The Census is a popular topic of right-wing conspiracy theories and Fox News host Glenn Beck spent a good portion of his radio show today fear-mongering about it. Going through the form, he determined that the government doesn’t have the right to ask any of the questions — except for the first one inquiring about many people live in your home.
He took particular issue with a question asking for the respondent’s race. But after Beck’s co-host pointed out that the question has been part of the Census since the Founding Fathers’ time, Beck twisted the three-fifths law to claim that the Census is now breeding slavery:
BECK: Why were they asking the race question, you said when, in 1790? … Right, they want to know, do you count as three-fifths? Do you count at all? So, you have to know how many slaves did you have? People find that offensive today because the idea was, if we’re going to count, we want to know how many are here for services etc. etc. and slaves would get less. Well that’s not right. One. One. ‘I’m not three-fifths, I’m one. Whites are not worth than me.’ Now reverse it, why are they asking this question today?
CO-HOST: Because minorities are worth more than whites.
BECK: Exactly right. So you will get more dollars if you are a minority. So you are worth more as a monitory. Well there is no difference. The reason you don’t answer the race question is because one, everyone counts as one. All men are created equal. If you were offended back in 1790 about slavery and that everyone should count the same, do not answer the race question. How dare you. How dare you. At least in 1790, they were doing it to slow the South down on slavery. To try to stop it as much as they can. Today they are asking the race question to try to increase slavery. Your dependence on the master in Washington. No way, don’t answer that question.
Beck seems to be arguing that because a handful of federal programs provide funding to help minority communities, minorities are “worth more” than white people. Of course, the Census actually counts everyone equally, as the Constitution requires, so Beck’s complaints seem aimed more at civil rights programs than at the Census.
Moreover, there is a big “difference” between a law that counted people as less than human and a question that helps minority communities get needed aid. The Census’ race question is “critical” to enforcing civil rights policies and is used to “promote equal employment opportunities and to assess racial disparities in health and environmental risks.” So by urging his listeners to not complete this question, he’s potentially damaging these important efforts.
As ThinkProgress has previously noted, the three-fifths law was not an abolitionist provision designed to “slow the South down on slavery,” as Beck claims. Many of the Founders were from the South and owned slaves, and there were other pro-slavery clasuses in the Constitution that Beck’s revisionist history can’t explain.
So does Beck think the Census has a “deep seated hatred of white people or white culture”?
A new Facebook campaign is calling for the Census to include “American” as a race option, saying “when America QUITS asking people what their COLOR, RACE, Ethnicity is, then we will all become a stronger Group: Americans.”