Civil Rights Groups Respond to New Census Data

Jessica Sarstedt
[email protected]

WASHINGTON — The Racial Equity Anchor Collaborative, the foremost diverse coalition of national racial justice and civil rights organizations representing and serving more than 53 million people in the U.S., reacted today to the initial release of local-level data by the United States Census Bureau. The data point toward America’s multiracial future but also raise serious concerns about fairness and representation in light of wide-scale undercounts among some of the fast-growing communities in the nation.

“Census data informs policy, redistricting and even our sense of what it means to be an American,” said Dr. Elana Needle, director of the Racial Equity Anchor Collaborative. “If the federal government doesn’t collect data that accurately represents the nation, millions of Americans – especially Black, American Indian/Alaska Native, Latino, Asian American, Native Hawiaiian and Pacific Islander and other people of color – will continue to be left behind.”

Fair representation is a bedrock principle of democracy, and communities that have grown should see proportional increases in Congress and state legislatures. “The 2020 Census is extremely important because its data can be used for representation at the national, state and local levels in redistricting efforts to ensure fair representation and resources in federal funding formulas, in research, and by tribal nations and local governance in decision-making,” said Yvette Roubideaux, vice president of research and director of the Policy Research Center at National Congress of American Indians. “America is more diverse than ever, and that diversity is a strength, not a weakness.”

Americans of color have long faced severe consequences from inequitable data collection and use. That is why Racial Equity Anchor Collaborative member organizations led nationwide efforts to encourage all Americans to stand up and be counted. However, chronic underfunding of the Census leading up to Census day, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Trump administration’s politicization of the Census inevitably had a disparate impact on communities of color in the 2020 Census, just as it did on health outcomes.

“Already going into this Census, we knew that there are certain populations that had been historically undercounted, said Clarissa Martinez De Castro, deputy vice president at UnidosUS. “Add to that a pandemic and unprecedented efforts to sabotage the count by the previous administration, and you can understand why many statisticians and many groups are saying that closer analysis is warranted to determine whether or not an undercount has occurred, and at what level and where.”

The good news is that America’s growing diversity is a source of strength. In fact, the vast majority of American families share the same policy priorities, from quality healthcare and education to economic security and opportunities for their children. Far from being at odds, people of color and white working-class Americans are already in broad agreement on what matters most.

“We believe that diversity makes us stronger as a country,” said Felicia Yoda, director of information systems & technology at Faith in Action. “And we also believe that everyone that represents that strength in that country deserves to be counted.”

Glenn Harris, president of Race Forward said, “The Census is a measure of our democracy. It’s maybe one of the most important responsibilities of the federal government built into our constitution. And it doesn’t just represent how we think about policy, but how we allocate hundreds of billions of dollars. It impacts how people vote, and at this moment, especially as we experience gerrymandering throughout the country, the results of this Census can be used to shut out voices, which is fundamentally anti-democratic.”

To learn more about the Racial Equity Anchor Collaborative and speak with member organizations, please contact Jessica Sarstedt at [email protected] +1.202.802.1835

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The Racial Equity Anchor Collaborative includes the following leading national racial equity anchor organizations (the Anchors): Advancement Project National Office, Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum, Demos, Faith in Action, National Congress of American Indians, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, National Urban League, Race Forward, and UnidosUS. Supported by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, we work together to promote racial equity, advance racial healing, and ensure that all children, families, and communities have opportunities to reach their full potential.