Should 'Negro' be option on 2010 census?

By Layron Livingston - bio | email
Posted by Ellen Krafve - bio | email

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - It is not even in the mail yet, but the 2010 census is already stirring up controversy. The word 'Negro' will re-appear on the official government form later this spring.

East Texans did not mince words about the government's choice of words.

"[It is] kind of degrading," said Wanda Scott, a Chapel Hill resident.

"I think it's very inappropriate," said Christopher Bates.

Question #9 on Census 2010 asks, what's your race?  Black, African-American, or Negro are all listed to the right of one of the check-boxes on the same line.  It took some by surprise.

"The word 'Negro' is just so close to that 'n-word' that we do not utilize," said Scott.

Some said the word harks back to a more bitter time in our nation's past, when 'Jim Crow' and racial segregation were widely accepted.

"We've come so far from that," said Jacqueline Price.  "We went from 'colored' to 'Negro.' They don't call our president, a Negro.  The president is African-American."

In a statement, the U.S. Census Bureau said including the term was actually meant to be inclusive.  The Bureau reports more than 56,000 people wrote in 'Negro' in Census 2000, even though the word was listed beneath the question.

Tom Edwards, a spokesperson with the Census Bureau said the agency strives to give everybody an opportunity to identify themselves.

"Sociologists have said for a long time that race is a very confused, troubled, rotten category," said Allen Martin, a professor of sociology with the University of Texas at Tyler.

Martin said terms come and go, often because of politics.  He said racial boundaries are blurring, society is changing, and so is what society deems as 'acceptable.'

"'Negro' is a term that I think will be extinct in 2020," he said.  "What census is it going to be when we say, 'Oh, forget this race stuff?'"

Michael Byars said his father is African-American and his mother is South Korean.

"I would tell them, Afro-Amer-Asian," he said.  "Since it's not on there, I would opt out of the question."

Scott said she'd probably leave the question blank.

"There may be other surprises, other things on there we didn't expect to see," said Price.

The Congressional Management and Budget Office approved the census language, which should begin arriving in March.

The Census Bureau said this year's responses will help them in deciding whether the term stays or goes for Census 2020.

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