The census form for 2010 features a word more often heard in 1966: Negro.
For many blacks, the word conjures visions of Jim Crow and segregation – even if the Census Bureau says it’s included to ensure an accurate count of the nation’s minority residents.
“It’s a bad vibe word,” said Kevin Bishop, 45, a Brooklyn salesman. “It doesn’t agree with me, doesn’t agree with my heart.” Pamela Reese Smith, visiting the city yesterday from Rochester, said the term was outdated.
“I don’t think my ancestors would appreciate it in 2010,” said Smith, 56. “I don’t want my grandchildren being called Negroes.”
Question No. 9 on this year’s census form asks about race, with one of the answers listed as “black, African-Am. or Negro.”
Census Bureau spokesman Jack Martin said the use of “Negro” was intended as a term of inclusion. “Many older African-Americans identified themselves that way, and many still do,” he said. “Those who identify themselves as Negroes need to be included.”
The form was also approved by Congress more than a year ago, and the word has appeared on past forms.
The use of Negro began disappearing elsewhere with the civil rights movement of the 1960s, as black or African-American became the preferred terms. Although Martin noted that some older blacks still use the term, younger blacks feel it’s a term that’s passe.
“If you look back in the day when Jackie Robinson was playing, it was called the Negro Leagues,” said Ryon Goulbourne, 28, of Mount Vernon.
“The N-word branched out of Negro. … These days, African-Americans wouldn’t like the term.” Greg Melvin, 41, of Queens said he wasn’t offended by the word’s inclusion on the form – he just didn’t think it was proper.
“They don’t need it,” he said. “It should just be black or African-American. It’s definitely unnecessary in this day and age.”