Protecting Vulnerable Or Hiding Policy Failure?


Dear Editor,

The Supreme Court will hear the census citizenship question case.  Some argue the question marginalizes individuals. Over the decade many demanded data be restricted due to fear it is being misinterpreted for malicious intent.  We were encouraged to take race out of crime reports for fear it creates stereotypes. News agencies used to report many statistics widely. However, there has recently been a curious absence of data.  As an example, there has been a continual dramatic increase in sexually transmitted diseases with little attention.

Does hiding the data help or hurt vulnerable communities?  Does hiding it reduce stereotypes or make it easier to dismiss legitimate concern as stereotypes?

Data gathering/reporting is essential to determine where to focus limited resources and if a policy change works?  During the height of the Black Lives Matter protests, an African American grandmother expressed frustration that the media was more interested in one event than the murder rate effecting the community.  She was later attacked on social media. If an outsider reads American news, they would likely believe that we have no crime problem and should save money by getting rid of police. Increased training for police to deal with difficult situations is important.  But, it is far more important to address high murder and crime rates in disadvantaged communities!

We have all individually been in situations where patterns emerge that we want to objectively evaluate.  As an example, if I get robbed twice in a month, is it a coincidence or has the crime rate increased dramatically?  Hiding this data allows politicians to claim every individual’s concerns are wrong. Restricting citizenship data prevents voters from objectively evaluating the extent of illegal immigration.  Without the objective data, politicians are allowed to downplay policy failure as subjective racist xenophobia. Politicians in the Northeast are protecting themselves from backlash over poor policy decisions by claiming individuals in the Southwest are overreacting.

The belief that aggregate data is dangerous is based on stereotype that the audience are either emotionally vulnerable dependents or evil illogical racists.  Individuals claim to be restricting data to help. In reality, they are stealing the opportunity from the audience to determine data relevance themselves. Democracies require open exchange of data for voters to make informed decisions.  They are preventing voters from making decisions. This data is as important to democracy as the freedom of speech and press.

Alan Burke