Kerry Washington says stop asking Olivia Pope for help, stresses 2020 census

The 'Scandal' actress is lending her voice to the #BeCounted campaign

Kerry Washington
(Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

This week on the Dear Culture podcast, hosts Gerren Keith Gaynor and Mariel Turner sit with the talented actress Kerry Washington on a very special bonus episode about the #BeCounted campaign.

Though many know her from her days on Scandal as Olivia Pope, Kerry Washington in real life is a mother, leader and  not-afraid-to-tell-it activist. Washington is teaming up with the #BeCounted initiative, led by America Ferrara’s organization, Harness, which works to provide artists with important information to convey to audiences in the U.S.

Earlier in the month, Harness held an event co-hosted by Ms. Washington herself and Stacey Abrams as a way for artists to learn more about the census, especially in a critical counting year like this. So this week, we’re changing this up a bit and ask the very important question: Dear culture, how can we ensure every voice is heard?

“Justice and equity are [things] we deserve. If we don’t get counted, we won’t count,” says Washington to the Dear Culture Podcast.

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#BeCounted launched on Thursday, June 17, on Census Day of Action. The census occurs every decade and determines the allocation of funds in our communities. Ranging from resources for infrastructure, education, healthcare to even the number of electoral votes and representatives your community has–the census works to give accurate information so the needs of the community can be accurately met. The form takes 10 minutes to fill out and affects the amount of resources you and your community receives for the next decade.

Washington advocates for the census because she comes from communities that have historically been underrepresented in the census and in government funding. The actress says communities of color, especially Black communities, have “real justified earned reason to be mistrustful to the government” when it comes to justice and equity.

However, Ms. Washington reminds us that if we “don’t respond” we “rob” ourselves.  Particularly when looking at how COVID-19 impacted Black neighborhoods, our communities have extremely underfunded hospitals to the point that they can’t take care of our families. As devastating as it is, to respond to crises like coronavirus, Washington urges us to take into the account the conditions we are currently in as a Black community. 

In the middle of mistrust and mayhem, it’s illegal to use the census data for harm or even market data. All the data can only be used to produce statistics. And lest we forget, last week a divided Supreme Court ruled that the addition of a citizenship question in the census violates federal law. 

RELATED: Fill out your US census — our democracy depends on it

Though many still may not want the proverbial system to track them, Washington jokes that the same information we give on the census is the same information we give to online catalogs through our credit card information. Hence begging the question, why not add to the count instead of asking “Olivia Pope to fix this”?

“Olivia Pope has a lot less power than the individuals living in America today,” says Washington about her reaction to her social media fluttered with comments.

And it’s true, we as individuals have the power to transform our communities. Ms. Pope is fictional, and though Washington holds much appreciation to her #Gladiators, she reminds us the importance of engaged activism. If we want a solution we are the ones to fix it. 

Tune in to Dear Culture, the smart, reliable Black news podcast. Now streaming on Apple Podcast, Spotify, and Stitcher.