The U.S. Census Bureau announced on Monday that it would no longer use the term “Negro” in upcoming surveys.
According to the Associated Press, the bureau said it would use the terms “black” or “African-American” to describe black U.S. residents, citing user feedback describing “Negro,” first used in the 1900 Census, as “offensive and outdated.” The term appeared in the 2010 census as one of five options for respondents to identify their ethnicity.
The AP reported that usage of the term declined between the 2000 and 2010 Census, from 50,000 people using it to identify themselves to 36,000.
“This is a reflection of changing times, changing vocabularies and changing understandings of what race means in this country,” said Stanford University sociology professor Matthew Snipp. “For younger African-Americans, the term ‘Negro’ harkens back to the era when African-Americans were second-class citizens in this country.”
Federal officials almost dropped the term before the 2010 Census, but reconsidered after finding a small segment of older black residents in southern states still preferred it. However, an increasing amount of objections by black civil groups prompted an apology from then-bureau director Robert Groves.
“The intent of every word on the race and ethnicity questions is to be as inclusive as possible so that all of us could see a word here that rings a bell for us,” he said in an interview with C-SPAN at the time. “It was not to be offensive and again I apologize on that. My speculation is that in 2020 that word will disappear and there are gonna be other words that are gonna change.”
Arturo R. García is the managing editor at Racialicious.com. He is based in San Diego, California and has written for both print and broadcast media, including contributions to GlobalComment.com, The Root and Comment Is Free. Follow him on Twitter at @ABoyNamedArt
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