinking my survey focuses solely on the social negatives, and thus no one would fill it out.
That’s true, but there’s a flip side, and a benefit to this seemingly contradictory exercise.
I continue to maintain hope and belief that most Black Americans, including many of the brainwashed, neo-slaves out there, are essentially culturally attuned, good parents, with strong faiths and a resolve to break the chains that have held us in slavery nearly a century and a half after the so-called emancipation proclamation.
I still believe most Black politicians are in office to serve, not to secure their economic futures, or appease their egos. I believe deep inside most African Americans maintain the moral and cultural foundation that defined us through slavery, reconstruction and Jim Crowism. Likewise, all but a few Black Americans have the strength to scale the walls of apartheid, if not tear it down.
But how many fit those characterizations? And how does the current demographics impact our quest for equality? Is the system still the blame, or are we becoming our own worst enemy?
Truth is, many of us need to be pimp slapped into reality. Somehow, we have strayed from the course set by our ancestors and leaders. Just as we came within sight of the Promised Land, we veered off track and instead ended up in the Twilight Zone.
If the census could be used to force us to look in the mirror, don’t be surprised if you see a Negro, or worse, staring back at you.
Why the 2010 Census is Important –
Milwaukee’s Future is in Our Hands
Mayor Tom Barrett and
Common Council President Willie Hines Jr.
By now, every household in Milwaukee should have received a 2010 census form as required by the U. S. Constitution. Our families have completed and returned our forms and we hope your family has too!
For those of you who have, we thank you for fulfilling this important civic duty.
For those of you who have not, it is important that you fill it out and send it back to the Census Bureau by April 1st – Census Day!
We realize that there are some people who are reluctant to participate. If you are asking – Why should I take part? Here are some important facts about the census:
Fact 1: It is completely safe and private. Your response is confidential and is protected by law. Even if you are living here without documentation, you count. No one can check to see if you are a citizen – not the FBI, IRS, immigration, welfare, landlords, police or courts.
Fact 2: It helps fund community services. Hundreds of millions of dollars come into Milwaukee each year based on census data – money for education, housing, child care, health care, job training and more.
Fact 3: An undercount hurts everyone.
For every Milwaukee resident that goes uncounted, we lose $12,000 over a decade.
An undercount of even 1,000 would result in a loss of millions of dollars to our community.
Fact 4: It strengthens our voice in government. A complete count helps ensure equal political representation for Milwaukee in Madison and Washington. In Census 2000, we lost a seat in Congress due to an undercount. We can’t let that happen again.
Fact 5: It protects our civil rights. The Census Bureau collects data on race and ethnicity in order to comply with non-discrimination laws and address racial disparities.
It is used for monitoring and enforcing equal employment opportunities under the Civil Rights Act.
These are compelling reasons why it is important to count everyone in the census, and “not having the time” to fill out your questionnaire is not a good excuse.
The 2010 form is the shortest in history and takes only 10 minutes to complete. It asks 10 simple questions – such as the name, age, gender and race of people in your household.
The individual in whose name the housing unit is rented or owned should complete the form and list every person living there – relatives and non-relatives. That’s it.
Bottom line, the stakes are high and our community has a lot to lose or gain in the 2010 census.
Let’s seize this important opportunity that only comes once every 10 years to build respect, power and influence in our community by achieving a complete count!
For more information, please visit the City’s website www.milwaukee.gov/2010census or call the Census Bureau’s Milwaukee Office at 414-203-3840.
Barrett and Hines joined forces last year to create Milwaukee’s Complete Count Committee consisting of government, business and community leaders dedicated to raising awareness about the 2010 census among all residents.