ATLANTA, Ga. — There are roughly 1.6 million black men currently living in Georgia and research indicates 67,000 of them are at risk of not being counted in the 2020 census, according to the non-profit Fair Count. This could cost their communities approximately $154 million a year in funding for the next ten years. That’s why former Georgia Democratic Leader Stacey Abrams is taking on a new challenge, through Fair Count, of ensuring hard-to-count populations that include blacks, Hispanics, renters and young men are properly counted during the 2020 U.S. Census.
It’s something Abrams says President Trump and Republicans don’t want to see happen.
“I think that the Trump administration has intentionally defunded the census and created confusion,” said Abrams. “Because that administration does not respect the whole of what makes America, America. … [That’s why] my responsibility, when it comes to Fair Count, is to ensure that the Trump administration is not allowed to erase people from our state, and not allowed to diminish the importance of Black Men in our communities.”
The Black Men Count initiative under Fair Count is a priority of the organization. It was launched in May with former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and other black male leaders from across the state of Georgia coming together to acknowledge the challenges of having the proper figures for black male populations.
“We want to make sure that history doesn’t repeat itself and that black men aren’t under-counted,” said Holder. “Because there’s an effort out there to try to keep us from being counted.”
The census directs billions of dollars in federal funding to states and guides reapportionment and redistricting for the next decade. Proper headcount means communities get the appropriate funding they deserve for the resources they need. Based on the latest census estimates, roughly 20 percent of Georgians live in hard-to-count neighborhoods.
“We're hoping to mobilize black men at the beginning of the year, when the census is actually active and engage them to make sure that they actually turn out and are counted,” said Ed Reed, a Fair Count community organizer who’s responsible for staffing Black Men Count. “I think as much as we can do to educate people the direct impacts in their neighborhoods, in their classroom, in their families, in their homes, I think that will go a long way.”
In the 2010 Census, the black population had the highest undercount rate of any racial and ethnic group. Additionally, black men typically experience higher undercount rates because the family structure varies from family to family. But this doesn’t mean each person cannot be accounted for says Ryan Smith, co-founder and CEO of the Gathering Spot.
“Representation matters. Young people simply don't see their voice in this process,” said Smith. “And so this is an opportunity to have a much larger conversation about telling folks that they do matter, and that ultimately that when we can get them counted, the resources ... will have an impact in their lives.”
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