The year 2019 has come to a close, and I am proud of what my team and I accomplished for the people of Wayne County. But 2020 is shaping up to be one of the most critically important years of our lifetime that will define who we are as a nation for the foreseeable future, as well as who we want to become.
In Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s fourth and final book, a book of essays published in 1967, the title posed the rather prophetic question, “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos Or Community?” I think it’s safe to say that all people of goodwill would greatly prefer the outcome of community over chaos, which is why how we approach 2020 is so important. If we don’t make the right choices, and if we don’t all take full advantage of the rights and privileges that come with being an American by using our vote and making sure each of us gets counted in the 2020 Census, then it is quite possible that the answer to Dr. King’s question will not turn out the way we would have hoped more than a half-century later.
First, we need to be counted. An accurate Census determines the amount of federal dollars that will be allocated to our cities and other municipalities, and it determines our level of political clout in the U.S. House of Representatives which is based on population size. To be more specific, for every Wayne County resident who is counted in Census 2020, that represents $1,800 worth of federal dollars that can improve his or her community’s quality of life. For some, that total is more.
As for political clout, Michigan currently holds 14 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. That is the lowest since 1933. By comparison, from 1963 to 1983 Michigan held 19 seats. Undoubtedly some of those seats were lost due to a declining population, but I strongly believe that lack of full participation in the Census accounts for not having recouped some of those losses to date, especially since our immigrant population has grown so significantly since 1983.
Given the current political climate, it is certainly understandable why certain populations – namely immigrants and people of color – are reluctant to trust the government or give away too much personal information. But we need to spread the word that not only is the Census safe, it is critical in the struggle to obtain the resources and representation needed to combat the very issues that cause so many to be distrustful of their government in the first place.
Secondly, after you have been counted in April, be sure to vote in November. But don’t simply hand your vote over to the most persistent voices trying to tell you what to do. The issues are too important, and we should all take the time to learn about them and become informed voters. Leadership always starts at the top, and if you don’t like the direction that leader is taking us, the most important thing you can do about it is vote.
Because as frustrating as things are today for many people, particularly for many people of color, not being counted in the Census or staying home on Election Day only rewards those who are making things worse while making it that much harder to achieve equity. A major step toward achieving that equity comes with being able to elect representatives who truly look like and reflect those whom they represent. But that can’t happen if you don’t vote.
Your voice matters now more than ever.