April 07, 2023


To Office of Management and Budget’s Interagency Technical Working Group on Race and Ethnicity Standards (Working Group):

We, the Democrats Abroad Reparations Task Force, oppose changing the name, description, and definition of the race category “Black or African American” for federal data collection, including for the U.S. Census. People of African descent were never enslaved until they were told so, never “Black” until they were told so; and never “Negroes” until they were told so. As far as each of these imposed denotative decisions were concerned, the people in question, have rarely, if ever, been consulted. Furthermore, the status of "descended from slavery" is undefined, which would likely open up the doors to multiple problems. For instance, if "descendant of slavery" is used, a white person from a white family incidentally descended from a Black person who was enslaved about 10 generations back would, theoretically, be able to claim to be a "descendant of slavery." That is, someone who had never once experienced the intergenerational harms of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, Jim Crow, and modern-day disparities would then claim that they're a "descendant." That is wrong and violates the ninth principle adopted by the Office of Management and Budget’s Interagency Technical Working Group on Race and Ethnicity Standards (Working Group) that commits to ensure “comparability of any new categories with the existing ones.”

Accurately documenting the Black American population is of the highest priority. Our names and identifiers have historical precedence and value, and changing that will cause confusion and harm the accuracy of results. Additionally, we do not support adding the terms “slavery, slaves, freedman, or foundational” to the name and description of Black Americans. Consideration of such identification categories as “American Freedman” or “American Descendant of Slavery” will completely undermine accurate federal resource and funding allocation to programs and initiatives that aim to benefit Black communities. These are not universally accepted or used terms for present-day Black Americans, as evidenced by what is safe to assume is our mutual understanding of the term "Black American" as just used. Thus, this proposal violates the third principle adopted by the working group of ensuring “the concepts and terminology should reflect clear and generally understood definitions that can achieve broad public acceptance.”

Though one has ancestors who endured slavery, slavery is not an ethnicity, and it is dehumanizing and inaccurate to make “slavery or slaves” a race category or an ethnic identifier. This violates the Working Group’s second principle designed to maintain “respect for individual dignity”. To accurately determine community needs and understand existing socio-economic impacts, selecting “Black or African American” (U.S. national origin) is sufficient and is less likely to cause confusion or other problems. In the final analysis, the proposed changes to the “Black or African American” minimum category will create labels insufficiently used within its target community that, while aiming to identify more characteristics of the US population, will miss that mark and create confusion leaving millions of Black Americans unfamiliar and unidentified with these terms uncounted.

In the same interest of avoiding undermining accurate federal resource and funding allocation to programs and initiatives that aim to benefit marginalized communities, we do support the inclusion of a Middle East North African category for federal data collection. This would allow identification of a long-since disparately treated group previously identified as white, but unable to receive the same access to economic benefits and sociopolitical power and privilege underwritten with federal data that white people have historically had. We further support the creation of nation-based categories for Latin American-origin peoples in order to further identify the needs of these peoples within the United States and provide governmental support to them in pursuit of the creed of all people being created equal.

In strength,

DA Reparations Task Force