NAACP Supports Use of ‘Negro’ on Census Forums
The push to get all Floridians to fill out the U.S. Census forms trumps all other considerations including antiquated racial terms and who runs marketing efforts, the Florida NAACP Florida Chapter President told reporters Wednesday.
Calling it a term recognizable to many, though not part of contemporary lexicon, Adora Obi Nweze defended the use of "negro" as an ethnicity category in the U.S. Census form. The term's inclusion has come under fire from critics who say it is derogatory and a throwback to an era of segregation.
Nweze also said the advocacy group would do all it could to encourage black respondents to participate in the once a decade survey despite sympathizing with a lawsuit filed last week challenging the award of a minority outreach contract to a white-owned firm.
Nweze made both comments as she appeared with Gov. Charlie Crist to promote widespread participation in the once-a-decade count, which plays a critical role in determining the distribution of federal funds.
The term "negro" is among a laundry list of descriptions on the form. Others categories include "Black" and "African American." Census officials say they included the term because more than 56,000 respondents in 2000 wrote in the term on the 2000 Census. Including the category makes the forms faster to count.
"Some people are always going to object," Nweze said. "I think people will mark it if they are comfortable with it. If not, they will put in what they want to be called. "
The NAACP leader also said the group will again spearhead efforts to boost compliance, among both black and Hispanic residents.
Last week, black-owned communications firms sued Crist to block the award of a $420,000 contract with Moore/Ketchum Partnership to provide outreach efforts in the black community, saying the award reflects "lingering aspects of discrimination."
The firms said white-owned companies appear to have been favored in the award since Moore/Ketchum "lacked the plaintiff's vast depth and varied experiences with respect to service and outreach to the targeted communities." The Florida Black Chamber of Commerce also is part of the lawsuit.
A Moore/Ketchum affiliate in the minority-reachout effort, black-owned ESP Media Corp., is led by lobbyist Sean Pittman. But those suing said it was unfair that a minority company was not chosen as a prime contractor.
Terrie Ard, with Tallahassee's Moore Consulting Group, said ESP Media is expected to complete 85 percent of the awareness campaign aimed at black Floridians. The firms combined in submitting the winning bid in a pair of categories focused on assuring that black Floridians are accurately counted in this year's census, she said.
Asked about the contract, Nweze said the two issues are separate and distinct. The lawsuit will work its way through the courts, the immediate concern is making the count accurate and efficient.
"We would hope that always diversity would be the top order of the day, but whether it is or not does not stop our responsibility," Nweze told reporters