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.
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.