In 2018, Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza, along with an engaged cohort of civic-minded organizations, embarked on a historic project to gather data on Black Americans all across the country. Dubbed “the Black Census,” the survey had a goal of documenting where we stood as a community while also capturing our varied needs in an effort to move us forward. On Tuesday, the results of what is believed to be “the largest independent survey of Black people ever conducted in the United States,” according to Garza, were released.
In all, more than 31,000 Black people from all 50 states participated in the self-administered survey that sought respondents via web, text, email and a robust social media strategy. What they received back was important intel on how to not only make the Black community better, but to improve America as a whole.
“We invested more than half a million dollars so they could reach Black people who are often sidelined in traditional surveys and mainstream politics,” Garza said in an op-ed with key findings from the report.
Not surprisingly, economic issues ranked as the most pressing problems for the community. Among them, low wages clocked in as the biggest issue. An astounding 90 percent viewed it as a problem, and 85 percent viewed it as a major problem.
The survey also found that economic insecurity is an issue that too many people in the Black community face. Living paycheck to paycheck has always been a reality for much of America, but nearly half (48 percent) of Black census respondents reported living in a household that lacked enough funds to pay a monthly bill in the last 12 months. In addition, more than a quarter (31 percent) personally cut back on food to save on funds.
“The most important issues for respondents were also the most important issues facing the rest of the country — low wages, lack of quality health care, substandard housing, rising college costs and different sets of rules for the wealthy and the poor,” Garza says of the results. “Of course, a majority of Americans face these difficulties. But Black communities experience them more acutely.”
Outside of economics, respondents also made it clear that gun violence and criminal justice concerns present a serious obstacle. The killing of Black people by police officers, police officers not being held accountable for their crimes, and excessive use of force by police was a problem for the vast majority of survey takers.
Garza hopes that 2020 candidates will use the data collected to not only engage with the Black community but also do their part in helping us address the matters that concern us the most. The civil rights activist says, “The truth is, if candidates address the needs and concerns of Black communities, it will result in dividends for all Americans.”
Read the full Black Census report here.