The Census means more than just counting bodiesDr. William J. Barber / June 6, 2019
Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II
Every 10 years our country must count its residents. This count tells us not only how many people we now have in the United States, but also what race they are, their ethnicity, their gender, where they live, and more. This data is then used by every single facet of American life for years to come. It determines where we vote, what schools our children go to, and other matters like funding. Instead of this being a time to redesign our country to be more reflective of its population, the Trump administration is trying to skew the results by proposing a citizenship question be added.
This is dangerous. By threatening to ask about citizenship, the administration is willing to risk that some immigrants will choose not to participate or will share incorrect information. If this happens, then the results will be inaccurate. If results are inaccurate, portions of this country could lose funding or representation in government. In fact, the purpose of the Census in the first place was to assign seats for the U.S. House of Representatives.
But the president and his administration are not concerned about that. They are concerned about upholding their Republican majority through gerrymandered districts. And they are determined to criminalize and persecute innocent immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers who have come across our borders simply to seek a better life.
Deuteronomy 10:19 says, “You are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Eygpt.”
Unless you are Native American, we were all once foreigners to this land. Our ancestors were once foreigners to this land. Yet somehow that is forgotten. It is also forgotten that Jesus would have been among the immigrants that President Trump is trying so hard to get rid of. Jesus would have been at the border with them, locked in those cages.
Instead of trying to scare immigrants into not participating in the Census, we should be embracing them with open arms and welcoming their representation. But what we are witnessing here is a classic case of divide and conquer. If the U.S. House of Representatives does not accurately reflect this country then neither will its policies. People of color and the poor will continue to be victims of voter suppression efforts. The 140 million poor and low-income Americans will remain because there will be no increased minimum wage.
We have already witnessed the Republican gerrymandering of our districts. According to new reports, a consultant hired by the Trump administration believed the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 Census would allow the political power of “Republicans and Non-Hispanic Whites” to increase even further through the realignment of voting districts.
That is exactly what President Trump and his enablers want. They understand that the Census is more than just counting bodies. It has been used to address racism and discrimination in the past. It is critical to determining what funds are allocated to health care, education, infrastructure, and housing. Businesses use it to determine where they are going to create new jobs. By controlling the outcomes of the Census, the president ensures his control over our country.
We cannot allow this immoral attempt to skew our democracy to take place. This is about much more than citizenship. This is about true representation. If we do not raise our voices now, then we have no right to raise our voices later when we feel we are not being heard by those in power. This is a moral battle that we must enter now if we have any hope that we might be represented in the future.
Join us on June 12, for Moral Witness Wednesday, where hundreds of faith leaders will descend on Washington, D.C., for a call to action outside the gates of the White House. And join us again on June 17–19 in our nation’s capital for the Poor People’s Moral Action Congress where we will make our voices heard and then return to the states to organize, educate, and take action together.
Rev. Dr. William J. Barber is the president of the N.C. NAACP and organizer of the Moral Movement. To join the NAACP visit: www.naacp.org.