Suddenly "Negro" Is the Word on Everyone's Lips


The week that began with a minor controversy about a dated racial term used to describe African-Americans, and ended with a major one that involved the use of the word by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. The word is "Negro".

First, the census. After finding that more than 50,000 census respondents wrote in "Negro" as their racial identification on the 2000 census, the U.S. Census Bureau decided to include it as a check-off option in the section of the survey where respondents are asked to identify their race. Many cried foul, seeing it as a derogatory adjective that hearkened back to the segregationist era. Others argue that elderly blacks may not view it the same way, and that the terms "African-American" and "black" may not be embraced by those descended from cultures other than the African-descended one whose people were brought to the land of the free in chains.

When I was a little girl, "Negro" was the politically correct term for those otherwise known as "colored" people or described by white people by a range of epithets, the most egregious being what we now call "the 'N' word." As a white woman who grew up in a very segregated New Jersey, I'm hardly qualified to wax forth on the appropriateness of the Census Bureau's use of the word Negro. (For an excellent discussion on the subject, see Melissa Harris-Lacewell's discussion with Rachel Maddow [video].) But I can see why the census-takers chose to use it. Harry Reid, now -- that's another story entirely.



Understand the importance of honest news ?

So do we.

The past year has been the most arduous of our lives. The Covid-19 pandemic continues to be catastrophic not only to our health - mental and physical - but also to the stability of millions of people. For all of us independent news organizations, it’s no exception.

We’ve covered everything thrown at us this past year and will continue to do so with your support. We’ve always understood the importance of calling out corruption, regardless of political affiliation.

We need your support in this difficult time. Every reader contribution, no matter the amount, makes a difference in allowing our newsroom to bring you the stories that matter, at a time when being informed is more important than ever. Invest with us.

Make a one-time contribution to Alternet All Access, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you.

Click to donate by check.

DonateDonate by credit card
Donate by Paypal
{{ }}

Don't Sit on the Sidelines of History. Join Alternet All Access and Go Ad-Free. Support Honest Journalism.