Black Californians Count

Zaneta J Smith
Aug 6, 2018 · 3 min read

The decennial population count known as the Census has begun its preparation. In yet another reminder of the importance of civic engagement, California and the Federal Government are preparing for the population count. The count is important for national and state monies as well as political representation. To the African American community, the count means much more. As a community that began its journey in this country as 3/5 of a person, African Americans are particularly interested in full and fair accounting of our humanity.

California’s Census activity is directed by the State Legislature, executive departments under the control of the Governor, a State Commission, Counties, and Cities. The California Commission for a Complete Count stands as a leading voice for building the focus for an accurate count. The focus of the Commission, a balanced and diverse body of professionals, is for an accurate count of California residents through filling out the Census document.

The major areas where undercounts occur are the aptly titled “Hard-To-Count” (HTC) communities of California. HTCs are typically geographically remote, socially isolated, and of limited economic means. These areas are often ignored by government and the private sector. The Census is an opportunity for civic institutions to remake their commitment to HTCs.

Los Angeles, the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area (anchored by Oakland), Sacramento, the Inland Empire, the San Joaquin Central Valley (anchored by Stockton and Fresno), and San Diego are the centers of African American life in California. Each of these areas also happen to be anchors of HTCs.

Reaching into communities struggling to secure quality housing, healthcare access, educational opportunity, employment, business development, and a better future is no easy task. The apparatus of government must and can impact the count through effective public service, advocacy for the oppressed, and a strategic plan to meet the goal.

California can do it. This state can utilize the movement for open data that has accelerated since 2010 to apply universal technology to the Census count. Mobile phones, social media, electronic mail, and person to person contact informed by smart devices will improve the count. The machinery of 2018 is well applied to human interaction. The State of California itself, by increasing healthcare access, has a better sense of population management than at any other time in history.

California can do it. This state can maximize its partnerships with organizations that serve as the shadow government in HTCs with few direct governmental resources. Counties and Cities are also important parts of this concept as they are the levels of government closest to the people. Policy research, advocacy, and direct service organizations combine to lead the way on issues of the African American community and will enfranchise the voiceless with close partnerships with the state.

California can do it. This state’s residents are the vital resource that will make the greatest difference in the Census. We are a many, over 40 million. We are mighty, highly diverse. We are positioned to show the entire country how to count well, correctly, and inclusively. Citizenship tests will not deter an accurate count, political opportunism will not deter an accurate count, and apathy will not deter an accurate count. The African diaspora in California, some two million strong, are going to show the way to the Golden State’s leadership on a complete count. We will do this because we believe a full accounting makes all the difference in a healthy democracy.

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