From Reconstruction To WWII, How The U.S. Census Has Been Used For Both Good And Bad

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tags: Reconstruction, citizenship, census, World War 2

The Supreme Court will hear opening arguments next Tuesday about whether the Trump administration can bring back a question about citizenship to the 2020 U.S. Census.

Critics say asking the question "Are you a citizen?" will lower response rates among Latino and immigrant households, a potential problem since the census determines how congressional seats are allocated and where federal funds flow. But the Trump administration has claimed it needs the data to enforce the Voting Rights Act and that past censuses have asked about citizenship before.

Throughout U.S. history, the census has been used for both good and bad. During Reconstruction, it helped enfranchise voters, but during World War II, it helped facilitate the internment of Japanese Americans.

Some say — including historians Nathan Connolly and Ed Ayers, co-hosts of the podcast "BackStory," produced at Virginia Humanities — that how the census is being used now has echoes to the past.

“We're seeing something that has a very dangerous kind of echo to other less progressive approaches to using the census,” Connolly (@ndbconnolly) tells Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson.

“People can see that as the federal government is deciding what categories people fit in, who actually are we? How are we defined?” says Ayers (@edward_l_ayers). “I think that everything feels like it's of a new stake of importance right now.”

Read entire article at NPR

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