By Isi Frank Ativie
Completing U.S. Census questionnaires can either be challenging or easy for participants from inner cities. Since African-Americans are currently in the process of filling out their questionnaires on the internet, some of them decided to share their opinions on how they feel about this process.
Chicago resident and business owner Stanley Fleurissaint expressed his thoughts on completing the questionnaire. “I thought it was fine,” Fleurissaint said. “I understand the importance and how it helps the community. Similar to voting, it’s important.”
Some outreach specialists and community leaders in Chicago voluntarily reach out to Black residents who are having issues completing the U.S. Census questionnaires online. They also remind African Americans from predominantly Black neighborhoods to cooperate in this important procedure.
R.A.G.E. (Resident Association of Greater Englewood) Executive Director Asiaha Butler comments on why it’s imperative for the Black community in Chicago to do so. “I know the importance of the census,” Butler said. “Our organization is also doing census education and awareness. So I want to do it just so if people had any issues, I’d would call them and encourage them to do it.”
Neither Fleurissaint nor Butler had any issues while completing the online questionnaires. But both say demographics play a crucial role in online completion. They agree older residents are unfamiliar with technology, or leery of it. “I had a senior who said she knew a little about using the computer but was afraid to complete the questionnaire online. I reassured her she could do it and encouraged her not to wait. She later stopped me at a community meeting and told me ‘It was easy, and quick!’ We both got a kick out of her success.”
Like most African-American participants, Fleurissaint and Butler are seeking to witness more positive and economical changes that will enliven the Black community in America. “I can only speak for myself, but people in general want to see things get tangibly better,” Fleurissaint stated. “It’s not enough to talk about improvement. Actions speak louder than words.”
Some African-Americans lack trust in politicians and believe that these Census questionnaires are completely wasting their time. “It’s just the distrust that we have for the government,” Butler said. “It goes back to what has happened in America over the last 400 years, and being in this system that we’ve been a part of that hasn’t been in our best interest.”
Despite enduring constant oppression, African-Americans continue to pursue hope for socioeconomic modifications from the U.S. government and Census Bureau. According to Fleurissaint, “They want to feel they were involved in the change and betterment of their community.” Butler believes that the Black community wants to be fully educated and attuned by learning about the U.S. Census Bureau, as well as the purpose of taking questionnaires.
“I think people are just doing it for what they know and what they have researched,” Butler said. “Regardless if this system has not been in the best interest of us. I think many of us realize and have seen that if we don’t get counted, we’re going to suffer even more. I think some of us understand that reality, and so that’s why we participate.”
Most African-Americans preferred and completed the census questionnaires online instead of mailing them this year. Inner-city Black communities recommend their fellow residents to fill out online questionnaires. Butler reached out to 300 members from R.A.G.E; 150 of them completed the questionnaires online. The other 150 members were unreachable for Butler or unable to complete the questionnaires online or through mail.
In 2010, over two million Black and African-Americans in Chicago were counted. During that same year 13.4 percent of the African-American and Black population was counted nationally by the U.S. Census Bureau. It was the fifth smallest percentage in the race origin category compared to American Indian, Asian, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander citizens. Over 60-70 percent of the U.S. white population and 18.3 percent of Hispanic and Latino citizens were counted during that year.
The Black community is an example of why it’s important to obtain federal money; they are still hoping to receive a fair share of proper financial and valuable resources (education, healthcare, public services, employment, small business funding etc.).
For those who have not yet completed a questionnaire it’s not too late according to Butler. “I just think this crisis on what’s happening on a federal level and how it trickled down into a local level is really important,” Butler said. “I just hope people will see how important it is to be counted and not look at it as an invasion of privacy. If we don’t rise to the count, we’re going to be left behind.”