Racism a potential problem on 2010 Census

New to this year’s Census is the addition of “Negro” under the race classification.

“I don’t know what black person identifies themself as a Negro,” said Juquatta Brewer, a junior studying psychology. “No one that I know of.”

Her friend Kiara Dowdell, a freshman in pre-nursing, added that the term is “degrading.”

In the 2010 Census, the question asking for racial identification lists “Black, African Am., or Negro” as one of the 15 options.

OU History Professor De Witt Dykes said he had no problem checking that box, though he circled “African Am.” to indicate his personal preference.

But he said if there are people that want to self-identify as Negro, they should feel free to put that.

“If there are persons that want to use that term, I don’t see any problems with it, personally,” Dykes said.

Evelyn MacAuley, a sophomore studying psychology, said it’s an attempt to be politically correct. “They’ve got three options, I’ve only got one?”

She said she doesn’t view it as a controversy.

“I don’t know. I don’t see why people would have a problem with it. It’s all the same,” MacAuley, who labels herself white, said.

Dykes said the three terms have gone in and out of fashion for centuries.

Though African American is the preferred formal term today, he said its use was discouraged by leaders of the black community in the 1830s after the American Colonization Society began raising money to send slaves to Africa.

In the 1920s, Dykes said, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People started campaigning to have the word Negro capitalized.

He said The New York Times later promised to always capitalize Negro when using it in print because it represented both a race and a culture.

But then during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, he said the Nation of Islam began denouncing the word Negro, labeling it a slave term. Dykes said from 1968 to 1972, a newspaper poll found that a majority of Michigan residents went from preferring Negro to black.

Then in 1989, Rev. Jesse Jackson and other black leaders labeled African American as the preferred term.

Overall, Dykes said he believes that we “should choose who we are.”

Nicole Phibbs, a senior nursing major, said she’d be checking the box for “White,” but said she isn’t sure what she would do if she identified as either black or African American and didn’t like the term Negro. “You’re still associating with that group” by checking that box, Phibbs said.

“I think we need less classification amongst people,” said Jeffrey Quesnelle, a sophomore in computer science who identifies as white. “Seems sad to me that people are wrapped up in one color or another. We’re all American.”

Brian Fairbrother, a sophomore studying finance, said he doesn’t know why people care so much. To him, there’s a bigger issue: the cost of conducting the Census.

“I wish we wouldn’t have spent so much money on this,” said Fairbrother, citing all the television ads he’s seen for this year’s Census, including one during the Super Bowl.

Census Bureau Director Robert Groves issued an informal apology on March 26 on C-SPAN for use of the term and said Negro would likely not be on the 2020 census.

Jesseca Williams, a freshman journalism student, said the Census should’ve stayed the way it was and that she doesn’t like the word.

“At the same time, Negro in Spanish is ‘black,'” Williams said.