Every person and every household counts in the U.S. Census, the federal government’s effort to get an accurate measure of the country’s population.
In addition to getting a true reflection of the nation’s populace, the Census also establishes demographic changes such as growth in neighborhoods and immigration trends.
These figures determine how programs are funded by the federal government, so an accurate count is critical.
This is the issue that worries Maxine Tulloch, president of the Caribbean American Journalists and Media Association (CAJMA), a recently formed non-profit national association with members from radio, TV and print media, as well as marketing and public relations agencies.
Tulloch and others have long maintained that the Caribbean community was largely undercounted in the 2000 census, and there are concerns of a repeat performance in 2010.
Her concerns are based on the lack of Census advertising in Caribbean media outlets, despite claims from the Census Bureau that such ads have been purchased.
Census officials acknowledge the concerns raised by CAJMA and say they are making improvements.
“The money doesn’t seem to have trickled down quite the way we wanted,” said Pam Page-Bellis, regional senior media specialist with the Census Bureau. “We have heard the voices of our partners. There is more advertising dollars coming to these outlets.”
The fallout forced a meeting last week with Census officials and state representatives, including Hazelle Rogers, Perry Thurston and state Sen. Chris Smith.
Tulloch said the meeting was productive, and that she believes Census officials will execute advertising campaigns soon.
“We got some action based on what we did. We’ll sit and wait for another week,’’ she said.
The Census database shows advertising purchases for over 23 local African-American and Caribbean media outlets, including South Florida Caribbean News, Caribbean Today and Jamaicans.com.
But Tulloch says no ads have appeared in any of those outlets.
“They have made promises to the Caribbean media, not actual buys, ’’ Tulloch said. “We were quite perturbed, angry because we always get empty promises.’’
Census advertising has, however, appeared in some media that target the Caribbean community, including the South Florida Times.
An accurate count of the Caribbean community is critical, Tulloch said, because funding from the federal government for social services, lunch programs, family and children services is determined by the Census count.
“If you don’t show that you have the demographics of people, you won’t get that money, so it’s very important that people fill out the Census forms,” she said.
The Caribbean media uproar is not the only fallout facing the Census Bureau this year. It has also faced criticism for including the word “Negro” on Census forms. For many African Americans, the word is a derogatory reminder of the Jim Crow era of segregation, when black people were forced to live in separate neighborhoods, eat in separate restaurants, and learn in separate and unequal schools from whites.
Despite the criticism, the word will remain, Page-Bellis said.
The word was included on forms because some 56,000 people wrote in the word “Negro” on their forms in 2000, she said.
“It told us that it is still a term that is used and some people prefer it,’’ she said. “It is something that we looked at very carefully and used it because we prefer to be as inclusive as we can.’’
She added: “The term is not a throw-back nor was it meant to alienate anyone at all. If you don’t see a word there that describes you, then by all means write it in. We want people to write what they are comfortable with.”
The 10-question Census forms will arrive in mailboxes between March 15 and 17.