Column: We all count, but even more so when the Census counts us
As a nation and as a state, we are in a moment of revelation, reckoning and reimagining. Oregonians are demanding change at all levels, and they are leaving no stone unturned in the pursuit to root out the various ways inequities are imbedded in our current systems and policies. We all have a role to play in the march towards justice and a more equitable Oregon, and our contributions to this fight will all look different — with one key exception: the 2020 Census.
Elected officials are always telling you to vote — and it is critically important that you do vote on Nov. 3 — but, I first want to make sure you fill out your census form before Sept. 30, because it is just as critical to our democracy and to our future. The fact is, power is sometimes held in seemingly innocuous, under the radar places, and I think that sums up the census.
There's a reason I have spent over a year as co-chair of the Oregon Complete Count Committee with fellow co-chairs Chi Nguyen and, now, Marcus Mundy (Coalition of Communities of Color), to ensure our state achieves a fair, accurate and complete count. Data collected during the 2020 Census will be critical in guiding the amount of federal funding Oregon will receive and our political representation at all levels of government. In other words, it's about power for the next 10 years.
As we reimagine a more equitable and just future, and as we begin to rebuild from the damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic, our visions will require funding and accurate information about our diverse communities. In 2017, Oregon received $19.04 billion in federal funding to support critical services and programs ranging from Medicaid to food stamps to rental assistance, just to name a few. Plus, Oregon is projected to receive an additional congressional seat after having barely missed out in 2010.
There is so much at stake, which is why President Trump's consistent attempts to use racism and fear to reduce the census count, including his most recent effort, are so concerning to me. The president attacks the census because he fears the power of Black, Brown and Indigenous representation. He attempts to create distractions and additional hurdles to silence our voices, but we will overcome. The courts proved his previous effort unconstitutional, and I have no doubt they will once again, because the United States Constitution mandates that a decennial census be conducted to count every person in the country, citizen and noncitizen alike. In the case of the census, "every" truly does mean every. Regardless of sexual orientation, age, race, ethnicity, gender identity or citizenship status, you count.
But even before President Trump, the Census undercounted Black, Indigenous, and People of Color along with folks who are disabled, undocumented, low-income, unhoused, trans, rural, non-English speakers, and young children. A measurement called Demographic Analysis found a 4.6% national undercount of children age 0-4 in the 2010 Census. The same analysis found a 7% undercount of Black 1-year-olds. For too long, our marginalized communities have been silenced, and we cannot allow that to happen again in the 2020 Census. Building a world where these communities have what they need to thrive starts with Oregon getting a complete count.
We all need to be asking what we can do to promote positive, meaningful change in Oregon. Taking 10 minutes to fill out the census is a critical first step. Rarely is there a task that each and every one of us can complete that will secure power and representation for our communities. So, I implore us to not waste this opportunity. We all count, and together, we will continue to build the future we need and deserve.
State Rep. Andrea Salinas serves House District 38, which includes Lake Oswego and Portions of Southwest Portland. She is chair of the House interim committees on health care and behavioral health and is a member of the budget-writing Ways and Means Committee.
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