The first six months of 2020 have felt like a lifetime. A global pandemic and a widespread national shutdown have reminded us of our common vulnerability and connectivity as human beings. If it was unclear before, we are now certain that individual actions impact the welfare of society as a whole.
It’s also clear that gross inequalities present every day are exacerbated during a pandemic and the subsequent economic downturn.
Every day, people ask me: What can we do to make a difference? We can seize every opportunity to lift our voices and the voices of other marginalized communities around us.
One easy way to be heard is by responding to the 2020 Census.
I know that many in our community don’t realize the importance of responding to the Census. Most of our community's civic participation revolves around voting and elections. But unlike voting, which happens every two or four years, the impact of the census remains with us for a decade.
When you see the Census envelope, please do not consider it as junk mail. And while I understand that many of you are skeptical about how the data will be used, we must participate if we don’t want to relinquish our power to communities that do fill out the Census.
Responses to the 2020 Census are safe, secure, and protected by federal law. Your answers can only be used to produce statistics. They cannot be used against you by any government agency or court in any way—not by the FBI, DHS, or ICE.
The Census also informs every aspect of our life. Billions of dollars are allocated every year to health clinics, schools, affordable housing, food assistance, Pell Grants, and hundreds of other critical services and programs that make a difference in our lives every day. The Census also informs the number of seats each state holds in the U.S. House of Representatives.
In past censuses, millions of children, people of color, low-income people, and immigrants have gone uncounted – leading to underfunding of resources needed to build and support hospitals, roads, and schools.
This is why it is so important for everyone to be counted. Securing federal resources and representation helps us lift the marginalized and ensure that everyone is heard.
We, as American Muslims, have a moral responsibility to make sure that the rights of our neighbors are fulfilled and the needs of our most vulnerable are met. We need to do our part to affect change. We can do so by taking 10 minutes to respond to the Census to visiting 2020Census.gov. It only takes a few minutes, and it will ensure that the next 10 years are not more of the same.
As it says in our own traditions, we fight injustice with our actions, words, and thoughts.
Hurunnesss Fariad is Head of Outreach and Interfaith at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS Center) and Founder and co-host of Sister Act Podcast. She is also a member of the Board of Directors for Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy.