U.S. Census to Drop the Word 'Negro' from Survey

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The U.S. Census Bureau has finally decided to drop the word “negro” from its census survey.

After decades of disuse, many black Americans no longer identify with the term “negro,” and many others in fact find it offensive. Instead, the census will use only “black” and “African American” to reflect more modern racial identifications.

The change was first considered for the 2010 census, but the government ultimately decided to keep the term on the census for the small portion of African Americans — mostly older blacks living in the South — who still identify with it. But, that same year, many black groups protested the word on the census, which drove the government to reconsider the terminology. Only 36,000 black Americans nationwide identify with the term as of 2010, according to the Talking Points Memo — a number that is declining every year.

The word “negro” comes from the Jim Crow era of racial segregation, during which African Americans used the term to refer to themselves. It first appeared on the census in 1900 as the most common word referring to black Americans, taking the place of “colored.”

It wasn’t until the 1960s civil rights movement that black Americans rejected the word as it garnered a more negative stigma, representing a second-class citizen. Instead, black Americans referred to themselves as “African American.”

“This is a reflection of changing times, changing vocabularies and changing understandings of what race means in this country,” said Matthew Snipp, a sociology professor at Stanford University. “For younger African-Americans, the term ‘Negro’ harkens back to the era when African-Americans were second-class citizens in this country.”

The census is mailed to 3.5 million households every year, and the change should take effect during the next year’s census. 

Source: Talking Points Memo