Danette Mitchell: ‘Counting Black California’: Why every count matters so much

October 21 2019

Danette Mitchell: ‘Counting Black California’: Why every count matters so much


July 28, 2019 at 6:00 am

The United States already owes black Americans reparations. Therefore, the community shouldn’t lose any more dollars, resources, and critical programs because of not participating in or being undercounted in the 2020 U.S. Census.

On April 1, all individuals living in the United States will be required to complete a Census survey in the 2020 Census.

Recently, I participated in a conference call that discussed a report, “Counting Black California.” The purpose of the report was to identify black neighborhoods that can be deemed Hard To Count (HTC), and provide the data to groups and organizations that are focusing on increasing black participation and explaining the process.

Regina Wilson, executive director of California Black Media, which commissioned the “Counting Black California” report, said: “We approached this project thinking which data will be most useful to our network and partners when they are creating content to get the word out about the 2020 Census?”

Walter Scott Hawkins, a senior research associate at New Hawk, a Southern California-based data collection firm was also on the call. He conducted the research and said, “Now editors and journalists can look at a specific neighborhood or even a region, maybe, and find out who lives there, and where, and how difficult that place would be for census workers to count.

Then, build a relevant informational campaign based on that knowledge.”

The “Counting Black California” report offers a county-by-county breakdown of demographic details and other data, including inflows of federal dollars into California and how many blacks in the state are foreign-born. The report also indicates that more than one in three blacks live in hard-to-count census tracts.

Solano County makes up 10 of the top counties in California with large black populations. The black population in the Top 10 counties numbers 1.9 million, which is 84 percent, with Los Angeles County being the highest. Also, the report revealed that many families are increasingly facing eviction. Therefore, African Americans who are miscounted stretch thin programs like Head Start, Food and Nutrition, SNAP, and Medicaid.

The report “arms us with everything we need to know to run a strong Census 2020 education campaign,” said Wilson. “It gives us actionable data that allows us to effectively follow-through, check how well we’re doing and change course if we need to.”

Counting Black California pointed out that the 2010 Census undercounted African Americans by more than 800,000. The Census also overlooked black children and black men in more significant numbers than men of any other racial or ethnic group.

Steps have been taken by other organizations to ensure that African Americans are counted in the 2020 Census and see the relevance. The Color of Change, for example, has developed a “Your Voice” platform that allows individuals to record a video, explaining the importance of black people to complete the census survey, answering all questions.

The Census remains vital to all Americans and their community. Local elected officials use the data to plan for services we rely upon every day. Businesses decide whether to build in a city. Real estate developers and city planners use the information to plan housing and redevelopment projects. Moreover, residents in a community can use census data to advocate for and support various initiatives and programs.

Federal funding for programs such as SNAP, health care, and Medicaid depend on census data.

After each census, increases or decreases in population determine congressional districts in a state that affect congressional representation and state electoral votes. District lines are redrawn based on census data that can present issues with partisan influence and unfair districts through gerrymandering, according to the Census Bureau.

However, each person must be counted to render an accurate number and provide resources. The efforts of “Counting Black California,” researchers and other organizations are taking steps to ensure that the 2020 Census includes undercounted communities.

— The author is a social issues advocate, writer and a Vacaville resident. E-mail: damitchell@earthlink.net.