There are five key socioeconomic indicators that show the disparity that exists between the white community and those of color (Black, mainly African American and Latino) and questions the assumption that racism is declining.
Racism in Housing
The National Fair Housing Alliance, in a recent report, records 30,758 cases of discrimination in all the combined sectors of housing, a 10% increase on 2007 and almost a 100% increase on 1999. Mortgage and insurance discrimination is also an issue as agents, and financial professionals refused to sell to African Americans, making stereotypical assumptions. It seems unbelievable that cases of segregation still exist as realtors attempt to keep people of color out of certain areas or only recommend certain areas to those wishing to purchase a home.[i]
An ACLU lawsuit uncovered police data indicating that while 73 percent of suspects pulled over on I-95 between 1995 and 1997 were black; black suspects were no more likely to actually have drugs or illegal weapons in their cars than white suspects.[ii]
According to the Public Health Service, approximately 70% of drug users are white, 15% are black, and 8% are Latino. But the Department of Justice reports that among those imprisoned on drug charges, 26% are white, 45% are black, and 21% are Latino. A 2005 report by the Missouri Attorney General on racial profiling[iii] showed that white drivers, pulled over and searched on the basis of suspicious behavior, were found to have drugs or other illegal material 24% of the time. Black drivers pulled over or searched in a manner that reflected a pattern of racial profiling, were found to have drugs or other illegal material 19% of the time.
Almost all large counties in the United States showed sharp disparities along racial lines in the sentencing of drug offenders, the study by the Washington-based Justice Policy Institute[iv] showed there were fewer white offenders incarcerated than black even though white represent the larger percentile of the overall population. The Federal sentencing recommendations are the same for 5 grams of Crack (the Black drug of choice) as they are for 500 grams of powdered cocaine (the white drug of choice).
In 1954, the Supreme Court ruled in the case of Brown Vs. Board of Education that segregation in schools was unconstitutional[v]. Sixty years later and segregation still exists, not on racial lines as such but socioeconomically, which tends to break down along the lines of race.
Ty’Sheoma Bethea is an eighth-grader at JV Martin Junior High in Dillon, South Carolina, wrote to lawmakers asking them to do something about her school that was falling down[vi]. Located in a poor neighborhood called the ‘Corridor of Shame,’ the ethnicity of the school is predominantly African American. The documentary done by CNN showed a school that was falling down, temporary classrooms besides the railroad track where the teacher had to stop every time a train came by. The roof in the gym leaked every time it rained, and the auditorium was condemned. She was told that the school would receive some of the $14 million from the government economic stimulus package; however, the then Governor Mark Sanford refused to allocate any of the money to the school. Why was the school allowed to get into such a poor condition? Why did it not bother the governor that a school exists in South Carolina in that condition? Would he have made the same decision had the school been in a white neighborhood? The school was closed in 2013.
The “school-to-prison pipeline,” is a disturbing national trend wherein children are funneled out of public schools and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems. A disproportionate number these children have learning disabilities or histories of poverty, abuse, or neglect, and the system unfairly targets children from the black and Latino communities. Instead of providing the extra resources to keep these children in school, they are isolated, punished, and pushed out. The presence of “Zero-tolerance” policies and law enforcement in school means that minor infractions that should be dealt with in school end up being criminalized in the court system. These children are marked as troublemakers before they even finish their high school education.
Racism is school, like so many of our institutions, is systemic. Emboldened by Trump rhetoric, too many educators have taken the opportunity to promote their racist agenda or use curriculum that is embedded with racist, outdated beliefs. The New York Times recently reported that a South Carolina teacher recently asked a class of 10-year-olds the following question on a homework assignment: “You are a member of the K.K.K. Why do you think your treatment of African Americans is justified?”[vii]
Despite the fact that African-Americans are at a greater risk of hypertension[viii] and diabetes[ix]; many African Americans cannot access effective medical care. This inaccessibility is due to a variety of factors, including a lack of health insurance, inability to pay for a health plan or they are ineligibility for Medicare, and yet 20% of the non-white population lives below the poverty level.[x] With the poverty level so high preventative medicine and treatment is not an option and the government food programs, though they are helpful in counteracting hunger, often compound the health issues with high levels of sodium or sugar. The situation is made even worse by an inadequate number of healthcare facilities, with private hospitals limiting the numbers of uninsured patients they accept or moving to white neighborhoods. Recent changes such as the Affordable Care Act do not go far enough. North Carolina’s refusal to expand Medicare means that there are still some that do not qualify for a full subsidy.
Studies pertaining to cardiac treatment reveal that only 50% of African-American men will receive coronary angiography and 33% coronary artery bypass surgery compared to an average white male. This fact is even more troubling when you consider the fact that African American’s have an increased likelihood of suffering heart disease. The statistics for females is even more disturbing.
Surely in the United States, with all its employment laws, that the workplace is an equal playing field, and that employment is based solely on qualifications, skills, and compatibility. Not so! A study by J-PAL showed that resumes with white-sounding names received fifty-percent more call-backs than those with African American sounding names. Discrimination was also shown against applicants living in know black neighborhoods. Federal contractors and employers who list “Equal Opportunity Employer” in their ad discriminated as much as other employers.
Frederick Douglas, a leading abolitionist, once said in an 1889 address, “While we have no longer to contend with the physical wrongs of slavery…We have to contend with a foe, which though less palpable, is still a fierce and formidable foe. It is the ghost of a bye-gone dead and buried institution. Justice William O. Douglas spoke of discrimination as “slavery unwilling to die.” Today many whites reject slavery, yet they are reluctant to give up the power of white privilege.
We must take responsibility for addressing racism and white privilege in America today. The racial issues we face today are the result of slavery, social injustice and social codes that have been enacted over the years and challenge the American creed that all men are equal.
[ii] Tom Head. Civil Liberties a Beginners Guide.
[v] The 1954 United States Supreme Court decision in Oliver L. Brown et al v. the Board of Education of Topeka (KS) et al. is among the most significant judicial turning points in the development of our country.
[viii] Approximatley 40 percent of African Americans have hypertension—the highest rate of any racial or ethnic group.
[ix] Over 2.2 million African Amerians have diabeties. Dlife.com
[x] Census Bureau.