Harry Reid isn't the only one in trouble for using the word Negro.
Every 15 or 20 years, self-proclaimed leaders of people living in America whose ancestors originated in sub-Saharan Africa decide that they need a new moniker. "Colored" and "Negro" gave way to "black" which gave way to "African American". Now some people even say African American is racist.
Older people of all races have a hard time keeping up with the memo, so the Census bureau harmlessly included the term "Negro" along with "Black" and "African Am." as different terms for people to check to for what the government officially defines as "a person having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa".
According to 1995 Bureau of Labor Statistics poll, 3% of people "having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa" still identified themselves as Negroes and 1% still identified themselves as "colored".[ A Statistical Analysis Of The CPS Supplement On Race And Ethnic Origin (PDF)] Many of those people no doubt passed away over the last decade and a half, but according to Census spokesman Shelly Lowe, the term—which she agreed was antiquated—was "tested ad nauseam" among the community and they were surprised to find a significant number still identified themselves as Negroes.[ The word 'Negro' on 2010 census form offends some blacks By Bonnie Davis, The Grio, January 5, 2010]
Out of respect for our elders, the Census maintains "Negro".
This harmless gesture to elderly Negroes is causing righteous African Ams to rise up and bemoan how offensive this. David Wilson of the The Grio (whose website banner helpfully informs us means "A storyteller in Western Africa who maintains the oral tradition and history of a village or family," and is a word that we are presumably allowed to use) broke this non-story and appeared on the Rachel Maddow show to discuss it.
When she asked if the term "will turn younger African Americans so much that they won't turn back the forms," He replied "Absolutely...this brings back the memories of Bull Connor, the whites and only negro-only water fountains. A lot of people of my generation will be asking 'what are they getting at here? Where are they trying to go?'" [Video]
According to a Google news search, As of January 7, 68 media outlets picked up on this non-story, dutifully finding angry persons "having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa" to express their outrage.
In an article entitled "Use of word Negro on 2010 census forms raises memories of Jim Crow," the New York Daily News quotes various people all making the same point about the terrible past oppression this conjures up, "If you look back in the day when Jackie Robinson was playing, it was called the Negro Leagues" one replied. Another said, "I don't think my ancestors would appreciate it in 2010, I don't want my grandchildren being called Negroes." Of course, his ancestors did not find the term offensive at all. It was never meant to be a slur, it's just the word that was used.
And The Grio's Wilson acknowledged that there was a generation gap among his readership where the elderly had no problem with "Negro". But of course old folks are the only ones who actually have memories of Jim Crow and Bull Connor—not young people of his generation.
What is at the root of the constant name changing for people "having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa"? I believe there are three factors
As of yet, I haven't heard anyone demanding that we reprint the census forms. But I'm sure it will come soon enough.
As it happens, there is another reason to reprint the forms. Currently, there are no questions asked in the census about the citizenship, much less the legality, of the census respondents. In fact the census is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to make sure non-citizens and even illegal aliens fill out the forms.
Sen. David Vitter introduced a common sense Amendment to add these questions. (See my column The Vitter-Bennett Census Amendment—Count Citizens, Stop Swamping America!)Democrats voted 60-39 to keep it from the floor (few wanted to go on record openly opposing it.) Probably the biggest objection opponents pointed to was the cost.
Senator Mary Landrieu said it would cost a billion dollars to reprint the forms. Arch Treason Lobbyist Frank Sharry, [Email him] now of America's Voice, said it was "billions upon billions". Others said it was "incalculable."
Absurd, of course. The Census prints approximately 400 million census forms, which are 3 double sided two tone pages. This would put it at a cost of $2.50 a form. I've had to make a couple thousand of similar items at my local printer at a cost of about 10 cents each. I'm sure there would be a bit of break if I had my own equipment and was printing 400 million copies.
More importantly Census figures are used for both Congressional apportionment and divvying up hundreds of billions of dollars in government funds. Counting illegal aliens and non citizens will take billions of tax dollars from American citizens and give them to illegals, and will give undue political power to Hispanic districts who will in turn vote for big government Democrats who support amnesty and other government programs that will cost the taxpayers trillions.
But now we have a much more important reason to reprint the census forms than saving hundreds of billions of dollars and stopping the disenfranchisement of American citizens: The feelings of people "having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa".
Maybe it will cost a billion dollars to reprint the forms. Given how the Obama administration bought 760,000 pounds of canned ham in stimulus money to give to food banks when you could buy a single pound for $0.79 at Food Lion, I wouldn't put it past the government to be that inefficient.
But we must all agree that one billion dollars is a small price to pay to help erase the terrible memories of segregation for people born 20 years after it ended.
And as long as we are making those changes, we can add the question about citizenship and legal status.
It won't cost a penny!
"Washington Watcher" [email him] is an anonymous source Inside The Beltway.