REPORT: US Government Weighs Asking Black Americans If They Are Descended From Slaves

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The U.S. government is considering asking black Americans if they are descendants of slaves on federal forms such as the census, according to a Thursday report from the Wall Street Journal (WSJ).

The government is weighing an update to how it traces the ethnic heritage of black Americans, WSJ reported. The federal government may also consider administering reparations to descendants of slavery, and the census update would help determine who should receive reparations, according to the outlet. The proposed addition to the census would help distinguish between black Americans whose ancestors were enslaved on American soil and those whose families emigrated more recently from African countries.

The Biden administration has reportedly weighed using terms such as “American Freedmen” or “American Descendants of Slavery” (ADOS) to distinguish slave-descended black Americans from recent immigrants. Terms such as ADOS have gained popularity in recent years, as many slave-descended black Americans push for their own distinction about their history in the country. Still, some argue the ADOS social movement has only served to divide the black community.

“Government shouldn’t be in the business of separating people by immutable characteristics,” Heritage Foundation senior fellow Mike Gonzalez told WSJ.

College administrator Michael Hicks expressed support for the proposed census update. “If America wants resources to go to the populations that need them the most, we must accurately recognize who is affected and why,” he wrote online, according to the outlet.

Nigerian Americans are considered one of the most successful ethnic groups in the U.S., with relatively high income and education levels, according to a 2018 Bloomberg poll. Roughly one-half to two-thirds of Harvard University’s black student population were children of African, West Indian or biracial couples, while black students descended from slaves were “starkly underrepresented” on campus, according to a 2004 study by Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates.