Thursday, September 24, 2009

Census work is not for wimps

Back during my teaching days, I worked Census during the summers to make extra income. Hey, when your base salary is $15,100 per year (and that wasn't much money even in the early 90's), you do what you can to make ends meet. You think Census workers are just pencil pushers. But we went into some dangerous places, folks. Census is *not* a job for wimps -- one reason why they rely so heavily upon veteran school teachers, who generally have seen it all and are pretty darn hard to intimidate, and who are experts at de-escalating violent situations. Remember, Census workers visit *every* home. Even in neighborhoods where most of you here wouldn't last an hour before your car was jacked and you were beaten and left for dead on the pavement.

The Census Bureau hires people from the communities they're caucusing, and that was where I was sent -- into basically my own back yard, the hill country of northern Louisiana. I'll tell you, I was kind of nervous going some of the places I went to in the piney back woods of Louisiana, we're talking about places just as inbred as anyplace in the Appalachians, but I was always secure in the knowledge that once I opened my mouth and came out pure backwoods Louisiana and got asked "who's your folks?" and could reply with two very large extended families scattered throughout the area, things would be okay. It was getting the chance to open my mouth that I was nervous about, some of those folks shoot first and ask questions later :).

So anyhow, a Census worker was shot and killed in rural southeast Kentucky, and the word 'fed' was written on his body. Does this mean that he was killed because he was a federal worker? Or is this misdirection? It could be someone whose kid had been flunked by this teacher. Or there are feuds that have been going on for generations in some of these places, the teacher could have been a member of one clan or extended family and whoever killed him had a beef with that clan. Deal is, the way the Census works, the way the Census recruits people to poll in, err, "difficult" communities (i.e., from within those communities), it's as likely that he got killed for local reasons as it is that he was killed for being a Census worker. Then the word 'Fed' was scrawled on him to confuse the issue, to draw attention away from whatever locals might have some other reason to kill him...

So was he killed for being a census worker? Or was he killed for a local reason? I'm with the "let's wait and see who dunnit and why" crowd. The FBI is investigating -- the FBI is always brought in when a federal worker is killed in the line of duty -- and hopefully they'll turn up the thug who did this without a years-long Eric Rudolph fiasco. If it turns out to be some inbred cretin whose kid was flunked by this teacher I won't be any more surprised than if he really *was* shot for going to work for the Census (probably by one of those shoot-first-and-ask-questions-later types that I was always nervous about). I see a lot of left-wing sites jumping the gun here. Given the realities of census work, and the people who are hired to do this work, it's simply too early and too easy to blame Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh for this guy's death. The wonder is that more census workers aren't killed.. and all for minimum wage plus 20%. What a deal!

-- Badtux the Former Census Penguin


  1. You are spot on, too many people are jumping the gun and assuming what has not been proven yet. I even wondered if he had committed suicide and scrawled the letters himself, but whatever happened, we should wait to see what the facts of the matter are.

  2. Well, he was found hanging, so it's unlikely he committed suicide with a gun then hung himself. The article you cite doesn't mention gunshot either. However, I agree with your point that we shouldn't jump to conclusions. A number have bloggers (and the article) point out it's quite possible he stumbled into some kind of drug operation. Officials seem to be pretty tight-lipped about the circumstances, and appropriately so. I'm happy to wait for the outcome of the investigation, but I don't really expect to be surprised, whatever the results.

  3. I worked census 2000, also, going into parts of Arizona that have no name. In the past decade, the world has gotten stranger, but I dealt with a lot of people who were rather paranoid about "the government". I never felt "threatened" but I did get a little nervous.


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