Bye, Bye Negro: Census Survey Will No Longer List Negro As An Option

The word “Negro” has been used in the census survey for over a century, but that’s all about to change next year when the Census Bureau sends out its Annual Community Survey to more than 3.5 million U.S. households. “Negro” will not be found anywhere on the new forms. 

“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, who writes frequently on race and ethnicity. “For younger African-Americans, the term ‘Negro’ harkens back to the era when African-Americans were second-class citizens in this country.”

During the 2010 census, the government contemplated dropping “Negro”as an option,  but after noticing that a lot of Blacks in the south still referred to themselves as “Negro”, it was there to stay.  Currently there are three options on the census form: Black, African American, or Negro.  Beginning next year, the survey will limit you to two choices, Black or African-American.

Is there a preferred term Black people prefer to use?

A series of Gallup polls from 1991 to 2007 showed no strong consensus for either black or African-American. In a January 2011 NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, 42 percent of respondents said they preferred black, 35 percent said African-American, 13 percent said it doesn’t make any difference, and 7 percent chose “some other term.”

I wonder if that “some other term” happened to be “Negro”?

When you receive your Annual Community Survey, what will you check off?

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  • I always wondered why Black people never get to list their ethnicity like Hispanics and Asian do. We are just as diverse , speak many different languages and dialects and shouldn’t the census be keeping track of this?

    • honeymustard

      I agree haha, my mother always puts OTHER ” west indian ”

    • camille

      Whites don’t really have an option for ethnicity either. I think that the census reflects how Americans categorize people. It seems that Black immigrants all too often have a fundamental misunderstanding of race in this country

  • TT

    I never knew some black people referred to themselves as “Negro”. The census needs to mimic college applications. There’s Black African, Black African American, Black West Indian/Caribbean. It’s still not perfect but it’s better than Black and African American. The Hispanic category is no more diverse; I’ve never seen Ecuadorian or Chilean on the census or any application. I don’t think the census can list every single ethnicity but they do need to make the categories broader.

  • camille

    It’s all a sick numbers game that has little utility. After the re-election of Obama by a non-white majority, what’s the point of keeping track? The government is invested in maintaining a status quo that no longer exists

  • Nakia

    The census is BS. Thai is not a “race”, just as Nigerian is not. Just like in the case of the selections for Hispanic (“white” or “non-white”), there are all types of motives for these classifications. Brings up the question of race as a social construct. Anyway, in the last census, me and most folks I know crossed out “negro” on our forms.

  • I’m from the South, so I understand why Negro was on the census. On my mother’s original birth certificate she was labeled “negroid/negro” (back in the 70’s), and there are some country Southern black folks that still refer to themselves as Negroes. I don’t think some people realize just how sheltered folks from the South can be, especially country black folks who own acres of land (some have never even been to a city). Any way, I’m glad that they are removing Negro from the census. I honestly wish they would remove African American too; I mean there are just too many blacks from all over the globe that reside in the U.S (black Hispanics, black Iranians, black Americans, and so on).