As the 2020 census approaches, there is much thought about how to greater reflect the ethnic and racial diversity among people living in this country. Some advocates have already begun that process by requesting that the data collection allow opportunities for more categories for persons of black ancestry. Up until now, census forms allowed people to mark black or African-American. But according to NPR, the 2020 census will ask blacks to be more specific.
For the 2020 census, the U.S. Census Bureau is changing how it will ask black people to designate their race. Under the check box for “Black or African American,” the bureau is adding a new space on the census questionnaire for participants to write in their non-Hispanic origins, according to a recent memo from the head of the 2020 census. “African American,” “Jamaican” and “Nigerian” are listed as examples of origins on a questionnaire the bureau is testing for 2020.
The change means many black people in the U.S. may have to take a closer look at their family trees to answer what can be a thorny question: Where are you really from? While many black immigrants can cite ties to a specific country, that question is difficult, if not impossible, for many U.S.-born African-Americans to answer.
According to NPR researchers at the bureau have said they have been trying to respond to requests for “more detailed, disaggregated data for our diverse American experiences as German, Mexican, Korean, Jamaican, and myriad other identities.”
There is often an assumption that “black” is synonymous with “African-American.” Many black Americans, or, African Americans, will use the terms interchangeably. Many say it’s no big deal. But some do think it’s important. There are blacks living in this country with direct African or Caribbean ancestry who culturally and ancestrally identify with those places. They are counted in the same category with black Americans, who may be the descendants of enslaved Africans brought to this country and have a very different cultural experience and heritage.