I, Negro

I’m on a particular listserv that sends me racial outrages. The most recent I got today about the census. Did you know some census forms went out with the word “Negro” on them? Yes, they did. In the twenty-first century, this is the language the United States Census would choose to use.

So of course the first thing I did was rip open my languishing census form to see if I had a winner! Winner, winner, chicken dinner.

Negro census form

Cold-blooded, and yet, so hilarious.

For the record, “Some other race,” where the person can enter whatever they feel best describes themselves, could also be taken as a disdainful statement. But “Negro”? I don’t know anyone who wants to be called that. That right there will get you cut in the face by someone who knows ka-razor.

Yes, the census can say that it was too expensive to print new forms, or people can say other people are too sensitive. But people are full of bullshit.

Everyone comes from a place of knowing, it’s true. From a place of perspective, I mean. You come from your own experiences. But when you have a task such as this, reaching out to everyone in the goddamned United States and asking them to help you by naming themselves and their own racial and ethnic heritage, you fucking better be sensitive to where they come from if you want to get the task done. You wouldn’t call people with less education that you “uneducated.” Or people who have more children than you “irresponsible.” Even if that’s what you think. You need people’s help. So ask them what they call themselves first, and then print the fucking card. Is is that hard?

Don’t call people hillbillies, or white trash, or hoodrats, or negroes, or wetbacks, or krauts, or pollacks, or heebs, anything else that’s a racial slur on the census form. Unless you’re trying to make people like Seer and her friends happy. And racists happy, too. They get real satisfied, because they feel their views are legitimized. Oh, and if you’re trying to get racial listservs to blow the fuck up, mission accomplished.

In the meantime, though, I am getting a lot of smiles and snickers out of it, so there’s that.

For reals for reals, about four years ago someone I met on a plane, someone from Arizona, a woman of about forty asked me if the right word for Black folks was “colored.” Maybe it was on the last census.

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4 comments

  1. subWOW

    There were a lot of outcrys, talk of boycotting, and debates in January when it was revealed. Here’s the Census Bureau’s explanation:

    http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2010/01/slap_in_the_face_word_negro_ap.html

    When engaged in a “debate” on Twitter over this matter, Professor Melissa Harris-Lacewell pointed out that the very practical purpose of the census is to find out how to fairly distribute the $400 billion in federal funding, it is more important to make sure that everybody in the community is counted to ensure funding is properly distributed.

    Please note that by pointing this out, I am not condoning the use of the word “Negro” when referring to African Americans.

    Regarding the woman who asked that question, perhaps she is a huge supporter of NAACP, and therefore the term got stuck with her. (Ok, this is said with oozing sarcasm I hope it comes through…)

    • Seer McRicketts-McGee

      Maybe she was! I hadn’t thought of that. It was so surreal. She was all naive and innocent about it. I wasn’t even offended, just baffled. She had an eleven-year-old son, so I thought she must have been exposed to rap music and shit.

      It went down a little like this:

    • Seer McRicketts-McGee

      What really intrigued me in that article you linked to (thanks!) were the comments. Paraphrased.
      Black people get automatic entrance to any university! was especially interesting. I wasn’t aware that I’d get in anywhere I applied, and neither are the schools I applied to.
      Only one group complains about the way they are described! This is a complaint.
      I am offended by the term white. I am a light peach color. I am being sarcastic. People need to get over it. Um, are you over it? Doesn’t sound like it.

      So strange, the lack of compassion and refusal to come from a place of understanding. I don’t get where this resentment comes from. Re-sent-ment, to send again and again. Ruminate, to chew the cud of the thing, like a cow, to vomit up the hurt and hold it in the mouth over and over again. So many people do this, and then push it over on The Other, on The Subaltern. It’s easier that way.

  2. Pingback: Tweets that mention I, Negro « Occipital Hazard -- Topsy.com

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