Findings, music, and occasional reflections by Paul Woodward

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Trump is resurrecting the census’s horrific history

Karen Bass and Stacey Abrams write:

To tell the story of America, we must see who lives within her borders. The census is the constitutionally protected tool wielded every 10 years to take stock, assess the accuracy of our national narrative, and ensure a fair and equitable distribution of political power and money to the places where people live. The mandatory decennial count is laid out in the founding documents of our nation. Over time, we have bettered its process from its original horrific approach. For nearly a century, for every five black Americans, only three were included in the count — the despicable Three-Fifths Compromise built on the assumption that each Black person was subhuman, three-fifths of one. After the Civil War, the 14th Amendment eliminated this practice and, now, the Constitution guarantees an enumeration of “whole” persons.

Unfortunately, in 2020, a century and a half later, the current president is regressing toward that more dishonorable history. His recent executive action to exclude undocumented people from the census holds terrible echoes of erasure and exclusion. The memo is clearly a repeat of his previous efforts to stoke fear of immigrants, refugees and communities of color and to distort the true picture of America. Along with this fear tactic, the Trump administration is stealthily trying to end the 2020 Census early, without accurately counting Black, Latino or Native American communities, whose response rates currently trail the national average. Asian and Pacific Islander communities are also at risk of being undercounted. Worse, the Trump administration wants to use the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to use a flawed statistical tool that will cement the erasure of these populations.

The consequences of that erasure will be dire. Every 10 years, the census count is used to allocate federal funds and to reallocate political power through reapportionment and redistricting. At stake is the annual distribution of $1.5 trillion for everything from schools to health care to the roads and bridges we drive on.

Undercounted communities will get less than their real need. This will be particularly felt in communities of color which have been disproportionately ravaged by covid-19. Make no mistake, the ramifications will be felt nationwide as it would guarantee a crippled systematic response that would underfund schools, hospitals and disaster recovery for years. If the administration’s ploy works, and the undocumented as well as their mixed-documentation status families are silent, this would drain billions annually from states such as California, Texas, Florida and Georgia, just to name a few. [Continue reading…]

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