An opportunity for reflection
12:00 AM Jan 18, 2010
Best wishes from the NALEO Educational Fund as our nation commemorates Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
A number of our 2010 Census partner organizations, including the NAACP and the National Urban League, are using this important date to launch their outreach efforts to promote awareness and participation in the 2010 Census among the African American community. Such an action could not be more appropriate. The 2010 Census is the civil rights urgency of the moment.
Many people are aware that the Census is fundamental to our form of representative government and for the equitable distribution of public resources, and thus cuts to the core of fairness and equality. The first step toward ensuring that all Americans are fairly represented in the U.S. House of Representatives and the 50 state legislatures is making sure that the numbers used for reapportionment are accurate. Every year over the next decade, some $440 billion will be distributed from the federal government to states and localities for basic services and often for programs intended to help the most vulnerable of our society. Every dollar counts, and every person missed represents up to $15,000 lost to that person’s community for such programs.
A third and critical use of the 2010 Census data is often overlooked: the enforcement of our civil rights laws. In order to measure disparate treatment of certain population groups, such as discrimination in hiring or in housing, baseline data are needed and those numbers come from the Census. The very first use of the 2010 Census data for civil rights enforcement will be in 2011 when Congressional and state legislative lines are redrawn. The only way to show that these lines are drawn to comply with the federal Voting Rights Act and do not unfairly discriminate against Latinos, African Americans and other protected groups is by using Census data. Data that are inaccurate because Latinos and others are again undercounted will undermine the enforcement of our voting rights, perhaps the most treasured of our civil rights.
As we celebrate the memory and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., let’s commit ourselves to ensuring a complete Census Count in April 2010. Our civil rights depend on it.
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