Message from Montie

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On the 2010 Census report, will you be classified as a Negro?

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Message from Montie

Shamontiel is the author of two novels: "Change for a Twenty" and "Round Trip." Check her out at shamontiel.com.

Black Panther Party.jpg

This is me showing off the back of the shirt I wore to my cousin's '70s party.

I'm a 28-year-old Negro.

 

If you're looking at your screen with a perplexed expression, that was the same reaction I had when I read that the Census still has the term "Negro" on their 2010 questionnaire. The last time I participated in the Census, there was a guy strolling through the dorms to get college kids' responses, but for the life of me, I don't recall him asking me if I was "Black, African-American or Negro." If he did, I'd have probably thought he was trying to be funny and slammed the door.

 

But according to BlackVoices.com, more than 56,000 people filled in the blank line for race category with the term "Negro." I didn't even know people used the word. My 97-year-old great great aunt has always called herself black and Creole. My 87-year-old grandfather likes to rile me up by calling me "colored," but for the most part he says black or African-American.

 

As far as I can tell, the term "Negro" stopped being used in the '50s so why the Census is still using it today is just plain ironic. The purpose of the Census is to get up-to-date information on the people living in our world, but they're using outdated terms to do it. Isn't that a little hypocritical?

 

BlackVoices.com does have a point about those who aren't really comfortable calling themselves African-Americans when they don't know squat about Africa outside of having a similar complexion and their ancestors being from the Motherland. (Yes, I'm aware that the oldest person on Earth was from Africa, but I'm talking about those who choose to identify themselves to be of African ancestry.) Then there are those who refuse to call themselves black because they "are not a color." I guess you can't please everyone.

 

I more commonly say I'm black, mainly because I dug the whole "Black and I'm Proud" era with afros, fighting for civil rights, the original purpose of the Black Panther Party and the entire era of black literature, music and business becoming more visible. I'm fascinated with Black Wall Street, a neighborhood full of black millionaires who made it against the odds.

 

I've heard differing debates about whether black people created the term African-American and those who flat out refuse to call themselves American because their ancestors weren't brought here willingly. I always find the latter debate odd because as much as these same people protest America and being born in America, I very rarely see a suitcase packed to go back. (Somebody is going to be mad at me for that sentence, but it's true. I'm definitely not proud of all of America's history and there are times when I'm not proud to be American--and not the PC reason First Lady Michelle Obama gave--but I'm content living in America because of the progress and history being made.)

 

I can understand using the term "Negro" when reading literature or referring to a time in history (ex. Negro History Week as opposed to Black History Month), but I have a problem with selecting an outdated term like "Negro" on the Census report.

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2 Comments

Kyra Kyles said:

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You know what? You made me laugh out loud with that first line, but this is an interesting issue. I remember winning a scholarship in high school and being embarrassed because they said something like "Negro Achievement" scholarship over the intercom. That term needs to be retired, but I'm not in love with African American either. We're all American, and most of us are quite obviously black. That's my take.

Message from Montie said:

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I wrote this before I found out about the whole Harry Reid issue. Then, I really shook my head. I remember taking a nonfiction writing class in college and a couple were writing their lifestory. There was a paragraph about a "colored" girl they knew. As soon as the professor asked for feedback, my hand shot up in there to correct "colored" and the class was stone silent. You knew they didn't mean it facetiously, but it was still just plain weird. I really wonder whether Harry Reid meant the "Negro dialect" comment the same way. Anyway, Kyra, thanks for commenting.

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