As part of the Black Census—the largest survey of Black people conducted in the United States since Reconstruction—the Black Futures Lab worked with partners across the country to survey more than 5,400 Black people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or describe their sexual orientation as “other.” The Black Census includes populations that are usually not represented or are underrepresented in conventional surveys, such as homeless people, incarcerated people, LGBTQ+ people, Black Republicans and conservatives, Black immigrants, and mixed-raced people with a Black parent, among others. The Black Census is not a traditional probabilistic survey sample, which often fails to fully represent populations whose experiences are important to understanding the complexity of Black life. For more on the unique survey collection methods of the Black Census, see the initial report, More Black Than Blue: Politics and Power in the 2019 Black Census.
Unlike the dominant media image of LGB+ people that focuses on white gay men primarily concerned about the right to marry, the Black Census reveals the need for a broader racial justice agenda and an analysis that accounts for intersections of race, class, sexual orientation, gender and gender identity. Even as the perspectives of white LGB+ people prevail in most media narratives, the Black Census showcases the underexplored, but no less important, viewpoints and experiences of Black LGB+ communities. A forthcoming report will explore the distinct concerns and experiences of Black Census respondents who identify as transgender, gender non-conforming, or identify their gender as “different” from male or female. Highlighting these findings in a unique report provides an opportunity to shine a spotlight on a community that is too often marginalized, even in discussions about LGBTQ+ people.
While LGB+ Black Census respondents strongly support existing laws enabling gay and lesbian couples to marry legally, respondents are even more concerned about bread-and-butter economic issues like low pay, unaffordable health care, and access to housing. Police violence and impunity—and broader societal violence that targets the LGBTQ+ community—are also urgent concerns. Confronting multiple types of discrimination on a daily basis, LGB+ Black Census respondents report frequent experiences of disrespect and harassment in the course of daily life. Too often, Black LGB+ people are perceived as distinct and separate from the larger Black community. The Black Census reveals that, despite some differences, LGB+ Black Census respondents strongly identify with the Black community.
Drawing on Black Political Networks: Black Census Project Methodology
The Black Census is a self-administered survey conducted online and in person in 2018. It was originally developed by Darnell Moore, Brittney Cooper, Bryan Epps, Kasim Ortiz, Melanye Price, Julie Martinez, and Edgar Rivera Colon for the Black Lives Matter Global Network, and was adapted with permission by the Black Futures Lab in partnership with Color of Change, Demos, and Socioanalítica Research. Socioanalítica Research re-designed the survey.
Respondents were able to access the Black Census in a number of ways. The Black Futures Lab and its partners conducted a dynamic online outreach effort to promote the Black Census Project website (www.blackcensus.org), including texts, email blasts, and a social media strategy with custom graphics and influencers deployed to promote the site. About two-thirds of respondents accessed the Black Census by visiting the website landing page. The other third took the survey through the Black Census partners in the field. Black Census Project respondents were reached in person by trained Black organizers in 28 states. The Black Futures Lab worked with Celeste Faison and Associates to train 106 Black organizers in the survey methodology alongside community organizing methods. The partners who fielded the survey included organizations such as the Hood Incubator in California, Friends and Families of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children (FFLIC) in Louisiana, the TAKE (Transgender Advocates Knowledgeable Empowering) Resource Center in Alabama, the Miami Workers Center in Florida, and Southerners on New Ground (SONG) in Georgia.
Partner organizations developed field plans that took them into communities to administer the survey. People taking the survey in person were given iPads to collect responses, using an app that could be used with or without internet access. People reached by the organizers were also given the option to answer the survey online with a referral link unique to each organization. Finally, some partners also distributed surveys among incarcerated Black people. The reach of the partners and the diverse Black communities they serve allowed the Black Census to reach various Black communities and Black people from diverse backgrounds. Respondents were not paid incentives to participate.
It was important to the Black Futures Lab not to conduct a traditional probabilistic survey sample, as traditional methods can exclude important information about communities that are under-represented. The Black Futures Lab was intentional about oversampling communities where rich information about their experiences, the challenges they face, or their vision for the future is often not available. This was particularly important in the case of the LGB+ population: While researchers estimate that anywhere between 2.4 percent and 10 percent of U.S. residents are gay, lesbian, or bisexual, 17 percent of Black Census respondents identify with a sexual orientation other than heterosexual.
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