The Coronavirus pandemic is impacting every aspect of our society and exposing deep, systemic inequalities that we know will cause Black communities to be harder hit than most. As the news changes minute-to-minute, BET and Color Of Change are teaming up to make sure Black people have the clear and focused information we need to get help, take action and support the hardest hit in our communities.
We know you’ve been hearing a lot about filling out your Census information, but in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, it’s hard to put energy into filling out a form, whether by hand or by logging online to complete all of that information.
I’m here to tell you, there is a direct connection between the coronavirus and the Census and your participation can make all the difference. From the under-resourced or non-existent hospitals in our communities to food deserts to the thousands of Black people who don’t even have homes to shelter in, Black communities were left out of emergency preparations before the emergency even began. And this isn’t the first time.
Crises tend to highlight the ways our government has neglected Black people. In 2005 when Hurricane Katrina hit, no one was nervous about disappointing Black people. Color of Change was founded in that moment, to harness the power of people using the internet to hold the powerful accountable to Black people after the crises.
In 2005 and today, the inequities experienced by our communities are not poor unfortunate circumstances; they’re manufactured injustice. The people who put our communities in harm’s way are working hard to make sure we are not seen, counted or heard, because of the benefit, politically and financially from our erasure. Today if we want our communities to withstand the coronavirus pandemic, we all need to join the fight. Getting counted in the U.S. Census is one powerful way to boost our influence and strengthen our organizing ability.
Last week was Black Census Week and dozens of organizations and celebrities like John Legend and Cardi B shared why the census matters to them and for our communities. Now it’s up to all of us to keep the momentum going. Getting through this crisis means using our numbers to build power and demand the help we deserve. Here are several ways you can use the U.S. Census to be a part of the action.
Take action on the issues that matter:
Wednesday, April 1 is National Census Day, so this week, you can join Color of Change and BET as we focus on defending our democracy with a couple of key projects that Black people are leading:
Take the Census digitally, from home Self-responding early helps lessen the need for Census takers to knock on people’s doors to complete the count later in the year.
Record a video and post on your social media explaining why your count matters and why you’ll fill out your forms. The Census doesn’t have Instagramable stickers, but even from social isolation at home, you can encourage others in your community to fill out the form using the hashtag #OurCount.
Join an Online Census Party or start one of your own. Filling out the census can be fun!
On Wednesday, April 1 at 7:45 p.m. tune in to Color of Change’s the Coronavirus #BlackResponse Virtual Town Hall at theblackresponse.org.
Coronavirus This Week in Black Communities:
This week the pandemic is going to hit home especially on Wednesday when the first of the month bills are due for the record-shattering 3.3 million people who filed for unemployment last week. In New York City, where more than 2 million people (24 percent) are Black, the number of infections is expected to double every three days. In Milwaukee, Black men make up the majority of coronavirus cases. And Louisiana, which is 32 percent Black, now has the fastest rate of coronavirus infections in the world.
As we struggle to pay the bills, keep sane and stay healthy, it might be hard to think about the census, but even our knowledge of the density of Black people in a given place — like New York City, Milwaukee or Louisiana — comes from this data. While we’re using this information to understand the impact of coronavirus on our communities, we also know that this data is incomplete and may understate how many of us are truly at risk. Independent research shows that more than 800,000 Black people were missed in the 2010 Census, resulting in elected officials and corporations neglecting to protect Black communities from emergencies like this pandemic.
The Census aims to count every single person in the nation. The number of people counted in each state is then used to determine how much housing assistance and food assistance each state receives. During a crisis like coronavirus, Census data is used to determine how much emergency funding the federal government sends to each state.
According to the 2010 census, there are 261,123 Black people in Nevada. When Governor Steve Sisolak says there aren’t enough ventilators to battle coronavirus, the federal government will allocate resources like ventilators and protective equipment based on those census numbers. When calculating the $1,200 payment that Congress has decided to give to most Americans as part of the stimulus package, census numbers were used to determine the number of people who would need funds. Even the location of hospitals and supermarkets are typically based on population density, which comes from Census data.
The Census was also used to determine how many people would need to be included in Congress’ stimulus package. Now, individuals making less than $100,000 a year are scheduled to receive a $1,200 payment, couples making less than $150,000 a year will receive $2,400 and parents will receive an additional $500 per dependent child.
Not sure how much you’re family should receive? Calculate your stimulus package here. While the amount you receive will be based on your 2018 taxes, the original count of people impacted came from the census.
In fact, in 2010, the Census Bureau estimated that it undercounted 2.1 percent of the Black population in our country. That’s the largest percentage of any race and it means our communities already have at least 2.2 percent fewer resources than we’ll need to withstand this pandemic.
As we fight for what Black people need now, we’re also in a special moment when we can reclaim our power to be fully counted by filling out the 2020 Census. Unlike in 2010, we have more ways to get ourselves counted, without having to wait — or hope — for a census taker to knock on our doors.
Especially lucky for us in this moment of social distancing, this is the first year we can fill out the Census online. Our numbers matter and we are in a much better position to exercise our power as a community. If there’s going to be another disaster like this, it doesn’t have to be a crisis.
Other great work to support this week:
Last week thousands of BET readers helped demand emergency money for people out of work. You created and supported petitions for governors in Missouri, Texas, and Pennsylvania to freeze rents and utility payments during the crisis and helped the National Domestic Workers Alliance raise money for home care workers, nannies, and house cleaners who are on the frontlines of this pandemic.
Through this pandemic, Color Of Change and BET will be here for you. Together, we can get through this crisis and ensure our communities are protected more than ever before.
Rashad Robinson is President of Color Of Change, a leading racial justice organization with more than 1.7 million members that design winning strategies to build power for Black communities. Rashad appears regularly in major news media and as a keynote speaker nationally. You can find him on twitter @RashadRobinson.