Controversy grows over census wording

January 12, 2010 8:57:19 PM PST
Local census leaders are responding to the word "Negro" on the new 2010 US Census form.The 2010 Census - by law - has to ask everyone their race.

"There's always been a question about race on the census," said Wayne Hatcher with the US Census Bureau.

But this year's question dredges up an uncomfortable chapter in American history, next to the word black and African American there's the term "Negro".

"'Negro' is a derogatory term, so no I don't think it should be on there," Raleigh resident Michael Burbage said.

But it is there and for good reason according to census leaders.

"We had over 56,000 people write in the word 'Negro' on the form (in 2000)," Hatcher said.

Meaning, enough people still define their race as "Negro" - a term in some circles today that is considered offensive.

"It's kind of difficult to say, be honest with, I don't know if it should be on the form or if it shouldn't," one man told ABC11.

"It's so commonly referred to as a negative word, it could be taken so negatively," another man added.

However, census officials say there's no harm intended. It's all about making sure everyone counts.

There's a chance the word "Negro" will go the way of the once popular term "Afro-American" did - no longer found on the census form.

"So race has changed over the years how society has changed and I suspect it may not be on the form in 2020," Hatcher said.

The Census Bureau says it's only testing out the word on this year's census.

Some census forms without the term will also be used in various parts of the country.

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