About Us | Advertise With Us | Contact Us
September 1, 2014, 5:24 pm

Another Census story, with no Black people

In the immortal words of Michael Corleone, "Every time I try to get out, they keep pulling me back in."

It seems that there's always at least one good line that you can take from every classic gangster movie and apply to everyday life. The recent stories about the 2010 Census and Philadelphia's population growth prove the point.

I always look forward, with great anticipation, to new Census Bureau reports.  As a marketing professional, I'm always optimistic that I'll see new, fair and accurate information.

More often than not, however, I wind up being not only deeply disappointed, but also outraged, by the way in which the data are packaged and edited.

Whenever this happens, I do feel an absolute obligation to speak out, and to attempt to clear the record, especially as regards the Black economic condition. That's where the "pulling me back in" part comes in.

Sometimes, it's the Census Bureau's own reports that are the culprits. At other times, it's the mainstream media outlets, which cover the Bureau's announcements, and their "opinion managers," such as Pew Research, who do the most damage, following the release of Census data.

Once the most recent Census data was released, for example, the Philadelphia Daily News published yet another Census-related story that managed not to mention the words "Black" or "African-American," at all; and that it failed, once again, to mention that the largest, single, ethnic population segment in Philadelphia –larger than whites, Hispanics, Asians, or any other group – is African-Americans, at 662,287 people, or 43.4 percent of the city's population.  This compares, of course, with the 563,096 persons, or 36.9 percent of the population, that is represented by non-Hispanic whites, the 12.3 percent, who are Hispanics, and the 6.3 percent, who happen to be Asian.

If you're counting, that means that there are about 100,000 more Black people in Philadelphia than whites; 434,510 more Blacks than Hispanics, and 526,149 more African-Americans than Asians, in the City of Philadelphia Brotherly Love.

Don't you think a credible story about the population trends in the City should have mentioned those kinds of numbers?

But, hey, what was I thinking?

Most people know that Black people have been "catching a bad break" from the U.S. Census, dating all the way back to 1790, when the first national census was done.

If you'll recall, the 1790 census was the one that included the infamous "three-fifths compromise," in which our government leaders agreed that Black slaves would only count as three-fifths of a white person, for census-taking purposes.  Right away, that should have made us all a bit nervous about how willing our national census takers are to "bend" the statistical rules to underrepresent the Black population and its influence, to serve a political agenda.

But, enough of ancient history.  Let's fast-forward, now, to the 21st century, and explore whether the modern relationship between the Census Bureau and Black people has improved, at all.

Let me see I recall, the 2010 Census was the one wherein the survey designers thought it made perfectly good sense, once again, to ask Black folks to respond to whether they wanted to be referred to as a "Negro," or not.  That question was right there on the form.  In 2010. Seriously.

It's not just the Census Bureau we need to be concerned about, it's also the people who manipulate and edit the Census data to make it look like a sales brochure for their new, gentrified vision for Philadelphia.

It's not fair, it's also not productive, and it needs to stop.

Why, for example, do "opinion managers," such as Pew, seem to only want to describe the Black population within the context of the 31 percent of the community that lives beneath the poverty level.  The fact is that, if Blacks in Philadelphia look anything, at all, like the national income profile of African-Americans, then, they are, definitely, not all poor people.

According to data buried deeply in the Census Bureau's thousands of charts and graphs, for example, the top five percent of Black households earns an average of $188,338 (about $110,000 less than the white, "top 5 percent" households); "upper middle class" Black households earn an average of $114,808, or about $60,000 less than their white counterparts, and the "Black middle class" quintile earns about $53,286, on average, per household, about $29,000 less than their white, "middle class" peers.

Leaving the ongoing income disparity between Black and white households aside for the moment, there is no escaping the fact that, nationwide, 18.9 million of the 42,020,723 Black Americans earn at a "middle class or above" level, at least $53,286, per household.

No matter what your political views about Black people happen to be, you can't ever equate such numbers with "chicken feed."

If we assume that Black Philadelphians, from a household income perspective, look anything, at all, like the national Black income profile, then it's probably safe to estimate that 298,029 Blacks in Philadelphia reside in households that are, at least, by Black standards, "middle income," "upper middle income," or "upper income" -- ranging from $52,286 to $188,338 per year.

That's a great deal of spending power.  That constitutes nearly 300,000 Black family members from households that contribute substantially to the city's economy, who live in well-kept homes, who drive nice cars, and who constitute a critically important part of the city's tax base, and its economic future.

Why doesn't that part of the city's Black community show up as a positive component of the local mainstream media's demographic trend stories?  Why doesn't the Pew Research report focus, at all, on this vitally significant population segment?

Indeed, in its recent Census story, the Daily News' staff writer, Julie Shaw, interviewed Paul Levy, CEO of the Center City District, who said good things about the fact that "Young parents (in Center City) are choosing to stay in the city after having babies."  What?  Did long-time-resident, Black people stop having babies, all of sudden?  I'd like to see the proof of that.

Then, treading on very dangerous ground in the same story, Ms. Shaw wrote that the City's continued growth can be "credited to an increase in the Latino and Asian immigrant populations." The most hurtful part of that statement, if you happen to be Black, and are, at all, aware that Black unemployment has consistently been twice that of white job-seekers, is the reporter's closing comment that "Hispanics have been able to find jobs in the restaurant, hospitality and construction industry and Asians have been able to form their own businesses." She said that without referencing, at all, the fact that, according to the 2007 Economic Census, Black business formation rates, in Philadelphia, outstripped those of all other ethnic groups, including Asians.

If we didn't know any better, we might start believing that the mainstream media were writing these misleading and inaccurate stories, on purpose.

Paul Levy is a very nice man, but why couldn't the mainstream press find a single, Black, source anywhere, out of the City's 662,000 Black people, who could have commented on a story about the city's Black demographics, about recent Black employment and job creation history, and, even, about Black propensity, to have babies?  Not just now, why can't they ever?

We've all heard of the great Ralph Ellison's book, "The Invisible Man."  Now, we have the "invisible 300,000 Black people?"  Why?

For the benefit of Black folks, here, and the city, as a whole, I hope these "opinion managers" start doing a better job of telling the complete truth about our community – oon.

Without question, Philadelphia – all of it – will be a lot better off, as a result.


A. Bruce Crawley is president and principal owner of Millennium 3 Management Inc.