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  • Betty Girardeau

Not Gonna Do It


I captured this picture of this woman at the Knoxville Dogwood Festival in 2017, but she reminds me a lot of one of my cases yesterday. It is interesting to me why some people refuse to be counted on the census. They don't even really have to give their name. We are allowed to note them down as Person 1, in fact. In this day and age I can understand and appreciate people wanting to protect their privacy as much as they can. When we arrive to interview a case, after introducing ourselves, we give the respondent a sheet written in both English and Spanish explains the importance of an accurate census count and how it can be a positive for them personally. It also covers in some detail how their privacy is protected. Yet I have found that in most instances with such people, they have already made up their mind not to participate about as soon as they see my name badge. This results in no opportunity to have a conversation about what their real concerns may be and address them legitimately. I was fortunate yesterday with being able to close two cases that other enumerators had not been able to do for various reasons. It wasn't because I am a better or more persuasive enumerator. I just happened to catch these people at the right time. But it made me feel good at the end of the day to have been able to do that. In the last week I have developed a new respect for people who work for the census, especially out in the field. I have found that a work day is filled with highs and lows. There are the cases that can finally be closed and a legitimate head count made, and, on the flip side, the ones where the door is slammed in your face. There are the beautiful drives in the countryside where the fields and trees are beginning to take on their fall dresses that end in a rutted driveway with a derelict house or trailer at the end of it, yards full of trash and old vehicles, and at least one or more barking or snarling dogs. There are the senior citizens who live alone and welcome having someone with whom to talk, however briefly, and those who are "too busy" and don't want to give you even a minute of their precious time. There are the rainy or rain threatening days, as well as the beautiful sunsets ( I usually work until 7:30 in the evening). I am thankful for every day that I can work because time is running out for the 2020 census. Reportedly there is supposed to be a finding tomorrow on the litigation which may end this year's census early. I see my own case lists each day and know how many are still uncounted despite the fact that repeated attempts have been made to do so. Maybe some of these would remain uncounted anyway. But if we can continue the field work as long as possible, there will be more people counted, and for this very poor part of the United States, being able to prove more honest population numbers can result in better roads, schools, and hospitals, among other things. I have another eight hour work day ahead, and it is more cloudy than sunny, though the weather originally was supposed to be beautiful and sunny. Guess I better take my rain jacket.

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