Jeania Ree V. Moore works in faith-based social justice advocacy as the director of civil and human rights with the General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church.
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Why We Love (and Hate) to Be Counted
ON APRIL 1, 2020, the United States will hold its 24th national census, taking demographic stock of its population, some 330 million people in more than 140 million households. The census is one of the greatest equalizing forces in society, with a goal of counting each person living in the U.S. to apportion political representation through state and congressional redistricting and to allocate hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funding to states, counties, and communities. The census reflects the changing face of a nation.
Accordingly, the 2020 census will see several firsts: the first to ask about same-sex marriage, the first using an online method as the primary mode of response, and the first to request specific details on ethnic origins within racial categories such as “White” and “Black.”
Many embrace the census for the opportunity it presents to redefine our national portrait. Many fear and distrust it for the same reason.
The Trump administration has proposed reintroducing a question on citizenship status that has not been on the census since 1950. Its possible inclusion has raised outcry and constitutional challenges from multiple quarters claiming that a citizenship question could lead to significant underreporting from documented and undocumented immigrant communities. Although the U.S. Census Bureau promises that all census data is confidential and protected by law, many fear data could be shared with other government agencies to target immigrants, punish “sanctuary cities,” and more.
The New Transatlantic Slave Trade
THE YEAR 2019 marks 400 years since a boat carrying “20 and odd” enslaved Africans landed at Point Comfort in colonial Virginia. To commemorate this and other historic 1619 events, Virginia will host “American Evolution,” a yearlong celebration in which these events have been transmuted into national values. The arrival of enslaved Africans on American shores has become “diversity.”
Yet, last summer a West African immigrant was deported back to Africa to face slavery, in a transatlantic reversal of journeys that underscores the persistence of immorality in this involuntary passage.
On Aug. 22, Seyni Diagne, a 64-year-old immigrant battling kidney cancer and hepatitis B, was deported from Dulles International Airport in Virginia to his home country of Mauritania after 17 years in the U.S. There he faces enslavement through forced labor. Mauritania has one of the highest rates of slavery in the world, impacting more than 40,000 black Mauritanians.
The day following Diagne’s deportation was the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition. The Commonwealth of Virginia chose to mark it by recognizing the first Africans in English North America.